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.]

Moving Forward, Letting Go

I just finished Act 1 of Colors to Stars and I’tm already in analyzing mode. There might not be enough words. Should it be longer? Hmm. I can add a scene here and here without slowing down the pacing too much. Might even help it build better.

The only problem is, I have experienced time and time again, and heard from others over and over, that the priority of a first draft is not word counts or the perfect outline or seamless pacing: it’s to finish. So I have to do the hard thing and not go back. I have to keep writing, moving foward.

The nice thing is that my outline, while complete and leads between plot points smoothly (I hope!), leaves plenty of room for discovery. In fact, almost every single scene I’ve plotted has evolved much differently than I originally pictured. The start and finish lines are the same, but how the characters move from one to the other is a whole new adventure.Read More »

NaNo 2015: The Outline

Some of you may know that I am a Super-Outliner. I don’t ‘pants’ anything when it comes to writing. I fill up every inch of our white board several times.

Each time I outline, I do it a little different, being guided by revelations I’ve had about plotting. I love a story that builds well and develops characters in an interesting way, something I worked on a lot in THE VARKEN. For THE BLESSED, my outlining developed even further, but I started the process the same way I always do.

Three Act Structure. I love it.

With THE BLESSED I had a vague idea of where things started and where things ended. The beginning of Act I and the end of Act III. Because of how the conflict is sparked, I knew where Act I would end, but that left Act II and III largely ambiguous.

So I put on my thinking cap. “How am I going to get to that big finish? What makes sense?”Read More »