Monday 24 May 2021

Advice II - A Personal Insight into Writing by Robin James

    Advice is easy to give and hard to follow, but what's even harder is starting a writing project. Vivid stories may live in your mind, but readers cannot indulge themselves in it until you've written it. With that in mind, the best advice I have for new and seasoned writers is: your first draft is for your eyes only.

    A beautifully crafted story won't emerge the first time you sit down to write it, regardless of how well developed it is in your mind. Writing is an art form and like all art, the learning stages can be unsightly.

    So let your first draft be a mess.

    Go wild with this draft. Use purple prose if you want, toss in all the adverbs, tell instead of show, choke the paragraphs with every cliche known to writers, use run-on sentences or fragments of phrases, but write it.

    Write incoherently, write fervently, write with unfettered joy, write with abandon. Get the story out of your mind and into a format that can be edited. Write the story as if you're telling someone the best parts, write the story out of order, write the easiest bits, write the same parts over and over, but write it.

    Ramble on for pages and pages about the character's backstory, describe the setting as if it's your favourite place to be in the whole universe, create epic infodumps, but write it.

    There's no need to edit or censor yourself. Rewording and reworking can happen later. This draft is for you, let it be what it is and celebrate the fact that you've written it out because no word is ever wasted. Practice is required and these rough drafts help you perfect your craft. There is no judgment awaiting this document, no comparisons, and no critical eye scanning the pages. Free yourself of all constraints and just write it.

    Once this draft is done and you have a weighty document full of contradictions, messy plot lines, massive plot holes, two dimensional characters, awkward dialogue, and some absolute gems of phrases, then and only then can you edit and begin to see the shape of your work. You cannot edit a blank page. You cannot find your narrative voice without writing multitudes of words. You cannot hone your writing skills without writing.

    I promise you that no word will be wasted. Yes, you will cut portions of the work later, remove swaths of writing, reword clunky dialogue, and trim the prose so it flows. You will likely change the plot, remove a character, add descriptions, and learn where to fill in the gaps. But none of what you've written is unnecessary. Every word serves a purpose, and that purpose is practice.

    Keep your first draft private. No one looks at eggs, sugar, and flour and exclaims how their cake is awful. No one should see your first draft and complain of how your story doesn't make sense. This draft isn't meant to make sense, it's just ingredients to a story that will shine after the injection of hard work.

    There's no need to bow to the fear of failure, fear of not finishing, or fear of not measuring up because nobody else will ever have the luxury of viewing this absolute disaster of a first draft. It's yours and yours alone. So get started by simply writing it.

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