Just Telling Yourself the Story – The First Draft

Terry Pratchett – the late, great and tremendously wonderful writer said that the first draft is just you telling yourself the story.

The world can wait. You have to get the first draft down. Don’t worry about clichés, typos, missing words, clumsy sentences, scandalously crap metaphors, uneven pacing, repeating yourself, forgetting the plot or suddenly realising you hate the characters.

This is a self-sustaining ideal – don’t beat yourself up if the story goes belly up – just press on. Re-read and rewrite. Keep refining it down.

That first draft though – that is all about you tipping your imagination upside down like a piggy bank and rattling it about until the goodness comes out the little slot at the top.

Write what you know. Write what you feel, but do not feel like you need to be a perfectionist all the time – in that the first draft must be perfect and if it isn’t, it means you are a crap writer. I mean, just getting to the end of the first draft is an achievement on its own, let me tell you. It can take years just to do one and even then, you might hate it so much, you completely change the lot during subsequent drafts. Which is fine.

It’s like drawing a line on a page with a blind fold on. You’re aiming to do a straight line and your think you’ve drawn one, but it’s only at the end when you review your work that you get to see how far off course you’ve drifted. Sometimes the effects can be brilliant and frame worthy. Other times, it may look like a dying spider dragged itself through some ink, crawled into the middle of the page and promptly died.

Just remember – the first draft gives you the ability to just be FREE. You can go as mad as you want and to hell with the consequences. You don’t have to remember a single English class you attended. You just have to have an imagination and an idea.

Sometimes it is best to write a first draft and then leave it alone for a bit, thinking about it. Sometimes, when you put a bit of space between you and it, you can feel and sense out the kinks. It plays on your mind enough for you to realise what and where the problems are and how to fix them.

Occasionally, it is sometimes best to just start all over again. Those of us who have lost a first draft and had to start again will feel the pain of this one. The utter crestfallen dejection after realising you have lost a piece of work that was attached to your soul… it is brutal. Buuuuut… it can be a good thing. Because you have already worked out the plot, therefore, you are just repeating what you have already worked out, but without the flabby, wobbly parts. At least that is what I tell myself…

Most of the time when I am writing, I have no idea what the intricate bits of the plot are. Or most of the plot in general. Sometimes the plot is a mysterious seed. You plant it and know it’s supposed to involve a flower, but you have no idea if it’ll be a flower on a tree, bush or plant. You have no idea what it’ll turn into. That is half of the excitement. I have no idea what I’m doing, even when I’m writing a blog (surely you could tell by now owing to the rubbish English?!). Tending to your seedling and watching it grow is that point of the first draft, for me.

I struggle to plot properly and just dive on in, throwing chapter after chapter behind me as I sprint along. It may end in disaster, but at least the ride was thrilling.

I think the pure abandon of the first draft is the most free, fantastically creative thing you can do as a writer. It is fine to get it wrong and it’s okay to go bonkers and experiment.

Merry writing dearest reader people,

Cat x




1 thought on “Just Telling Yourself the Story – The First Draft”

  1. The first draft is hardest for me because of the need to be perfect. At the same time, I tend to info dump a lot and I have such an issue writing the beginning. Nine times out of ten, I end up scrapping the beginning. But I guess that’s the point of the first draft. I have to remember that.

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