In my experience there are different types of first drafts:
The Gushing First Draft. There are stories which will quite simply gush out of you. Words will pour onto the page and before you know it there will be a rough manuscript staring back at you. If you are reading this and are new to writing please don’t think experiencing a first draft, like this, means you miss out on literary pain. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but every story brings with it a quota of creative suffering, if you don’t go through it on your first draft you will go through it in later stages.
The Straightforward First Draft. There are those stories which are fairly straightforward. You get the words down and encounter some minor obstacles along the way, but overcome them with ease.
The First Draft From Hell a.k.a The Challenging First Draft. This is the first draft which brings you to your creative knees. It’s the draft which is on your mind A LOT, it’s the draft which refuses to adhere to your plan and it’s the draft which makes you huff, puff and groan.
This draft will give you wrinkles, grey hairs and make you put on weight – fact!
But here’s the most frustrating thing – you can’t walk away from the damn thing! It has some sort of mysterious hold on you and no matter how many tantrums you have over it you can’t keep away from it. Nor can you write anything else.
So how do you survive the Challenging First draft?
How do you keep your sanity when it is refusing to go quietly?
How do you carry on when you are sat at your laptop / notepad wiping away sweat from your brow and frantically searching Google for an emotional support line for writers?
Here are some handy tips for getting through this troubling creative time:
- Self Care. When you are not writing, make sure you are give yourself lots of self-care; comfort food, warm soothing drinks, long solitary walks, slabs of a good quality chocolate, large glasses of wine and time on the sofa, under a blanket, watching your favourite films. Dealing with a Challenging First Draft can suck the life out of you so its important to take care of yourself.
- Try to find source of issue. This is easier said than done. Try to work out why it’s causing you pain – is it a plot or character problem? Can you fix it?
- Talk to other writers. Make sure you find time to talk to other writers about what you are going through. Trying to tame an unruly first draft is not the sort of thing you should go through on your own.
- Keep writing through the pain. This is something I have learnt and it works. I actually found myself messaging my long-suffering writer friends at 1am, one day, last week, informing them that after HOURS of writing through suffering I had come out the other side. I just sat and wrote. It was so hard because my muse was screaming “this is utter rubbish!” and “where the hell are we going with this?” but I ignored it and carried on. Eventually (it can take hours) you do find yourself in calmer waters.
- Remind yourself why you started writing it. This is a tough one to do, especially when you are on your knees and praying to a higher spiritual being for an end to your literary pain. Try to recall that initial burst of excitement as the idea for your story came to you. Did you find yourself breaking into song or waking an uninterested loved to tell them all about your brand new idea for a book? These happier memories will help, trust me.
- Meditation. This has been my saviour. You would not believe how many times things have got too much with my first draft and I have resorted to sitting, cross legged on the floor, concentrating on my breathing and saying a variety of mantras. Meditation empties your brain and is great for soothing a troubled emotional state.
- Read books. I have found that switching off and reading books has helped me a lot. Takes my mind away from my boisterous first draft.
- Remember the role of the first draft. You are simply writing out the story. It’s not meant to be perfect.
- Look forward to finishing it and sticking it in a drawer. The act of finishing it will bring you some relief and sticking it in a drawer for a few months will be heavenly! Keep this in mind!
- Be grateful you are not using this story for NaNoWriMo! 😜 Can you imagine the seven circles of literary hell you would go through writing this sort of first draft in a month?
For all those writers currently experiencing The Gushing First Draft – I am so envious!
For all those writers currently in creative hell with The Challenging First Draft – I am sending you lots of virtual 💕💕
Take care out there writers!