First Drafts are Not Crap Writing

Monday, December 6, 2010

Not mine. Not yours. Not anyone's.

So there.

Yes, I know that flies in the face of the mantra of the moment which is "Give yourself permission to write crap."

Don't do that. Just don't.

1st drafts are RAW writing, not crap writing - and there IS a difference.

When you designate something as "crap", it becomes refuse. You expect it to stink and you expect to toss it out in the end. 1st drafts shouldn't be like that (no draft should). Treat your drafts as raw materials. Freshly picked cotton or newly shorn wool. Raw diamonds and unprocessed gold.

It may not look like much, in fact it may look worthless or even gross, but realize that it's not yet ready to be used. It needs to be processed.

You have to wash it and pick out the burrs. You have to bleach it. You need to heat it up and let the dross separate. It has to be cut and polished.

Those are steps you have to go through to get from raw material to a marketable finished product, and they're steps that won't work on crap. It doesn't matter how well you dress it up or if you throw glitter on it or if you try and paint it gold, it's still crap underneath.

Writing (even the bad kind) takes effort, and that should never be treated as refuse. It should be treated with respect and handled appropriately for what it can become in the end if the correct methods are applied to it in order to utilize the raw material present.

Going into a new WIP, or working on the existing one, with the idea in mind that you've given yourself permission to write terribly just puts you in the mindset to not expect your first draft to be worth anything. But it is - first drafts are EXTREMELY valuable because they are the foundation of what comes after.

Time spent writing something you expect to throw away is time wasted, and writing takes long enough as it is without wasting time on something you don't intend to use.

Crap is a lousy foundation. It decomposes quickly and takes down everything on top of it with the void left behind. I refuse to allow myself to build my stories on crap.

Does that mean that my first drafts are perfect? No.

What is means is that, while I don't obsess over perfection (*looks around to see if anyone notices crossed-fingers*) with the first drafts, I do put effort into them, and I do strive to make them the best they can possibly be. Because, in the end, I'd rather sit down to create a diamond ring with rocks in a bucket than crap. And I know I'd sure rather put my name on something made from gold than garbage.

7 Chiming In:

Terry Towery said...

I agree. Sadly, it often happens that my first drafts are better than the ones in which I've scrubbed so hard that little life is left behind.

It's a delicate balance. I tend to rewrite a lot while writing, so my first draft often ends up to be more a third or fourth draft. Generally, it's only a matter of strengthening verbs and polishing sentences before it's ready. (I hope.)

traceybaptiste said...

I've combatted the problem of considering 1st drafts to be "crap" by calling them "exploratory drafts." This gives me the permission to see where things are going, take several different turns, try out different voices, audition main characters, anything that comes to mind. After I've finished that exploratory draft, I can carefully consider where I want to go with the book, and then I launch into my real first draft, which becomes the bones of my finished project.

Charity Bradford said...

This is an excellent post Josin! I loved how you differentiated between raw and crap. It's easier to work on raw material if I stop calling it crap. Sort of hard to type while holding my nose.

Shannon said...

I absolutely agree. The words we chose define how we behave. Great reminder!

Stephanie M. Lorée said...

Excellent post.

Demitria said...

Great post!

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Hanna said...

Thanks for this. It really put up my writing spirits.

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