Last weekend I was feeling really good about my story and the progress I’d made. I wrote far more than I’d expected to and if I continue to replicate that progress then I should be able to reach my ultimate goal of a completed first draft by December 31st.
Then I woke up on Monday morning with a feeling of dread and an enormous amount of self-doubt. Am I telling this story as well as I could be? Is the main character’s voice too formal? Will anyone else want to read this?
That wasn’t the first time I’d had those fears, of course.
After spending four years trying to rid myself of the notion that no one wanted to read my work, something that was communicated to me in subtle and unsubtle ways more than a few times by professors and students alike when I was in graduate school, I suddenly found myself believing that very lie.
But then I remembered something important. The first draft is allowed to be imperfect.
It’s something I’ve actually witnessed first hand. My peers wrote first drafts, and then revised them repeatedly until they felt they were ready to be sent out to beta readers and, later on, agents. In other words: No one gets it 100% right the first time around. And even the best writers still need a beta reader, agent or an editor’s help.
I recently took a workshop that gave tips on how to write a novel in 30 days. Through that experience I was assured that the first draft is solely about getting the story out of your head and onto the page. Period. The rest of it -subplots, descriptive language, more detailed exposition, inconsistencies in character, etc – can always be added or fixed during the revision stage.
And so I’m doing my best to hold on to this story and to focus on why I wanted to tell it in the first place, which is because I truly believe it’s a story that needs to be told.
Are there aspects that I already want to fix just one week in? Definitely. But now isn’t the time for that. Now is the time to recognize that a finished manuscript -and a story that’s been fully told from initial idea to tangible draft- should come first.