First Draft First ... Then Get Published!
by Shery Ma Belle Arrieta
Anne Lamott wasn't so subtle about what she thought of first drafts in her book, Bird by Bird. In fact, she started off by writing, "Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts."
I agree with her. First drafts are the roughest, and well, ugliest drafts. It's a common mistake of beginning writers, as well as seasoned ones, to expect themselves to produce shiny, perfect very polished and publishable first drafts. What these writers don't know is that these ugly and every-editor's-nightmare first drafts can provide them with the opportunity to explore every angle, every slant, and every idea for an article or a work.
Write Down Everything!
Well, at least try to write all of them down. This is the stage where you don't let the memories of your English professors get in the way of writing. When you start with your first (or rough) draft, you have the prerogative to hurl those boring English and grammar rules out the window. Don't worry, you'll pick them up later.
Stew For A While
After you get all your ideas down on paper, leave them. And I mean it! Don't even try touching them until a sufficient amount of time has lapsed. Give it a day or two. Let it stew on your desk. Go to your dentist, get a manicure, or write other stuff, but don't, for your muse's sake, get your hands on your first draft just yet!
Get Lethal With That Red Marker
The next day is the time you can brandish your most lethal weapon - your red (or any color you prefer) marker. Take out your terrible (and you will realize that it is terrible!) first draft and start crossing out ideas and sentences you don't need.
On To a Good Second Draft
Remember the English and grammar rules you threw out the window the day before? Now's the time to pick them up. You need them now. Go over the remains of your first draft. You probably can't help wincing as you go along and start editing your work, joining fragments, making the verbs and the subjects agree with each other, correcting your spelling and finding that sentence or paragraph to lead your article or story. Firm up your second draft. You will find that it's a lot leaner and better than your terrible first draft.
Go Ahead, Go For The Kill
With an already better and much- improved second draft, why stop when you can make it even better and more polished? Like what Lamott wrote, go over your third draft as if you're a dentist looking for cavities, flossing every tooth and treating bad breath. Your third draft hopefully is your final and best draft.
Lamott wrote, "The first draft is the child's draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later." Let your ideas flow the first time you sit down to write that article or story! It's only when you write those terrible first drafts will you be able to produce really, really great stories! Then you can get them published!
Copyright © 2001 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta
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