On First Drafts and Finishing Same

first drafts

On First Drafts and Finishing Same

Well, this week it happened. I finished the first draft of my novel-in-progress. Thank you Brenda Ueland (If You Want to Write, 1938) and Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird, 1994) for the same freeing advice. Just write, they say, and Anne coined the wonderful “shitty first draft,” which gave my fingers and pen liberty to fly over the keys and page, not stopping to agonize that I had used the same word in the same paragraph, or that I typed lay instead of lie. Time enough later to go back, to fix, to struggle to find just the right word, phrase that is original, unforced, that will say what needs to be said as it has never been said before. Just get the words down, they say. And that is what I did.

While I was writing, I thought my work was amazing, better than I had ever done, better than anyone had ever done. In the cold, cold light of day (you see, I can use clichés here, though not in my book) it looks pretty dreary. Ah well, isn’t it always easier to work from something, to make it better, bird-by-bird, than to have those incredibly poetic words rumbling around in one’s head, but never quite making it to the page.

So, today my words are on the page. Now comes the hard part – transforming them into a work that I can stand behind, that I can be proud of, and, with every hope, one that will speak to my readers’ hearts.

(Incidentally, the draft above is  from Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading. This is the very first page of the novel, and if you are having trouble reading it, it’s not just because the page is a mess. It’s also written in Russian.)

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com