Monday, June 4, 2012

Nobody Will Ever See This...

At least, that’s what I tell myself when in the midst of writing a first draft. Every writer says it at one point or another: You have to write for you! Not for anyone else! But when you’re writing in hopes of one day getting published, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wondering what people will think or writing ‘for’ the market.

Unfortunately, wondering how your work will be received before it’s even written is one sure way to bloodily murder your creativity. And writing for the market is useless since the market is constantly changing.

The moment I find myself wondering about what other people might think, the self-doubt starts to clamp down hard and suddenly everything I’ve ever written seems ridiculous/subpar/amateur/why-do-I-even-bother?

So, in order to get through that first draft, I tell myself every step of the way, whenever doubt clouds my judgment – Nobody will ever see this but you. Just write what you want to write, how you see the story and don’t worry about anyone else. This is yours. Your world, your characters and if, at the end, you aren’t happy with it? Well, again, nobody ever has to see it! So chill out!

This explains why I prefer beta partners to critique partners. I’m not ready for ANYONE to see my work until I’m on the second or third draft.  I know critique partners can be just as helpful and motivating when you’re trying to complete a draft, but my first draft is kind of like a big clump of clay. I had to add the water and the powder and form it into something solid that I could work with. But then, before I’m ready to show it off (because, let’s face it, nobody will be impressed by a dirty fat lump) it has to be molded into something that reflects the story in just the right way.  (<-Today’s gratuitous writing analogy people. You’re welcome :)

What kind of mantra gets you through that mucky first draft?

Hope you all had a great weekend!

*CQG*

39 comments:

Dianne K. Salerni said...

The first story I wrote with critique partners in my first draft was VOLTAGE. I had a lot of trouble with that draft, and I did wonder if it was because I was sharing the chapters too early.

But their encouragement was what kept me going, even though it took 3 false starts to get rolling on the story.

It's tough, because sometimes the critical comments can be a little stifling or make me lose confidence in the story. But that's not what my CPs want, and my confidence needs to get a backbone and toughen up. Right now, I take their feedback and keep a laundry list of changes to make in Draft Two -- and if they point out that I've really wandered off in the wrong direction, I stamp on the brakes and stop to check my map!!

Lindsay N. Currie said...

HA, you and Jen Daiker must have been channeling each other's brain waves on this one -- she posted about writing for yourself as well and I think you're both absolutely right. It's so easy, especially on that first draft, to become worried about how it's going to be received by everyone and let that dictate how you write. Good luck:)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My CP never sees my wip until at least the third or fourth draft.

I've never worried about others think about my stories until much later. I still write for me. I can't write any other way. I'd made a crappy ghost writer. My heart wouldn't be in the project, and my heart has to be into it.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Glad that works for you Katie. I like critique partners to read as I go because I'm not sure I can see all the problems and it's easier to fix.

My mantra for the first draft which is torture this time-Never Surrender!

Old Kitty said...

I want a mantra now!!! I think the closest one I can think of is "It'll be ok in the end"! LOL!

Oh I go for the jugular the older I get! I write a story and seek out immediate pummeling from crits. In my younger days I'd never ever even let my mum read my stories and I don't think it's because my skin's got any thicker the older I get. Wrinklier, yes, but it's as thin and as insecure as ever. I just feel I can approach harsh feedback from a different perspective - so yeah - I just throw my stories to the lion's den and go find some chocolate and wine! Take care
x

Jennifer Shirk said...

My mantra lately has been.."just get the frame up". LOL
I usually write very slow because I edit as I write. ut I'm trying to change that and just get the frame of the story down and go back and edit later.

Miranda Hardy said...

I have a trusted writing partner that may see my first draft, but I do not focus on what people will think. As long as I get the story out of my head, I'm good with what is written.

Laura Pauling said...

I'm with you. I'm better off waiting until I've done a few rewrites and then I prefer betas too. Though I do feel like getting the first few chapters critiques helps show me what I can fix in all the chapters.

Gina said...

This is so true. I think I need to blast this post out into the Twitter-sphere. When I wrote my first manuscript, I had no knowledge of anything publishing-related; I just had a story in my head that I needed to get out. I wrote, and worried about the rest later. Now, it's hard to remind myself that editing is my friend. I'm so determined to get it "right" that I end up taking forever to draft and hemming and hawing over every little thing. I need to remember to write first, worry about the rest later.

SA Larsenッ said...

Wondering what people will think can be a pitfall in anything in life, not just our writing. I recently gave my oldest son, who's about to graduate from HS, this quote: "It's not important how others see you, but how you see yourself."

I believe that applies to our writing, even the first draft. We all know the initial draft is rough; that's why it's a draft. Why are we so tough on ourselves. ;D

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Just get to the end, damn it! You'll be able to do something with it when it's all down on paper.
Yeah, my mantra is really motivating, huh?

Christine Danek said...

This is my issue. I want to know if it's good enough and I show it too early and get all messed up. I'm trying to write my first draft and get it down before anyone sees it. I guess I messed that up by getting a First Impression done by Dianne and Marcy. Oh well, no one has seen the rest of the mess.
Good luck and get moving. :)

Haddock said...

I noticed that at times it just clicks and everything turns out perfect. But to identify that "time" is the big task :-)

Laura Marcella said...

I agree! I wrote a post like this on Friday. I don't let anyone see my work until after the first draft revision. I don't want anyone else's expectations to influence my story until it's been written and I'm not so emotionally attached to it.

Julie Dao said...

Great advice! I am learning this as I finish up revisions. My CPs help me a LOT in terms of what a potential reader might think of the story, but in the end, it's my call. I only show completed drafts to CPs, too, but eventually we're going to try to start exchanging chapter by chapter. Will see how that goes!

Precy Larkins said...

First drafts are first drafts for a reason. Nobody gets to see those. :)

Colene Murphy said...

So true. I definitely need to adopt your saying during a first draft. I psyche myself out too often!

Kristin Rae said...

My critique partners actually help me through my first drafts a lot. If something is crap, they'll tell me, and I fix and keep going stronger (I've been developing my tough skin, and it's coming in handy now that I'm querying). I think I always keep in mind that people WILL see it, and that keeps me from writing that cheesy line that I'm itching to write. haha. Since people do see my first drafts, so I can't tell my self no one will, but that would be a nice trick lol. I'm still writing what I like to write (for myself), it's just better filtered. Saves me work in editing, that's for sure!

Tony Van Helsing said...

What's a beta partner?

Carrie-Anne said...

I always shared my writing with my elementary school classes and later my Creative Writing Club at my first high school. It never occurred to me that those stories and books were "first drafts." They were just my books and stories the way I wrote them. Unfortunately, I haven't had any luck finding a critique partner or beta reader at any of the writing places I've been hanging out since taking my long-deferred dream of being published off the back burner. No one else seems to write historical, or at least not the type of historicals I write.

TC Avey said...

If I start to think about other reading what I write I would never start writing. Instead, I put all thoughts of others out of my mind (as much as possible) and just let the words flow.

It's usually after the second draft that I start freaking out- now is when I start letting others read and now is when I get cold feet and want to hit delete on the entire process!

Matthew MacNish said...

I have to revise at least once before sending to CPs, but I don't send to Betas until probably ten drafts later.

I never really worry about what people will think while I'm banging out the first draft, probably because I know a lot of the stuff I write about will never survive all the way through.

D.G. Hudson said...

I can do this. (that's my mantra)

A critique partner works better for me.(not a host of them) They can see where things aren't working and can save the writer time (what was I thinking when I wrote that. . .). I find that the personalities need to mesh, and it helps if they have some interest in what style you write.

I'm a bit reclusive with my first drafts, too. Nice post!

Tamara Narayan said...

I was bringing in a grammatically polished version of a first draft to my critique group and they liked it. ?! I'm convinced the cheesecake at B&N is to blame. When I get to the beta phase, I need to find some vicious, unforgiving piranhas to get it in shape.

Patti said...

My mantra has been 'better to write crap than nothing at all'. Sometimes it works.

LTM said...

"just keep writing. It will come." :D No, but there have been times w/some stories, when I knew I had something good to tell, but the words just didn't fit together right. It didn't flow or feel chemistry-ey. :D

I love your mantra, though. Whatever works, right? Just keep writing~ <3

Johanna Garth said...

Great advice. I tell myself the same thing and occasionally bribe myself with chocolate in order to reach my daily word count! :)

Meredith said...

Such good advice! I need to use this as I write, because so often I get stuck wondering what other people will think of it. Thanks, Katie!

LD Masterson said...

I'm the worse first drafter in the world. I constantly go back and fix when I should be moving forward, so at some point I have a ready-for-readers beginning, a bunch-of-crap middle, and a still-working-it-out ending.

Alleged Author said...

I definitely agree that we have to write for ourselves and not just for the possibility that someone will see (and love) our work. Great post!

Marsha Sigman said...

What do I tell myself?

"I am an undiscovered genius. I am a maestro of words. I am AWESOME..." or you know something like that.ha

Sometimes we have to be our own cheerleader.

Connie Keller said...

I tell myself the same thing. I'll fix this before anyone ever sees it.

Angela Brown said...

I recently had a panic moment with the first draft I'm working on. Didn't work on it for nearly week because I got to thinking, "Come on, Angela. Romances between agents of heaven and hell are TIRED! No one will want to read this. People are just being kind to you for no apparent reason."

Yeah.

Got to love that self-doubt. But it was my muse that kicked butt and took names, reminding me of how and why I was writing the story. Also, I realized absolutely nothing good came of panicking. In a state of panic, I couldn't think straight. So I had to find my foundation again, plant my feet, and start where I left off.

So if I have a mantra, it's "Panic only leads to can'ts. Focus leads to cans".

Jeff King said...

The excitement of the first draft, get me through it… it’s the second and subsequent drafts that bring my world to a crashing halt.

But, I feel I have grown past that hurdle and hope to see the dividends of such thinking.

Nancy Thompson said...

I don't think the first draft is for anyone BUT the author. I wouldn't even show a third draft to my CPs. Those first drafts are just for getting the story down, in some measure of order, to put the first layer down purely as a foundation for the frame and finishing coats. No way anyone will ever see my first drafts!

Maria said...

I lie to myself. I call my first draft a "narrative outline". I call my second draft a rough draft. I call the cleaned up version of that second draft my first draft. And for a mantra? In this decade of movie remakes it's pretty easy. I just say, "It's ALL been done before, but obviously that's what people want."

Christina Lee said...

Good advice!!!

Interesting how we all have different ideas about when to send to CP's and betas. Certainly not a first draft for me(anymore)!!! :D

Michael Pierce said...

When I get to the end, I can rest. But until then, power through. My motivation comes from momentum. Great post! :)

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I feel self-conscious about my first draft too. I like writing in cafes, but I always worry that people are reading my manuscripts over my shoulder. I cover the chapter headings up with my hand so that no one can tell I'm working on a novel. Once I accidentally left behind my notebook in a cafe; when I went back to get it, one of the baristas made a joke about how it made for interesting reading, which freaked me out.

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