10 June

Don't Measure Your Draft to Published Works...


The biggest error made by new writers is their assumption about what it takes to be a published author.

All new writers start out as discerning readers. They've spent a lifetime being exposed to high-bar, glossy finished works. So, when they attempt to type out their own story draft, their brains measure that draft to what they've previously read, forgetting all the story arc failures and umpteen redrafts and edits that went into every published work they've ever read.

  • Published Work Steps: A, alllllllll the way to Z
  • New Writer Draft Expectations: Blank page to Z

And it will be this lopsided comparison which gets them down and despondent, or worse, have them abandon their draft altogether.

This habit of new writers demanding Z right from the get-go is a combination of:

  • Perfectionism
  • Fear of Failure

And those two causes combine, ultimately representing the Ego — the fear of having their self-Image tarnished by others. 

What have I told you, ad nauseam, about writing being 90% psychological???

Are you listening to me yet???

I've drilled this misstep with new writers in my own group until I'm blue in the face, and over years of constant reminder. Many finally understand what I'm saying, realizing a first draft from them or Ernest Hemingway WILL be crap, and that much blood, sweat and tears will go into making that first crappy attempt into a publishable work. But there's a few — the ones who are seriously mired in self-Image preservation — who will have such a difficult time accepting this human flaw and arresting their self-critique to write their draft to completion, unable to stomach the look of imperfection in anything they do.

As an Aside: my writing drafts...OMG...well, I can only compare them to my university charcoal sketches I completed in my first year drawing art class. And in the years since, when I'm feeling no pain at my own house parties, I'll be brave enough to pull out my drawing portfolio and show the sketches to my guests. It's always a close call as to what party trick will elicit more howls — playing Twister or viewing my sketches.

At one time, Hemingway used the word, "sh*t" to describe his book drafts.

For all time, my charcoal sketches, and certainly my book drafts, will emit a super stinky odor.

Them there's the facts, ma'am!

Liken a writing draft to a first coat of paint on a wall — it doesn't cover well, there's streaks and splotches, and further coats are definitely needed to bring that wall from lackluster to shine.

Then why — why, oh, why flying feathery why — would a draft of any work from any wordsmith be any better than Hemingway's sh*t???

Drafts never get published.

Drafts are explicitly for the writer, a skeletal story shell from which to work as a base, to mold and fashion and refine into an eventual published work, the level of quality new writers read and assume were the author's first attempt.

Advice: STOP Doing This To Yourself! *grabbing a hold of your shoulders, and shaking you 'til you're dizzy!*

HOMEWORK: Happily, joyfully, eagerly plunk down words to formulate your story draft, all the way to completion, and KNOW AS FACT they are meant to be literary poo-poo right from the start. And while you’re at it, if you truly plan on being a serious artist: STOP protecting that self-Image of yours! *shaking you again... and this time you're turning green... I'll have to let go soon if you plan on hurling chunks*

To be an artist is to blatantly, honestly and courageously display the imperfect human experience — your great and glorious attempt as a member of our species to flounder, fail, try again, flounder and fail less, complete umpteen reattempts and re-do's  and ultimately create NOT a perfect work of art, BUT a heart-felt, hard-worked for piece eliciting an emotional response in the beholder. Nothing more, nothing less.

And it all starts with your super-duper, really stinky, icky-picky, poo-poo draft.

The one we ALL start with as wordsmiths...

  • no matter the practice
  • no matter the experience
  • no matter our age
  • no matter our reputation
  • and until we die... or, who knows, maybe writers create icky drafts in heaven, too. ;-)

Drop your Ego. Welcome to our smelly world. :-D

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