Mar 19 2011
1. First drafts always suck. Nobody writes publishable material on the first go. It takes rewrites to make the story coherent and stylish.
2. Your first draft has permission to suck (hat-tip: Linda Gerber). When your first draft sucks, as every first draft does, you have not failed as an author. You have succeeded in creating a scaffolding for a better story–maybe even a publishable story. Excellence emerges only during rewrites, and you need to give yourself something to rewrite.
3. When writing first drafts, I would recommend focusing on getting it done rather than trying to get it done excellently. I find Tiffany Reisz’s take on this to be very helpful. “I don’t view my first completed draft as my book any more than I view a bunch of ingredients as a meal. The first draft is just the groceries still sitting on the counter. But at least I’ve got the stuff to make the meal now. Once I have a first draft, THEN I start cooking. Cooking is the hard part. People are impressed I can write a 100K book in six weeks. But I can’t. I can write a draft in 6 weeks, but that draft, those ingredients, takes another three or four months to become the book. I don’t stress about the first draft, just throwing it down, anymore than I stress about buying groceries. I might stress over the cooking, but not buying the ingredients.”
4. Doing extensive preparation/outlining may help, but will not prevent the first draft from sucking. Also, please don’t get so embroiled in your planning that you never feel ready to actually start writing the story.
5. I would recommend holding off on most research until you’ve finished the first draft (unless the research is absolutely integral to the story–e.g. historical fiction or nonfiction). You’ll have a better idea of what you need then, so your research will be better targeted and more efficient then. For more details on research and increasing your productivity as a writer, please see this.