The best thing about writing a first draft is the ability to say fuck it.
It took me a while to get here because like so many aspiring writers, we all want to believe our first draft is magic. It’s not. No one’s is. Not mine. Not yours. Not Henry David Thoreau’s. The first draft is usually shitty, because you’re only telling the story to know what it’s about. Whether you’re a plotter or a panster (woop!), you can have the entire thing or nothing in your head when you sit down to write, but it’s going to be the first attempt, which means you’re not going to get it right. Not the entire thing, not the dialogue, not the grammar, not the secondary story lines. It’s the first draft which means stuff is going to change; it’s going to get better.
Now that I’ve crossed the bridge to this understanding, it makes writing a first draft *so* much easier, because now I just say fuck it. I’m not hard on myself; I’m proud of myself for committing to the work, even when I get stumped. Even when I know what I’m writing probably won’t make it to the end, it’s getting me through the story to the end. That’s the importance.
I’m admitting all this because I’m—gasp! —almost done with the first draft of that strange story that fell into my head and that I’ve been writing for over two weeks. I’ve got maybe another few scenes and that’s it. First draft done. And, to be honest, I’m not even sure I’m going to flesh it out. I probably will because the writer in me wants to know more, and a lot of those details are found in the second, third, and fourth drafts. So maybe I’ll write this one for me. Based on the shitty first draft (we all agreed they’re shitty, remember?), this thing isn’t spectacular. There’s nothing super defining about my characters (right now) other than their witty banter and the way they met. And that just won’t do. Because just like every agent and reader wants to know before diving into your book: what makes it special?
At this point… nothing. But that’s what editing is for.
P.S. I do need to get back to RTD, but this may be the break I need to return to that beast with fresh eyes. It took over a year to write that monster (…and I still have the rest of the final scene to write…) but diving right back in wouldn’t do me/my editing eyes any good. I think “new story” is a gift from the writing Gods. And again, even if it never gets published, and is for my eyes alone, it was a lot of fun to write.