Among the many nuggets of wisdom shared on writing your first draft, one is repeated on a regular basis that I do my best to agree with, but mostly see as a promotion for discouragement:
“Every first draft is crap.”
When holding a large stack of paper you’ve filled with adventures of love, hate, life, death and most of all, passion – the thought of having it called “crap” is akin to being called a failure.
I am currently revising and editing the first book I ever published. Do I think it was crap? No. Re-reading that story has made me recall a world I created with excitement. A tale that rekindled the thrill of writing for me. Was it written to the absolute best of my ability? Honestly, no. It was my first book and as such, a first step.
Writing your story is step one. If you are positive you have written a great story or are supremely confident you are a great writer, it should be known that even you have more to do. When you write “The End” no matter how well you write, it should be clear that the process you have embarked upon has just begun.
You now have a new journey to undertake. First and foremost, you need to look at your writing through another’s eyes.
These wondrous folk are known as “Alpha”, “Beta” or “First Readers” and can be friends, family or volunteers discovered through social media. Their help is typically received a chapter at a time and we writers are given valuable insight into what a typical reader will think. An Alpha reveals to us what did or did not work and once enough of them have gone through the book, you can proceed to the next step: Employing an editor.
This can start with a Line or a Copy Editor. Both are important and both need to be used. A Copy Editor will be able to tell you if the story is sound or if there are plot holes as numerous as craters on the moon. The reality of what is discovered may be painful, but also necessary. A Line Editor finds grammar, formatting and spelling errors. Sometimes both editors are listed as one so you get the best of both worlds. (Yay!)
As a writer, you must read over your book dozens or even hundreds of times, making sure you have it polished to perfection. Unfortunately, after reading your book twenty or more times, it becomes increasingly difficult to see the words on the page. You see your story after countless readings which is why having secondary readers and professional editors are essential.
Keep in mind: The stories we create are like shining gems discovered by our imagination. They fill our minds with possibilities and potential greatness. Those shimmering gems must be treated with care so the world discovers them in the best possible light.
As soon as you write “The End” on that last page, know that you have done what a mere fraction of people the world over have done. You, my friend, have written a book! That accomplishment is worthy of note and no matter what anyone will ever tell you. You have scaled a mountain few others dared to try.
So remember to scrutinize anyone who says that your first draft is “crap”.
Our first draft is a first step. At its conclusion, we know that we’ve navigated through the intricacies of story-telling, brought a hero to life, tossed in one challenge after another and faced each obstacle on the road to success. Every thread to our story has been woven with care, adjusting for every twist and turn, ensuring it works out in the end.
So even if you must later fix grammar, story or plot holes, understand this first step you’ve taken following “The End” is also the first step taken in your own great adventure as a Writer.