This past week I've been holed up in a cabin working on the first draft of a new novel. I've taken writing retreats in the rewriting/editing stages of a project, but not really for drafting. I had thought that the time and space and silence would make the writing process fly by, the way it had for my previous editing efforts, but in fact I've found (surprise, surprise!) that each movement forward on a first draft is just as hard-fought, just as murky, just as slow as it is at home. I just have more time all put together to agonize over it. (Lucky me!)
1. Freedom. Now that I know what an editing process looks like for me, I'm not so hung up on perfecting every aspect of the draft. With my first novel I would get very focused on progressing through the story correctly so that I spent a lot of time hesitating, nit-picking, or completely stalled out. Now, I'm just getting the story down as it occurs to me. I do pause to think through the next sequence or to research a place I intend to use for a setting, but then I try to keep moving forward, step by step. I know that later I'll be deconstructing everything, combining, tightening and expanding, and that it will all be clear when I have the whole, finished story to work with.
2. Trust. I've learned that the story has a life of its own through my creative subconscious, through my characters, and through themes that arise of their own free will. The only way to learn these things is to write the story down and to see what happens in the process. It's ok if I can't see too far ahead. The story will unfold before me.
3. Respect. I understand where the "crappy first draft" idea comes from and it's so necessary for people like me, who need to know that getting the thing down is more important than getting it perfect. But I also think there's a counterpoint to that idea. Because I need to respect the work I'm doing to be able to trust it. Getting it down and moving forward doesn't mean (for me, at least), rushing it or settling. I need to be fully immersed in the story and I can't do that if I feel like my main goal is just amassing words. I need to simply do my best with what I know right now. But I also can accept the imperfection, trusting that when I know more, I'll do even better on later drafts.
|My visual reward chart: 1 sticker = 1000 words|
I'd SO love to hear what's been helpful for others in the first draft stages. I'm a sponge right now for any good advice and I love hearing other people's processes. Please share!
Oh, and in solidarity with Laini Taylor, apparently she just took a first draft writing retreat too! Her advice, as always, is golden.