FIRST DRAFTS ARE EASY! Yes, they are. First drafts are what non-writers are talking about when they say ‘Oh, I reckon I could write a book, but I just can’t be bothered!’ Heard that one?
First drafts usually just pour out, the writer can hardly keep up with the flow. And it feels terrific. And pages and pages later, you sit back, pat yourself on the back, and go for a cuppa. Great work! But what is it you have done? A first draft!
And what is a first draft? It is:–
- The chef assembling all the ingredients plus a few extras on the bench
- The athlete going through all her tricks to achieve selection into the Olympic Squad
- The artist preparing a canvas, and a wide spectrum of colours and tools
- The gardener filling a wheelbarrow with tools, seedlings, seeds, plant food, gloves, and heading off for the garden bed.
- The sculptor selecting a block of marble, and lining up the chisels.
Now all these examples have much in common.
- The notion of preparing much more than will be used
- The possibility that more will be introduced that is not there yet
- The certainty that some will be discarded as unsuitable for this application.
So the chef will return some ingredients to the pantry, the athlete will only further develop some skills, the artist will carefully select only some of the colours available, the gardener will certainly not plant every seed, or every seedling, and the sculptor will remove great chunks of the marble.
And it is important to remember that none of these leftovers are wasted, they are just not useful here and now.
SO – your first draft is just a vast collection of all the ideas and thoughts that have been piling up in your head, consciously or unconsciously. You picked up a pen, you tapped the keyboard, and almost by magic, there the words were – a story!
No, sorry, but it is not a story. Not yet. It is just your raw material. The real work of writing, the skill and talent that makes you a writer, starts now.
So, can anybody write? Yes, anybody can write – a first draft! To claim to be a writer, you simply have to put in all the hard work, all the invisible hours rewriting, slashing and developing, shaping and polishing. And if you do it really well, it will appear effortless, and your readers will say to you, ‘Oh, I could easily write a story or a book, but I just can’t be bothered.’
‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’
This line was written around 1820, almost 200 years ago, yet we all recognise it
A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness’
John Keats EndymionBk1.1
Records of Keats writing and notebooks show that this one line went through 47 drafts to achieve this polished perfection. Forty-seven! Think about it!
To encourage yourself, think of the Olympic athletes – we only see a single performance – but not for a moment do we think it is the only performance that athlete has done – we know how very many hours of preparation and practise have gone before. So it is with your writing!
On the Sports News on tv, we see athletes doing ridiculous repetitive exercises – pushups, tossing balls back and forth, and so on – skills we do not see them display in the game. But we accept that these skills underpin their performance on the day – and so it is with your writing exercises and drafts. The background practice shows. And not doing it shows too!
I tend to get passionate about this one, but I cannot overemphasise the importance of rewriting, many times. The absurd claim, ‘Oh it is just something I dashed off’, is an admission of amateurism at its worst. Don’t do it to yourself, or to your reader.