Don’t give up.
I could probably just stop right there, but I have a suspicion that if I do, I might be mocked for a one-line post (even if it is a poignant line).Â So I guess a little dissertation is in order (but I’ll try to keep it short, since I need to wrap up the ZSN post that’s in the works).
When I first started doing stories, it was for a Fiction Writing Workshop in college. Since I had a grade riding on my writing, I was naturally predisposed to wanting to finish everything I started, and quickly. However, ever since, I haven’t really had much of a deadline in my mind. Yes, there are tons of writing contests with submission deadlines, but…so? Oversaturation is a problem there – if you miss one deadline, there’s always another. That’s one of the reasons I love Nano Wrimo so much: you have one month, and that’s that. If you want your winner goodies, you have one shot at them, and one goal to reach (an insane goal, but one I strive for nonetheless).
However, deadlines don’t mean jack if you don’t have a good story, right? After all, what’s the point of writing if you don’t have deep characters with meanginful relationships, sincerely instrospective moments, and a story that makes people sit up and say “wow”? Well..actually, the point of writing should, ultimately, be to write. Getting the story out is its own reward, and if you can’t see that, you probably shouldn’t be writing.
What the hell’s the point of a first draft, except to kind of suck? The beauty of first drafts is that if you have flat characters, or a story that takes too long to get to where it’s going (or not long enough, for that matter), or weird descriptions, or words that aren’t technically actual words, it doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t matter because it’s a damned first draft. I’m currently in the process of having my last Nano novel read, and it’s a bit of an eye-opener. The main character’s flatter than a limp pancake, the background explanations have holes large enough to drive a Optimus Prime through, and I’m pretty sure I wrote in a total nun stereotype. On the other hand, the story seems to be engaging, and the friends I’ve had read it all say they really like the supporting characters and the story itself.
First drafts, you see, are all about experimenting. Just get the story out there. Who cares how bare bones it is? Your characters are doing things, keep up with them. When the second draft comes around, clean it up a bit. Focus here and there, and make it better. Shrink the holes, pump some air into that pancake (is that even possible?), and then pat yourself on the back. No writer in his or her right mind would ever try to publish their first draft. That’s just insane! All first drafts suck, and that’s why revisions exist.
Don’t believe me? When Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he did it in three days and handed it to his wife. She said, “You rather missed the point though, didn’t you?” So he took it, looked at it, threw it in the fire, and re-wrote.
Even better: the original script for Ghostbusters II was actually more along the line of Ghostbusters in Hell. Seriously.
Thank god for second drafts.