I want you to do something for me. I want you to look yourself and the mirror and repeat these words:
I give myself permission to write crap.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you publish crap, or that you send said crap to editors and agents. My point is that I want you to allow yourself to write a bad first draft. I believe this is important for several reasons:
- Writing an entire book is intimidating so the faster you can get past this hurdle, the better off you will be.
- You can’t edit a blank page. You also can’t send your critique partners a blank page. You can, of course, send them a crap page (and anyone who talks to my writing partner will learn that I do this A LOT!)
- Stories change. Writers often need to write tens, if not hundreds, of pages before they know the real heart of their stories and characters. Why waste time writing the perfect paragraph if you might have to delete it later?
- Plotting is problem for tomorrow. I’m not saying that you can’t have a synopsis or outline (I always do). What you don’t want to do is get bogged down by things like the placement of your turning points, and the high points in your arcs, and the markers for your story beats. You want these things in the right place eventually, but if you try to write to them, you may find the joy of your story deflates.
Now, everyone is different, but for me, I find the easiest way to write a fast first draft is to write the stuff I enjoy. I personally love dialogue so many of my first drafts look like screen plays with A LOT of nodding and smiling. For others, first drafts may contain nothing but internal monologue or action. There are no rules about this. You need to write how you love to write because that’s the key here: your heart has to be in your story. If following rules or guidelines or plot cards takes that heart away, then you need to tuck those away for tomorrow. Yes, it will make revisions hard but here’s another secret: revisions are always hard. Why make the first draft a slog as well?
A long-time resident of Ottawa, Canada, Holly has been working in publishing since she graduated with an English degree from the University of Ottawa. Holly’s debut novel, 5 TO 1, was released on May 12, 2015 from Knopf Books for Young Readers. You can find Holly on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest…seriously, it’s a wonder she ever has time to write!