The Cure for the Common First Draft

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, and I’ll keep on saying it until my dying day: first drafts suck more jagged Klingon cock than a Carpathian prostitute.  I’m not kidding.  Mention first drafts to me and I’ll sigh deeply, shake my head, and crave scotch.

I’ve been working on Undead and Inhuman‘s first draft for two weeks, and I’ve been behind on it for most of the last week.  I hung out with some writer friends last weekend.  I didn’t get any writing done on that particular Sunday, but I figured I could just haul ass and catch up.  That’s how it worked in theory.  In practice, I began feeling more and more lazy, and now I’m six thousand words behind.

I wish I could blame my friends, but I can’t because when I told them I was leaving, I ended up staying for another hour or so.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up missing my deadline for the first draft by a day or so, a week at most.  That’s not me feeling sorry for myself, that’s just me being realistic.  I’ve been thinking tonight about what I can do to help get back on the horse.  I came up with some ideas that might help, and I’m hoping they might help any of you caught missing your word quota.

Wake up earlier (and on time)!  I hate saying this.  I’m not a morning person.  I’m a night owl.  Sadly, nighttime isn’t really the best period for writers.  They say nothing would get done if it weren’t for the last minute, but if you leave everything until the end of the day, you’re setting yourself up for an ambush.  What happens if you’ve got stuff piling on from earlier in the evening or if a sudden emergency comes up?  That precious magic hour suddenly vanishes.  Switch things around.  Try waking up a little bit earlier so you won’t feel rushed at night.

Write in 100-word bursts.  I once said that Seth Grahame-Smith advised me to write a thousand words before getting up to pee.  He told me this about three years ago.  I haven’t been able to do it, and I don’t think I ever will.  Think of writing like sprinting.  You can’t sprint for a mile, but if you sprint for a hundred meters, take a breather, and repeat, you can get it done after about a dozen bursts or so.  Similarly, if you take your daily goal – 1,600 words.  2,000 words.  Whatever – and break it up into smaller pieces, it’ll feel less stressful.  By the way, don’t take hour-long breaks in between bursts!  Otherwise, you’ll be sitting at your computer for, like, sixteen hours!

Unplug the Internet.  I like having the Internet handy in case I need to look something up really quick, if I have to confirm a street name or double-check on a quick fact.  While the Internet is a great tool for a writer, it’s also a massive distraction.  Facebook.  Wikipedia.  Youtube.  They get hard-ons distracting you.  So disconnect from the Internet for a little while, or at the very least, give yourself a strict no-online policy until you’ve finished your latest 100-word burst.

Drink coffee.  Seriously?  If you need someone to explain the necessity of a steaming hot mug of coffee, you might as well dunk your face in it.

Ignore self-doubt.  A good and simple piece of advice is always worthy of repeating.  No day will go by when you’re not feeling like a failure.  That feeling sticks in your mind and you can’t get it out.  It’s there 24/7.  But even though it‘s there, you can ignore it.  If you want to be hard on yourself, be hard on yourself…after you finish the first draft.  Remember, don’t worry about how good it is, just worry about finishing it.

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