The First Draft

I normally update this blog once a week on Sundays, or Monday or Tuesday if I’ve had a particularly long and busy weekend.  However, last week was so long and exhausting that I kept forgetting to writing a new post.

Last week, I finished the ninth draft of my alien invasion novel, putting in so many hours of work that it wasn’t unusual for me to go to sleep at around four or five in the morning (hence, the exhaustion).  Although it’s a ninth draft, there were so many alterations done to the story over the last year (yes, it took me that long to write this one draft), that it was more like a 1st draft at the start of a new story.  It’s this first draft that I want to talk to you about.

Gosh, where do I even begin? 

When I was in college, I had a professor who said that the first draft is pretty much the writer vomiting onto a page, and that never left me.  When you begin to write, you might begin to second guess yourself, going over your pages with a scowl; you think to yourself This will never work.  No one on bookshelves today writes like this.  Put another way, when you print out your story about the Mars Confederacy negotiating with the United Lunar Colonies, you might think of it as amateurish.  It doesn’t sound like something a respected author would write.  Just say it out loud for a second.  Mars Confederacy?  United Lunar Colonies?  Who the hell writes shit like that?

Don’t worry.  That novelty is a good thing, a really good thing, and even the big names have it.  When Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers, I doubt there was anything like the Terran Federation in literature.  When Harry Turtledove wrote his World War series, I’m sure part of him thought that the Race would sound too much like something from a cheesy pulp magazine from the 1950s.  Some writers simply have trouble imagining their rough work – printed from a standard home printer without fancy cover art – having the support of mainstream publishers.

Again, don’t panic.  First of all, you’re not an artist, so the cover art is out of your hands anyways.  Secondly, if the story is good, people will read it.  The cover art for Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter wasn’t something to brag about, but it was such a good book that I read almost all of it in one day.

Also, take a moment to appreciate your accomplishment.  You’ve written a novel.  It’s still needs a lot of work, but you got to the end of it.  When I finished the ninth draft of my book, it came out to 429 pages and weighed enough that I thought it would be a good weapon for repelling robbers.  Few people have the fortitude to get through even the draft stage of a project, but you did.  That’s not something you should shrug off.

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