Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Writing A First Draft

Has there ever been a first draft written that could be deemed perfect? Most doubtful! Even though many high school students will zip off an essay assignment in one sitting and call it done. Why? Because all they care about is completing the assignment and handing it in. 

But you, the writer, cannot be that nonchalant about your writing. You know that the first draft is nothing but the base of the building you plan to erect, brick by brick if need be. We need that first draft to see where we are going. We also must have it to find the places that need help or ones that should be cut out--sent forever to the land of lost words.

I love the quote above. It makes the point so very well. The first draft is only a beginning. How much you build onto that is the writer's choice. Some writers will do one revision/edit and call it finished. Others will work on a piece of writing many times before they feel satisfied enough to submit it to a market. That's the writer's decision. Sometimes, it's agonizing. With each revision, a writer asks: 

   Is this the best this can be?
   If I revise one more time, will I mess it up completely? 
  Should I give it one more go? 
  Am I satisfied with this result?

The more we write, the easier it is to assess the revised first draft. Beginning writers have a much harder time deciding when to call it finished. 

This past week-end, I submitted the first draft of a poem I'd started one day when in a real funk. The poem was about as negative as one can get. I set it aside and went back to it the next day. I inserted new, more positive, verses between the originals. It seemed to work better but it was still that raw, first draft. I like the word raw in describing a first draft. I subbed the poem and asked my writing group if they thought it too simple to be worth anything. I expected little or no response but was pleasantly surprised when several critiqued the poem with praise plus some excellent suggestions for making it better. 

What if I had not submitted to the group? What if I'd shoved that first draft into a file and left it there? Of course, there is still no way of knowing if that particular poem will ever be published but after revisions, it very well might be.

Don't give up on a first draft. Remember that it is only a beginning. It heads you in the right direction for a finished product. Never expect perfection from a first draft. You're not that high school student who only wants to complete an assignment. You're a writer who wants to produce a polished piece of writing. The first draft cannot swirl in your mind forever. Whether it turns out pretty good or just plain awful, it has to be written.

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