One of the things that I have learned about myself and writing since starting Listening to the Lost Voices is that in keeping with the Ernest Hemingway quote, “The first draft of anything is shit,” I have to “get over” the less-developed quality of first drafts.
First drafts just do not have the same depth and breadth of the final one. That may seem obvious, but for whatever reason the shallow, boring nature of all of my first drafts had dissuaded me from writing. “This is crap.” And I couldn’t see through to what a nice piece of fiction it ultimately might be. Self-doubt? Low self-esteem? Stupidity? And I’d stop, sometimes for years. There were other things going on which stopped me from writing for long periods, perhaps I’ll get to them someday. But concerning the nature of this post, I had serious problems with first drafts. At once exciting (“Could this be the one?”) and scary (“I’ll be humiliated.”)
It is different now. Why, I don’t know, except perhaps exposure to other writers on social networks has given me insight as to how others work.
I now liken first drafts, and second, third and beyond, to the laying down of track. Just like in building a railroad. You lay down the firm framework to get you to your destination (completed draft) and then afterwards you add the things that always followed when they built railroads out to the American West. At first there’s just the barebones story, and then things develop. As you go over the story in subsequent drafts, you expand upon it: flesh out characters and backstory, build up the world they live in, all sorts of things that would make the story “complete,” and unique to you. Just like in the development of communities along the railroads, hardy, rough “pioneers” settled first, and then more “civilized” types until finally what was Tumbleweed Gulch is now Denver.
In “laying down the track” of this story, I am actually looking forward to the process, at least so that I can get it done and start fleshing out the details. 🙂