Fast and Furious: On Writing the Lousy First Draft

I see a lot of struggling writers. I mean that literally. Living in the Los Angeles area means I cannot walk into a coffee shop without tripping over a half-dozen or so aspiring writers pounding away at their keyboards or, more often, staring into space with a slightly pained expression on their face. Many of them are writing screenplays, but a good number are working on novels or short stories or some sort of nonfiction project. They all, however, share that general aura of one who suffers.

No one said writing was easy. This is not an industry that promises overnight success and a hefty bank balance. However, it’s also not digging ditches or lugging heavy platters of food out to grumpy diners or scraping gum off the bottom of chairs at the local elementary school. It is not strenuous manual labor, nor does anyone’s life depend upon it. On the overall career spectrum, this definitely lands closer to the fun end of things.

Writing allows you to mine your creativity, delve deep into your imagination, research intriguing and sometimes bizarre subjects, talk to interesting people, and visit new places, if only in your head. So while you certainly want to take your writing seriously, assuming you’re either aiming for publication or already have a deadline looming, you also want to enjoy yourself.

Take the pressure off that first draft and just write. Get it down however it flows from your mind. Write quickly. Let your fingers fly over the keyboard or scribble with your favorite pen. No one’s first draft is gold; no one’s first effort comes out perfectly worded. Allow yourself to suck. You’ll be in excellent company. And remember that a first draft is just that — a draft. It’s a mind dump. A way for you to figure out what you might be talking about, who your characters are, what the deal is. There’s plenty of time to revise later, to move things around and add and delete, to ramp up the tension, to make the prose sing. Later. Second draft, third, fourth. Don’t worry about those yet.

First draft. Fast and furious. Just write. And smile while you’re doing it. The other writers will wonder what you’ve figured out…