That Fearsome First Draft
I’m working on the second book in The Irish Quilt Legacy, and if I’m not careful, I can get overwhelmed at such a daunting task. The fear of the blank page staring back at me on my MacBook Pro. The ominous Table of Contents that I know is empty of words and will probably change quite substantially over the course of the next several months. The 70,000-word or more word count before I get to “The End”.
For me, the scariest thing is to realize that it’s only a “draft”. Are you kidding me? I sit at my computer for hours, days, weeks, months, and get to the end knowing it’s a “draft”? Eghads!
Personally, I like the word manuscript much better. It sounds so…polished and professional.
But what I’m writing now and in the weeks and months to come is really a draft of the manuscript. It will change, and sometimes it will change a lot. So I need to be pliable, willing to work with the Holy Spirit who, I believe, is guiding me along this writing journey.
Before, during, and after writing the first draft, one of the things I feel is most important is to bathe it all in prayer. Without Him, I can do nothing, even if I know all the novel writing tricks and have all the writing and editing skills at my fingertips. So I ask Him for wisdom, for creativity, for inspiration. I give Him my hands and my mind and my motives. And I implore Him to journey with me through every word of the story.
In my first novel, I experienced that a lot. I’d come to my computer and have just one sentence for my plot idea: “Maggie goes to The Irish Shop”. I’d sit down and wonder, “And? So what? What’s going to happen?” And guess what? I’d meet new characters or experience new events or get caught up in a really provocative conversation that would bring me to tears!
What a blast!
In reality, I have to simply be willing to be His scribe and go with His flow. I know, professionally, it’s called “free writing,” but I love to experience that deeper “scribing”—the parts of the story that He inspires and that rarely gets the cut when I get to the revising and editing stage.
I also have to remember to turn off my editing self. Since I was a professional editor of twelve different publications for eleven years, my editor self likes to rear her critiquing head up far too often. Sometimes she squeals like a naughty pig. Sometimes she roars like a lion. And sometimes she’s as wily as a weasel on a henhouse. So I have to put her in her place and banish her from my draft-writing world.
Then I write. Everything. I know that much of it will move or change or be deleted. And that’s okay. But sometimes a character will give me a glimpse into some fear or dream that I need to explore with him or her later in the story. Sometimes I see something or smell something or feel something, and when it all gets written down, I can later let the editor take over, move it or revise it, and clean it all up.
Most of all, I enjoy the journey. I set aside all the distractions and, like I mentioned last week, I go out to play. Whether it’s a draft, a manuscript, or the makings of the next great American novel, I’ll embrace the experience of birthing this baby!
Do you enjoy writing your first draft? If not, why not? I’d love to know!
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