“The first draft of anything is sh*t.”
No truer words have ever been spoken. When I first began writing my novel, I didn’t know what the was about but I guess that writing it is supposed to help me figure it out. All I had was a character who was incredibly angry all the time. She was angry at everyone and everything which got her into a lot of trouble. From this starting point, I began outlining. I wrote out all these plot points of things that I wanted to have happen in my story. Other character my protagonist would interact with, problems/obstacles she would face and how she would face them and I also started thinking about how her story would end. This turned out to be the worst thing for my creativity because all it did was roadblock me and I started using it as a way to procrastinate.
“No, I can’t start writing yet. I have to know exactly what is going to happen.”
It killed the fun and the joy in writing and I would often end up not getting one word written. Another problem was that I would have a planned plot point and I either didn’t know how to get there or there was some part of me saying it doesn’t feel right or that’s not going to work.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that outlining is bad. There is a benefit in having an idea of where the story is going and if that is your style then you do you booboo.
But I ended up scrapping most of the scenes I had written. I decided I was going to let the story to guide me. I went back to some of the lessons I had learned from writing instructors about the elements of a story and one of the basic ones I had forgotten was that my protagonist had to undergo some kind of change. She couldn’t be the same person at the end as she was in the beginning. So with that in mind, I started to think about what was fuelling her anger and how this emotion would impact her transformation. Was she going to be less angry and more subdued or would she end up a boiling pot of rage?
Asking these questions throughout writing the first draft was one of the main reasons I was able to get it finished. It took a total of 18 months and it still needed some MAJOR structural changes (that I am still currently working on) but once I accepted that it was going to be shit anyway, the writing became much easier.
Every writer has their own process of how to get their work done. I took some lessons from the process of over-outlining the first novel. It taught me a lot about my own writing style and I still do a bit of outlining but in a way that doesn’t destroy the spontaneity of the work. So for all you writers out there struggling to get things going, accept that it going to be shit and do it anyway.