THE UGLY FIRST DRAFT

A writer has to believe in himself and in the quality of his work.  From my students and clients I often hear people start off by telling me, “It’s not good, but…”. 

I threaten to throw things at them if they say that.  (I might even be serious about that, too.  Never can tell with guys like me.)    

The truth is that we writers have to believe that what we write is good.  Very good.  Good enough to be bought, to be read, and to be appreciated.  If we don’t value our work, no one else will. 

 It’s also smart in terms of business to place a high value on our writing.  You don’t see car companies advertising their new models by saying: “It’s a junker that’ll break down every six blocks.” No, they are proud of their new cars and they make damn sure everyone hears about it.  This doesn’t mean that we can slam out something filled with errors and needing revision and say: “I wrote it, accept it as is.”  It’s important for us to value ourselves enough to have the patience and clarity of vision needed to refine the product until it is market-ready.  But even a knobbly, awkward first draft has real value  –if it’s a COMPLETE first draft.  That is a real accomplishment.  From them on it’s revision and polish.  No matter how crappy the first draft (and every first draft reeks a bit) there’s nothing in it that can’t be fixed, repaired, expanded, trimmed, retooled or otherwise improved.   The thing to remember is that there is a difference between ‘storytelling’ and ‘good writing’.  Storytelling is all gut and imagination and intuition.  You’re born with that or you’re not.  Good writing on the other hand is the acquired understanding of the craft of languaging; grammar, style, structure, and all of the other techniques of writing.  One is art, the other is craft.  Smart writers seldom try to do both at the same time; they get the story out fast and dirty, and then they go in and let a different part of their brain pretty it up. 

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