First drafts

Some people may relish the blank page in front of them; I do not feel that way. There are very few moments when I’m writing a first draft that I feel like any of the words I am getting out are worth the effort of typing them into the keyboard.

But somehow, when the final word is typed and the draft is done, I can stand back and look at a … big, fat pile of steaming …

Raw material. Let’s call it raw material.

I actually am really drawn to that analogy of first draft as raw material. Getting those words out is like gather lumber for a project. You have a plan in mind — let’s say it’s bunk beds — and you’re getting ready to build it. So you go select the boards you need. You get your tools together. You find the right kinds of nails and screws. And when you’re ready, all the elements are there for a set of bunk beds, but that pile of boards and assortment of tools certainly doesn’t look anything like bunk beds now.

And neither does a first draft look anything like a finished story. All the elements are there — the main part of the plot, all the characters, the setting — but each of those needs to be cut to the right dimensions, to be nailed into place, to be sanded down and finished with a coat of stain.

So, now I approach drafting with that mentality. I’m just assembling the raw materials, right? Nothing is where it’s going to go, and I’ll probably make a few wrong cuts because I measured wrong and have to throw out a couple boards, but that’s all right. When I finally step back, I’ll be proud of what I’ve done, and it’ll hold weight.

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