The Cure to First Draft Blues: Could It Be NaNoWriMo?

Photo from Photostock

Photo from Photostock

I have a love-(mostly)hate relationship with first drafts. Especially since I’m a total rookie in this game, making this one my official first first draft.

They’re fun. You get to write out all of your ideas and scenes that you’ve been dreaming up and obsessing over. You find out who your characters really are, and how they think the story should go. You’re not just a creator or a dreamer any more; you’re a writer.

But first drafts can be horrible. Painful. Kind of like starting a journey without a destination or an ETA. Is your idea really worth writing about? Will other people want to read it? How are you going to get your characters from point A to point B? Sure, you have outlines. Maybe even a detailed story arc. But now, instead of planning your story, you want to (gasp) write the thing?

One of my very first posts was about Inner Editors and how they hold us back. Of course our critics will be helpful in our story, but after the first draft is done. My current work in progress was started and restarted eight times.

Eight. Dashed. Times.

I had completely lost it. In one sitting, I had written out the first chapter in thirteen different ways, and hated every one of them.

My inner editor was screaming for perfection. My heart was screaming for me to get on with the stupid thing.

When I returned home from Central America in August, I was ready to pen out the story that I had been drowning in for over a year. I had characters, settings, snippets of dialogue and detailed back stories; and I was tired of waiting for the perfection to appear. I was going to make it happen, no matter what it took.

So I made a plan and set some goals.

  1. I wrote every day. Whether it was a school-sport-social life-filled weekday or the sometimes-but-not-always-less-hectic-weekend, I would write in my story before the day was done. Even if it was just a few sentences. Putting words on a page is what it’s all about.
  2. Weekly Goals. For this first draft (or what I like to call my Puke Draft, since that’s what it felt and probably read like) I wrote by hand in a designated writing notebooks. My personal goal was about 20, handwritten, front-and-back pages a week. While some weeks it was a breeze, there were some times I was cramming to meet my deadline.
  3. I had a plan. “I’m going to have _______(insert number here) of _______(words or pages) done today.” Then I would break it down even more. “I’m going to write ____ pages during lunch, ____ pages during break, and ____ pages before bed.” I cannot explain how much this helped!

With this, determination and a whole lot of work, I wrote over half of my novel in one month. Since starting it, I realized the various plot holes and different things that needed fixing. With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, I thought, “Heck. I might as well start over with a clean slate and crank this baby out!”

Now that I have a clearer direction of where I’m going, I can’t wait to dive into NaNoWriMo and re-write it. I’m still a little unsure of the end—but isn’t that the whole point of National Novel Writing Month? Although this will be my first year, I’m feeling pretty confident (and maybe just a little bit nervous) about it.

How many of you are participating this year? Any past experiences with NaNo?

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