You’re doing it. You’re writing your first novel. You’re determined to make the reality as shining as the concept. So you fret over every word. Every character. Every plot point. You pelt your writer’s groups with questions, begging for advice. You go back a hundred times and change everything. And you end up laboring for five years over your first book.
Writers who are still early in their journey tend to get hung up on their first books. They’re not quite sure yet what they’re doing, and they’re devastated when the story that ends up on paper isn’t as epic as the way it existed in their mind. What’s going wrong?
First Draft Sucks
Part of what’s so hard about being a writer is that, before your epic story becomes reality, you have to write this monstrous thing called first draft. And when you’ve never written a book before, first draft is daunting. Terrifying. First draft sucks. And it doesn’t matter if it’s your first book or your twentieth. First draft is not about writing epic fiction. It’s about puking your ideas out onto paper.
I don’t know why first drafts have to be so horrible, but they are for the vast majority of authors. So if this is your first novel, the easiest thing you can do is accept that your first attempt at writing your epic story is going to fall far short of your visions for it.
So, should you fret over every word, character, and plot point? No. You should accept that first draft sucks and puke it up onto paper. You can iron out each and every one of those horrible problems in subsequent drafts.
Three First Drafts
But how can you swallow your fears of your finished book being as terrible as your first draft? Here’s an idea. Power through your first book. Write every day. Don’t look back. Don’t ask yourself whether the writing is worth a darn.
Then write a completely different book. Power through it. Write every day. Don’t look back. Don’t ask yourself whether the writing is worth a darn.
Then write another one.
By this time, you’ll probably realize that first draft simply sucks. And that’s okay, because it’s meant to.
THEN go back and rewrite your first book. Polish it up all pretty. Submit it to your critique group. Give it to trusted friends and family. Offer it to beta readers. And when you’ve re-written it a dozen times, hire an editor.
Then publish it.
Then go back and do the same with your second book. Then your third.
This, Too, Shall Pass
By this time, here’s what I think you’ll have learned: First draft is a brief, passing thing. Everything you wrote in first draft can be upturned in second, third, or fourth. Nothing is set in stone until the ink has dried on the page.
While you’re writing first draft, and you’re tempted to halt and submit a life-and-death question to your writing group–STOP. Guess what? It does not matter. Why? Because it’s first draft! You should be writing crap. Absolute crap. Eventually you’ll realize that first draft really doesn’t matter. It’s only the final draft that needs to read well.