Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A Bad First Draft

I once attended a workshop, which was run by the wonderful children's writer, Linda Kempton (http://tracearchive.ntu.ac.uk/em/directory/k.htm) where she told us to: 'Allow yourself a bad first draft.'
It was one of those Eureka moments for many of us and it's advice that has stayed with me.

How bad should a 'bad first draft' be? I struggle with the concept, I have to say. I guess it's the perfectionist in me. I have shaped and honed my prose in the first few chapters of my novel. I continue to go back to those chapters to fiddle and fine tune. But, just how useful is this when I haven't even finished the first draft of this blessed novel?

It's all getting a bit messy. Messy is good, I guess, because it's a 'bad first draft'. The further I go with this project, the messier it gets. I'm in danger of getting myself in a right royal muddle, as I can now see that some characters could be dispensed with altogether or that two characters could be moulded into one. I've killed two people off early on and now wonder if they should still be alive. Perhaps that would make things more interesting? Is this really a crime novel at all? Is it more of a mystery/thriller? Yes, probably. Can I write the police procedure stuff? No. Do I want to? No. Is my detective that important? Probably not, but I do love the character I've created. He is so flawed, it's untrue. Can I have an incompetent detective who doesn't really solve anything at all? I guess I could. Can the mystery be solved, but not the crime? At the moment, this novel raises more questions than it answers. Perhaps all will become clear at the end.

I'll just plough on regardless. After all, it's only a first draft and a bad one at that.


Joanna said...

I think you must be doing all the right things, because I am already intrigued and looking forward to it being finished. The fact that it is raising lots of questions for you as the novelist will mean that us readers are going to be fascinated by the end result and in for a treat.

Anonymous said...

How bad is my first draft? I'm doing NaNoWriMo, so go figure ;o)

I think it's okay to have a bad first draft, as long as you keep the plan/outline up to date. The outline doesn't even have to be any good either, just up to date. It will make it much easier to later fix issues with both the plot and the prose.

JO said...

I see no problem with a messy first draft - isn't that where all these questions should be raised? After all, if your first draft had all the answers, writing second, third, fourth drafts would be so boring!

Patsy said...

I'm doing NaNo too, so I'm pleased that bad can be good when it comes to first drafts.

Sarah Duncan said...

I always try to remember that you don't get extra points from readers because of the state of your first draft, it's only the final draft that counts.

My first drafts are getting messier and messier the more I write!