Writers can sometimes be secretive and embarrassed about what they’re currently working on. Personally, I don’t discuss what I’m writing with other people unless I’m really in a jam and need recommendations for the plot. This is understandable, I think, because of the principle of the “shitty first draft,” which I’ve written about previously. As you’re writing that first draft, you’ll have moments of exhilaration when you think you’re making progress toward your eventual goal. But, unfortunately, you’ll also have moments when you feel like you aren’t doing your best work. You just need to keep reminding yourself that this is not your final draft.
One day, with a lot of work, you’ll get to the draft that is ready for the world to read. But for now? This draft is just for you. That can be pretty liberating, don’t you think? During the first draft, the story belongs only to you and is contained only in the document where you’re writing it. You come to it each day, or each week, and you get to add to it in the privacy in your own mind. Although the first draft can sometimes feel “shitty,” I think it’s important to savor the first draft as well. Savor the feeling that only you know the story and only you can finish it.
And yes, you should finish it! First drafts can be difficult to see through to completion, but it’s completely worth it. In a pep talk last November, author Stephanie Perkins said, “Keep writing until you reach the end. If you get stuck, take your protagonist down a different path. This isn’t the draft that you’re going to publish. This is the draft that will help you figure out what story you’re really trying to tell.”
This is the time during which you’re allowed to mess around a little and try different things. Try writing in a different style, try something that wasn’t in your outline, or try adding two new characters halfway through the story. A first draft can certainly be cringeworthy, but it’s also your playground! So take the first draft to work on your story away from prying eyes. Happy writing!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan