I have yet to meet someone who jumps up and down with glee at the idea of writing a draft. I’m sure they are out there somewhere. If it’s you, please tell me your secret!
I have mentioned my short story a few times already so I will use that as my example of the frustrating process of drafts. I had a working draft before my amazing experience with the Knight who showed me how armor worked and gave me a great deal of insight. Now, I’m up to twelve revisions. For a short story. Roughly 5,000 words.
Let’s repeat that in case you didn’t catch it.
Twelve -12- revisions for a short story. And I am not 100% finished. I estimate at least another three.
Does it mean I’m a terrible writer? It certainly feels that way, but no. Does it mean I should just stop where I am and call it day? I’d love to…but that would be a mistake. Is there a magic number of drafts? Nope, nope, nope.
What it does mean is drafts are important. Drafts are necessary. Drafts shouldn’t be so hated because they are the stepping stones to your masterpiece.
Two summers ago I was in a Fantasy workshop class at Hollins taught by the incredible author Delia Sherman. We had to workshop short stories and write, write, write. Constantly producing new stories and providing feedback for those in the class.
It was intimidating to give a first draft to fourteen classmates and a famous author. Bless her heart, to this day I can remember Delia reassuring us over and over again, “first drafts are supposed to be bad.” She was generous with her feedback and always encouraging.
I understand what she was saying now. Finally. It has taken me 12 revisions of a short story I wanted to be done and over with to realize the importance and necessity of drafts. And to accept that the first rounds are going to be less than stellar. So why have I hated them for so long?
Because I wanted to sit down and write a masterpiece on the first go-around. Because I would get caught up in editing as I went and never finish the first draft. Because I was so worried about what people would think of my first draft that I didn’t want to write it at all. Because I knew it would be imperfect, and I hated myself for it.
The thing about drafts, especially the awful first one, is I can’t write without them. I must embrace the process of making a masterpiece or it will never be achieved. I need to let go and allow myself to not get it right the first, second … twelfth time around. I should be proud of myself for sticking to it and molding the story until it’s reached its full potential.
When it comes to drafts, your only failure is not writing one.