Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Second Drafts and Joy

Last week, while hanging out at the United States Pony Clubs East Coast Championships (my daughter was stellar-more on that later) I had a chance to spend some time with my 11-year-old friend Lily (her mother is also a friend of mine).

Lily confided that she was in the process of writing a book. I asked her what it was about. Her expression became a mixture of pride, panic, and anxiousness--which made me think that Lily really might have the makings of a writer.

"If it's too early to talk about it, don't even try," I said. "I can never talk about my books until I'm past a certain point."

Lily exhaled in relief. "It's too early to talk about it," she said.

I then gave her the only decent writing advice I have: finish the story, even if you know it isn't right yet. Too many neophyte writers realize about halfway through a story that it isn't coming out the way they want and they stop writing and start a new story. Odds are they won't finish that one, either, nor the third...at which point they decide that they aren't really writers.

All first drafts suck. I so wish this weren't true. But it's only by finishing a first draft that you can ever get to a second draft. Second drafts aren't quite as lousy--third drafts can begin to be worthwhile.

I told Lily that it turned out the original beginning of my new book stunk, so I chopped it in half and added 20 new pages on the front. Also the original ending stunk, so I got rid of it. Also I changed something major in the middle, and well, you get the idea. I'm finding the story, buried somewhere in my wretched first draft.

It's such a relief, I told Lily, not to have to get things right on the first try. And Lily, being very wise for 11, happily agreed.