Finding the Heart // In Which I Love My Pesky 1st Drafts to the Moon and Back

9:01 AM


A casual, journal-ish post today, because I have Thoughts. (Don't I always?)


As of right now I'm sitting on my bed, wrapped up in a blanket, and it's the night before I'm planning on letting this post go live. Because I did, in fact, wait until now to write it. this is not my fault. unexpected things came up earlier this week and Time was the issue as it always is and so I apologize, but hopefully this does not sound more hurried than usual.

I just hit 40k in this fantasy novel of mine. I have yet to run into writer's block, or major plot issues, which is a miracle in itself.

I'm not thinking about that.

No, I'm not really thinking about the election much.

I'm not thinking about cats or Neal Shusterman, either. Good guess.

This is a trick question that was not a trick question to begin with, because I'm actually thinking about lots of things, and none of them are clear. I'm thinking about the story, the characters. I'm thinking about the Bright Eyes podcast and all the things I want to do with it. I'm thinking about friends, family, these gossamer-thin strands of relationships we have in this life that mean the world. I'm thinking about faith. (Always a hard one for me.) I'm thinking about things I want to do in the future. About New York City because duh, always. Thinking about Star Trek, about how my wrists hurt, about how I want another Mountain Dew but shouldn't have one, about anxiety, about...life, and the total whirlwind of everything that comes with it. (I don't have answers or wise thoughts, by the way. When do I ever?)

And as I think about the glorious, beautiful but sometimes also ugly mess that is life, it makes me think about first drafts. Which is only natural, since I'm in the middle of one right now. But every time I get into a first draft, I re-discover why I love this thing in an all-new way. I'm a writer at heart. Stories in all their forms and editions and stages of completion are basically my jam. But there's something about a first draft that makes me excited to the point of wanting to sing. (Which is a miracle because trust me, no one wants to hear that.)
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i am aware that the quality of my gif usage has gone down drastically over time. i don't care.
Some people don't have this feeling. And that's okay. But for me, when I go into a first draft, I'm creating something entirely new, usually something that's been brewing in my head for a while now. I have dreams, hopes, expectations, a plan, and usually no clue what I'm doing. It starts out as a basic thing, a sketch on paper. That alone is usually enough to excite me.

And then when I start.... Wow. 

Of course it's a mess. Of course I immediately realize that my writing is awkward, that my words are clumsy, that my flimsy excuse for a plot stumbles all over the page without anything to support it. Of course I realize that these characters have the personalities of wet paper bags that are then lit on fire and changed into something else entirely. But I don't have to worry about fixing it. 

I don't even know what it is yet. 

A first draft is something new emerging. I start out with an idea, but it has to become a flesh and blood thing, it has to come out, and this first draft is the heart and nothing more. Because I don't have to worry about my sentence structure or true character development or dialogue that doesn't sound like it came out of a Twilight movie, I'm free to explore. I can experiment. I can write random thoughts in the middle of a sentence to figure something out. I take this sketch and fill it up with my current emotions; my hopes, my dreams, my fears, insecurities, what's going on in my life. I learn and grow with the story. I learn more about these characters and how the pieces fit together. Things come together naturally. (This is why I pants, because this is my method. I have to be free to go crazy.) 

Some people like their first drafts to be at least semi-organized. That's okay, that's good, even. If it works for you, do it. 

For me, I have to tie the inner editor up in the corner and let myself run wild and crazy, throw paint all over the walls in my brain, make a bloody mess. 
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me @ the inner editor
I can usually find something beautiful in the mess. Some kind of art.

It's made up out of spilled paint, and borrowed ideas, and cheesy one-liners. It's made up of basically journal entries written where stories should go. Throw in a dash of emotion: frustration, anxiety, anger, pure joy, and you've got something infused with life. Then add some characters. If you give them breathing room and sunlight to grow they'll spring up on their own and tell you what's what.

With this draft, I'm free to create. Later I'll trim the edges and make it into the sharp and shiny blade it should be. But for now, my words don't need to cut. My characters don't need flesh. My plot doesn't need a spine and a skeleton to hold it up. I can focus on the heart, and work outward from there. 

I love my first drafts. 

I love making a mess. 

And even when it's frustrating, I can find joy in just creating. Playing with words. The ultimate therapy session. 

This is why NaNo is the greatest thing ever, basically.
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and i'm perfectly happy with that.

what's your favorite part of the writing process? when do you really start to figure out what your story's all about? how is nano going? chat with meeee.

4 comments

  1. First drafting has always scared me. But honestly, I'm learning to love it. Because you can always fix it later. It still stresses me out a little, but wow it's so freeing.

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  2. First drafts are terrifying for me, because I usually plan and plot everything, and when something changes in the middle of a draft it freaks me out. I still get what you're saying, though. The freedom of the first draft is exhilarating. I just take a while to get to that point.

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  3. You just made first drafts sound like beautiful disasters, I love it.

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  4. I am most definitely a plotter because I have had an idea for a story for a long time now and have yet to actually write a rough draft... I'm one of those people who likes to know who the heck my main character is, what she looks like, and who her family and friends are before I even write a word. I guess I just like to literally have all my ducks in a row. And then BAM!!! My entire "plot line" is instantly shredded before my very eyes as my characters rip it to pieces. They literally destroyed my original plot idea and I guess I'm okay with that because after all, it is THEIR story. But yeah, I guess I'm still struggling to actually sit down and try to write some kind of a rough draft because I still don't have all the details figured out...

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hey. hey. talk to me. i'm a fan of comments and flailing with you. go for it.