The Perfect 1st Draft

Already as I have begun writing the first draft, the doubts have begun to creep in. Is there too much exposition? Or maybe not enough? I’m not giving enough description…or is there an overwhelming amount already?

These doubts can lead to two great big distractions that will keep you from ever finishing that first draft:

  1. Stop. Go back. Edit. Keep editing. Just edit the crap out of that first scene and make sure it is perfect before you move forward. Will it ever be perfect? If this scene isn’t perfect, what’s the point in writing the rest?
  2. Stop. Give up. You aren’t good enough. Or this story just isn’t working. Find a new story. Stop. Is this one not good either? Or is it me? Will I never be able to find the perfect story?

I’ve given in to both of these distractions in the past, and they both tell the same HUGE lie about my stories and my abilities: your first draft must be perfect. Who ever did something perfectly their first try? I’ll give you a few seconds to think about it. Let me know when you realize it’s no one ever. I googled it for you.

If I’ve found one thing to be true about being a writer, it is that the need for perfection is an ugly, nasty thing. Especially during your very first draft. We as humans are quite literally incapable of being perfect. (I googled that one too but you get the point.) This need to be perfect, to write perfect, to create the perfect plot or whatever it may be for you, stems from the lie that you can be perfect. Because, as we have mentioned, you can’t be.

So, even in the midst of my current draft, and having faced down this lie in every previous draft I have written, I have to remind myself to let go of the need to be perfect. In letting go of this need, I find such freedom and joy in writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect. As Ted Dekker says, story is a sandcastle on the beach. It is a way that we get to imitate our Heavenly Father, the creator of everything ever. So build, play, have fun, enjoy the process. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

[Of course, once it’s built, you can start to make it better, you can invite others to help you, because you have a whoel sandcastle now, instead of just a pile of sand on a beach of sand, but that’s beside the point for today.]

Finding the Story

Finding my next novel to sink my mind into has been a long journey. Since finishing Polarity, I have had been through countless ideas, but none of them hooked me enough to get them off the ground floor. Polarity was a suspense novel but a bit of whimsy in the world, and I was desperate to be capture by another idea in the same way.

I thought that maybe I should write what I enjoy reading the most: domestic thrillers. I had several very intriguing ideas, but none of them found focus, and I struggled to flesh them out beyond the initial “what if” question. I invested a lot of time into these ideas, exploring location and characters and plots, and one day, maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to repurpose the best pieces for another story.

Then, I thought that maybe I should watch what I enjoy watching: spooky ghost stories. I am obsessed with Harpers Ferry, WV, having tried to write several stories in this location in the past. My husband took me on a mini vacation to finally see and explore Harpers Ferry in person at the end of 2019, and I was even more obsessed afterwards. I set my mind on a ghost story, hoping to get sucked in completely to the idea.

Discipline and determination can only get you so far.

Just in the same way that a good book can hook you on the first page and then you can’t stop reading until it’s finished, I have to get hooked by my story. It has to pull me in and make me believe that there are endless possibilities and a strong throughline. And none of the ideas I had were capturing me.

On the side, of course, I am writing musicals with my husband, and there was one idea that we kept discussing but Jeremy (by hubster) was firm that the story was overdone, even if done in an inauthentic way every time we had seen it turned into a movie, play, or musical. Plus, he argued, we had so many other great, unique ideas that were fresh.

But that story idea kept coming back to me with a passion, because it was a story that I wanted to have told without the whitewashing and rose-colored glasses. When you strip away the beauty montages, the love story, the perfect faith, there is a much more relatable and inspiring story. That was the story I wanted to be told by someone but every time I felt let down.

So, after years of casually studying the story, the history, the context, I knew I wanted to tell this story. That was over a year ago. And I kept putting it off for one reason: I didn’t want to write a Bible story. And I didn’t want people to be shook because all the things they imposed on the story had disappeared, or at least shifted in a darker direction. This story wasn’t VeggieTales, after all, so I set out to figure out a way to take away those reconceptions and present this story as something fresh. Something people would find themselves sinking into and forgetting, even for a moment, the story they grew up hearing.

And then the pieces began to fall into place this past summer. I had that burst of inspiration that helped me to finally find the lens through which I wanted to tell this story.

It has been so refreshing to be hooked, to be pulled in, to sink deeper and deeper in understanding of the world, the characters, and the story. My hope is that this story will refresh you as it has refreshed me; that these simple words would be a call to courage, to faith, to righteousness for you as they have become for me:

“Perhaps you have been chosen for such a time as this.”

There Is No Time Like November

Do you have a story you want to tell but you have no idea where to begin? NaNoWriMo this November is the perfect time to get that story out of your imagination and onto paper! And I want to help you be successful in not only finally starting your story, but writing 50,000 words of it in just 30 days.

Have coffee with me every Monday morning in October at 10am and where I will share a crash course on how I prepare for NaNoWriMo. These 4 brief prep sessions will tackle…
Week 1: Why – Theme & Premise
Week 2: Who, When, & Where – Character, Backstory, & Location
Week 3: What – Plot
Week 4: How – Pull It All Together

The world needs your story, and there is no time like November to write it!

I have prepared for National Novel Writing Month and succeeded in writing at least 50,000 words just in the month of November every year I have participated since 2013. The first draft of all three of my published novels – The Keeper, The Varken, and Polarity – were written during NaNoWriMo!

Prep Sessions will be livestreamed on my Facebook page and then uploaded to Instagram.