The problem with a first draft is that you might die.
(Why am I thinking about first drafts when I’m querying a finished manuscript? After my last ramble on what I should be writing I came up with some interesting thoughts for a new book, so I’m working on that as well as the Quirk sequel. Because my answer to whether I should write something new or the sequel is apparently “do both and stop sleeping”.)
I remember in college reading Anne Lamott on first draft fears (Bird by Bird) and thinking, “Oh! That’s me!” There’s other people out there who are just as insane as I am! This is…good? Reassuring, anyway.
What I mean by all the above is that when you write a first draft, it’s awful. Seems obvious, but if you’ve never written anything long form before, let me be the one to let you know: the longer the first draft, the worse it is. And what is even more tragic is the fact that you forget that sometimes.
It goes like this – you’re writing along, thinking things are going pretty well, when WHAM- you hit a word that doesn’t quite fit. So you stop and correct it. Then you realize that it didn’t fit because actually, the sentence you were working on was wrong. So you delete that and start to try again. Except with that sentence gone you question the meaning of the entire paragraph. And that’s usually all it takes for me to fall into an abyss of wondering WHYIWRITEANYTHINGATALLISUCKATTHIS
It’s all very well and good to remind yourself that it’s a first draft and it’s supposed to suck. But what I want to do is stop up my ears because I’m either perfect or worthless and there is no in between stage and every other writer is perfect I’m sure.
So I walk away and don’t look at that section for the rest of the day. This prevents me from deleting it all wholesale. And the next day I’ll either confirm that it’s all crap but probably have an idea of where to start fixing it…or, possibly, see it’s not so bad after all. And then I can keep on writing trash after that.
The trick is, I might die in my sleep. And if it was a crap day, maybe it’d be best to destroy anything I left behind.
…I should get my will up to date.