I hate writing first drafts.
Like seriously hate them. I’ll try anything to get out of doing it. I’ll even make time for physical exercise before actually sitting down to hammer out a first draft. For me, it’s the most demanding part of the writing process. First drafts shackle my carefree imagination from it’s happy place in the sky to a cold, grounded reality of hard work and discipline.
Wasn’t it Hemingway who said “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.”
Well I’m trying to bleed. Right now I’m trying my hardest to put into words a story that’s been playing out across my subconscious for months (oh, let’s be honest, years). And yet, it doesn’t want to come.
My imagination is constipated.
This lack of movement is always how the first draft process goes for me. I’m great at accepting the ideas as they come. I’ll day dream about them while driving, showering, or walking the dog. I’ll jot down notes and scenes wherever I find a pen and paper. But put me in front of a computer, and nothing.
It’s for this reason I’ve developed the mantra “Just the Bones.”
I think of a manuscript as creating a living, breathing body. The first draft is just the bones. It’s the foundation that all the rest will build upon. The muscles, tendons, skin…none of it stands up without the bones.
Having written manuscripts before, I know how the process works. There will be several drafts after this one. While my Ego will expect otherwise, promising that the publishing gods will bow down to my greatness at the end of this draft. Alas, I know it won’t be so.
The first draft is supposed to suck.
My last book Star Walker took 9 drafts to complete. The first draft took me the longest. And it was honestly the biggest turd I’ve ever created, though at the time I thought it was pure gold.
This is why the first draft is so exciting and exhausting. I’m creating life one bone at a time.
This current manuscript, a middle-grade adventure story, has a very ugly skeleton. It’s a mess. Arms attached to feet, no torso in sight. But I must force myself to get through. To keep creating. I must hold out hope that once I’m done (I’m shooting for the end of Feb. 2020), I’ll have a complete structure. It will still be just the bones but from there it’ll hopefully turn into a living, breathing thing of beauty.
But man, do I hate first drafts.