I have a cardinal rule for first drafts. This one rule makes me happy. It keeps me from going crazy and throwing things at the wall. It even keeps me from falling into crazy anxiety riddled place of great unhappiness.
I’m not saying it’s a good rule, just a simple one.
Rule of first drafts: Write them only for yourself.
That’s it. It’s my selfish rule, but there you have it. I write first drafts for me and only me. I write them so I can explore lame things that tickle my fancy. They are meant to be torn apart, after all, so why not make the first draft one that I love. It’s for me.
I have been breaking this rule. In fact, I’ve fallen so far into the pit of despair that I haven’t been writing on my rough draft all month. Yes, I’ve been teaching a crazy intense class. Yes I’ve been working my tail feathers off trying to clean up my dissertation. Yes, I have been sewing costumes for Dragon*Con (for myself and others). These things are all true, but in all that time, I haven’t so much as touched my WIP.
I got hung up on the anxiety of probably choosing yet another unmarketable topic. See, I like to write portal stories. I’ve been seeing all over the place that agents hate portal stories, publishing hates portal stories, and basically everyone hates portal stories. (You dystopian writers know what I’m talking about).
My anxiety climbed to a peak yesterday where I found myself asking an agent if she even considered portal stories (she basically said make the story interesting and make sure the most interesting thing to happen to the MC is not that she fell through a portal, which is really good advice). But the fact is, I had sunk so low that I was willing to toss myself on the tides of agent whims before continuing forward in my project. I was worried about what other people think.
That is a major violation of my cardinal rule of first drafts.
Ah, but here’s the hang up. This isn’t the first draft of this story. It’s a complete rewrite, and here’s where I made a terrible assumption.
My current WIP is a top to bottom rewrite where characters are being given new motivations, a larger view of the world, major plot elements have changed, and everything has to be rewritten from scratch. It’s getting the third to first person treatment. I’m adding a romance, kidnapping people, and putting an entire culture into civil war. This did not happen in the first run through of this manuscript. It is a new story. Literally.
But I’d assumed that because it still used characters I knew, it wasn’t a first draft.
Yeah, sometimes it takes a while for my brain to go from “brilliant” idea to actually functional. I’ve realized that even though it is a rewrite of a previous novel, it is a rough draft. I need to give it the space that I would give any rough draft. I need to turn off all the agents who say they don’t like portal stories (of course if they’re talking about the average, nobody finding a portal, I can see how that might get boring) and write. I need to write for me. I need to go back to that selfish place where I write whatever I need to. Let’s face it, when I write for other people, it sucks and I don’t like it. Chances are, the person/people I was writing it for don’t like it either.
Now that I’m over my personal crisis of faith, it’s time to get back to dragons, faeries, too many princesses and a faerie godmother who got dumped earlier that week.