My sweetie read this quote the other day. She asked me if this is what I did when I started putting so much time and effort into writing romances when I had no idea if anyone would want to read my work.
“There will be a few times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications, and just go for it.”
― Judith McNaught
I told her yeah, it sort of was like that for me. And it’s what I feel like I do every day when I sit down to write, especially with a first draft. I have to put everything aside. I can’t worry about what readers will think or what my editor will think or even what I’ll think (particularly of the quality). I can’t worry if the story will sell or if it seems like a crazy idea to even write it. I have to go with my gut and pour out the first draft, then worry about the rest later.
When I’m revising, I can be a little more logical. I can consider a few other things like the market, my backlist of stories in comparison, and the intended publisher and what works for their line. But in the beginning, the first draft is so hard for me. I have to fight against my own fears and doubts and my internal editor. Some days I have to fight for nearly every word. So I have to push aside everything else and focus on the characters and their story. I have to write the story for me first. I have to let my mind play with ideas and try out scenarios. I have to let the characters develop into people who feel real to me. If I let anything or anyone else in, if I listen to my own doubts—especially the doubts about whether this is a story anyone else will want to read—or my own preconceived notions of what I thought this story should be about, I’d never finish the first draft.
I’m not always successful at this. It takes A LOT of effort and some long days of fighting with those doubts, but it’s how writing for publication works for me. It has to be all about the characters and writing a story that I’d want to read, and I have to take the time to get to that place where my planning of a story and the journey of writing it merge–where I fall in love with the world I’m creating and the people who live there.
Only then can I step back and look at it objectively. Only then can I ask, “Is this working?”
After that, it’s time to revise, to think about the story from outside of my own perspective, to think about it as if I’m reading it for the first time. What makes sense? What doesn’t? What needs more attention? What needs to be cut (even if I love those scenes or descriptions or bits of dialogue)?
It’s also time to add in all those magical touches that have me falling in love with the writing too. Because the first draft is really just the beginning, and that’s why I can’t share a first draft with anyone. It’s far from what the final version will become.
It’s me dreaming on the page.
Sometimes those dreams need some trimming, rewriting, and a good deal of polishing before the story becomes one I’m proud to share with others.