The hard truth about your first draft

All writers, whether they are published or not, tend to agree upon one thing.

The hardest part of being a writer is actually FINISHING the first draft. Its something I myself have done once in all my years of writing. It is kind of sad actually.

So many stories go unfinished because either we lose the inspiration and the drive to continue them (or we get distracted by a shiny new idea). Others get started and restarted so many times that we lose sight of why we started writing them in the first place. Some die the second we tell someone about them and they brush it off as a silly idea.

The reality is, being a writer was never going to be easy. You are going to have to face some harsh truths, especially when it comes to your first draft.

You won’t finish as fast as everyone else

I know there are some people who can write a book in a month, or sometimes all they need is a week. It took me well over a year to finish mine. Some people take a lot longer than that to write the first draft of their book (though they tend to work on and finish others in the meantime).

It can be SO easy to fall into the trap of comparing your progress to that of other writers. I know someone who beat NaNoWriMo in 5 days (she wrote 10k a day). It took me seven years and some fudging of the rules to win.

The truth is, there will always be someone who gets things done faster than you. Maybe they have more discipline. Maybe they have more experience. Maybe their schedule allows for more writing time than yours does. It doesn’t matter

This is your journey and yours alone. So keep your head down, stop checking to see how far along the person next to you is, and get to writing.

It will be the hardest thing you have ever done

As I have mentioned, writing your first draft is going to take a while. This is especially true for those of us with a day job(s). Sometimes it is just hard to find the time to write on top of everything else that we have to do. Add onto that the fact that life is stressful and we tend to continually find ourselves surrounded by people who think writing is a silly waste of time, it can be really hard to stay motivated.

You will also have to deal with the people around you not understanding what you are doing or why you are doing it. I talked a lot about what this feels like in my open letter to the creators who feel alone. This is something that is really hard to face. Hearing the people close to you echoing back your own self-doubts can cripple your creativity and stifle your desire to keep going.

That is why I always highly recommend finding and joining the online writing community. There you will find people who not only understand what you are going through, but they have been there themselves.

Just because you are the only one who can tell your story, doesn’t mean you have to go through it alone. Find people who will support you along this journey, with both encouragement and a kick in the rear when needed.

It is going to be hard to stay focused on the story for a long period of time. There will be days when you have neither the time nor the motivation to write. That is okay. But you have to get back to it tomorrow.

There is also that annoying psychological thing that prevents people from finishing things. I personally struggle with this, as evidenced by the amount of random YouTube videos I will have watched by the time I finally finish this blog post. I don’t know if there is a scientific term for this, but it is very much a thing.

A thing that you will have to find a way to power through. Maybe try asking one of your accountability partners to pester the living daylights out of you until you finish the thing. Or tell literally everyone and their mother that you are going to have it finished by a certain time, so then you have to have it done by that time. Because everyone and their mother is expecting you to.

It’s a very stressful yet effective tactic.

Most of it will be garbage

100% guaranteed, no one is ever going to see your first draft. By the time it is finished and you have taken a step back, you will soon realize that it is a steaming pile of garbage. There is no way around it.

You should still be proud of your garbage heap. You put a lot of work into it. That doesn’t change the fact that none of it is even close to being ready to publish. Don’t worry though. That is completely normal.

No one will ever see the mess that is what I wrote during NaNoWriMo. It was a convoluted hodgepodge of plot points and character building. I still keep a lot of the text in the case that I do end up using some of it, but I have since started a complete rewrite. I now know a lot more about the world, the situation, and my characters’ motivations. I also know how not to write and pace certain scenes.

If you feel like your first draft is too silly or too serious, or that you aren’t sure if you want it to be paced/structured that way, that is totally fine. This is your sandbox, so play around in it. Try different scenes from different angles. Dig through the layers of fluff and descriptions to get to the heart of your story. And, most importantly, don’t worry about what anyone else will think.

Your first draft is you telling the story to yourself, so you can come back and figure out how to tell it to everyone else. It is never going to be perfect. It will likely not resemble the end product. It’s most likely going to be a jumbled mess.

That’s okay, though, because you can edit a messy page. You cannot edit a blank one.

Your first draft only needs to be one thing.

Written.

So get to writing. We have a lot of work to do.

Remember the Mothers

This weekend is Mother’s Day. I think we can all agree that moms are great and deserve the love and appreciation we show them.

My mom, for example, is an absolute badass. Life hasn’t always been easy for her but she never lets it stop her from doing what she wants to do or being what she wants to be. She taught me how to chase my dreams and how to stand up for myself. She showed me what it looks like to never give up.

I honestly don’t even want to think about where I would be without her.

Even if your mom isn’t in the picture, I bet you have some sort of mom figure in your life. Heck, some people have both.

I feel like often times, moms don’t get enough credit. They sacrifice so much of themselves to help raise us into the people they know we can be. They support us through the tough times and take care of us when we cannot take care of ourselves.

A lot of their work goes unnoticed, especially in popular culture.

All you have to do is look at the tropes to see this. From the wicked stepmother to the stereotypical dead anime mom (you know who I’m talking about, with the light brown hair in a side ponytail), moms always tend to get the short end of the stick.

This is especially true for the ones who do not live to see the end of the story. There are a few in particular that have always bugged me, so I thought I would share some of my feelings.

Warning: I have a lot of them.

Padme Amidala

I am a Star Wars fan. I basically grew up on it, watching Return of the Jedi so many times that by age 6 I never wanted to see it again. Thankfully, that sentiment did not last very long and it is once again one of my favorite movies.

Most people agree that the original trilogy is better than the prequel trilogy (or as I sometimes call it, the tri-quel). I am a bit on the fence about this because 1-3 did a pretty good job of setting up the situation for A New Hope considering they were made afterward.

Throughout most of the movies, Padme is constantly dodging assassination attempts. In the first movie, they target her because she is the queen and the Federation is trying to take over her peaceful planet. Then she becomes a Senator and a vocal advocate for peace and against the Federation, further painting a target on her back. The whole time, no matter what she faces, she never backs down and always finds a way to get what she wants.

If you are a huge nerd, like me, you watched the Clone Wars TV show in as close to chronological order as you can get. Padme plays key roles in several arcs throughout the seasons. I loved getting a chance to see more of her in action and seeing her relate to the other characters. She is a strong, independent woman who can handle herself in both in a fight and in a debate. She is a political genius who is afraid of nothing and will not stand down from her belief. She will not be intimidated.

When Anakin fell to the darkness, she went along with Obi-Wan to try and talk him down, knowing full well that she was pregnant. He lashes out at her in anger, nearly killing her. Obi-Wan is able to get her to safety and to some sort of medical treatment in enough time for her to give birth.

She gives birth to Luke and Leia, naming them both, and reminds Obi-Wan that there is still good in Anakin. Then she dies. There is a common theory that the light side of the Force that was in her went to Anakin, further preserving that side of him. She dies a hero.

And then she is literally never mentioned aside from her being a mother ever again. No one remembers her achievements. Luke and Leia mention her exactly one time and never bother trying to find more information on her. It’s like no one cares she existed beyond her getting pregnant and giving birth.

Now, I know that most of you are shaking your fingers at me, citing the fact that Padme’s character was created AFTER the original trilogy. That is true, but there have been more movies since then taking place after that trilogy that makes no mention of her.

Just once I would like a callback to the spitfire senator who bowed to no one and who died making sure that the galaxy still had hope in the face of darkness. She deserves at least that much.

Lily Potter

James and Lily Potter both died as the result of a prophecy after successfully escaping Voldemort three times. They were both in their early twenties with a newborn Harry Potter. James died first in an attempt to stop Voldemort from harming his family. Lily was given the chance to escape, to flee. She refused, standing boldly in the face of death in a feeble attempt to save her son. It is this action that protects Harry up until his 17th birthday with a magic no wizard can break. The power of a mother’s love.

Yet does Harry ever show any interest in learning more about his mom? No. The only questions he asks are about James. The same James who spent most of his school years as a bully until he finally mellowed out, thanks in part to Lily. She forced him to become a better person.

Everyone who ever says anything about her only says nice things. She was a genuinely kind and caring person and a talented witch. Lupin shares some about her with Harry, as does Slughorn. Yet he never asks any questions. He doesn’t press for more information. He only wants to know more about James.

That said, there is a sweet moment in the 7th book when Harry finds a letter from Lily to Sirius about Harry loving his Christmas present (a toy broom). He spends a fair amount of time marveling over how similar their handwriting is as well as the fact that they owned a cat.

Honestly, Harry is kind of a self-centered jerk at times. He is far too often compared to his father, the cocky, arrogant kid who bullied people (especially Snape). Maybe he would have gotten on better with people if he tried to be more like Lily and less like James.

Literally Every Disney Mom

Compared to the other two, this is a minor rant. But I am still going to rant.

Aside from some of the more recent movies, mothers are almost nonexistent in Disney movies. When they do exist, they die almost immediately. If they don’t die, they don’t serve much of a purpose and remain completely silent throughout the whole movie *glances at Tangled*. Then you have the wicked stepmother.

This trope is right up there next to the dead anime mom. You know the one, with the light brown hair, pulled into a side ponytail and the kind smile. Yeah, that one.

 

In stories, as in real life, we see countless examples of strong and fearless mothers everywhere we look. The people we look up to. The people we aspire to be. Whether they are a biological mother, a metaphorical one, or a literary one, everyone has some sort of motherly presence in their life. These women deserve credit for all they have done to help us become who we are.

There will be some literary moms as well as a few real-life ones that we should all aspire to be like, whether we have kids or not. That is why they are getting their own blog post as soon as I am finished writing it.

Until next time, are there any other literary moms you feel deserve more credit?

A Word To The Creators Who Feel Alone

People don’t always take creators seriously. Even as a kid growing up I knew that my passion for writing could never be more than a hobby. I never invested in my not too shabby drawing skills because I knew nothing would come of it.

I learned quickly to spend more time doing what other people considered to be productive and less time on my stories, lest I get yelled at for being lazy.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to realize that it was even possible to make a living as a writer. By that point, I had it ingrained in me that my focus and my efforts were better spent elsewhere. I still feel the urge to hide these interests when around certain people in my life because I know they don’t understand why I care so much about this.

I was born with a desire to tell stories. A desire to create worlds so fantastical and so lifelike that they allow people to escape into a world that is kinder and more accepting than the world they live in. Yet I still struggle with accepting this part of myself.

We creators get so easily bogged down in our own fears and self doubt that we feel like we are all on our own in our futile efforts to create something that will make a difference in the world around us. We feel like nothing we do matters. We believe the lies that the world tells us about how we should be living our lives and try and hide the pain that comes from suffocating our dreams.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because those around us do not understand our desire to create does not mean we are alone. There are entire communities out there full of people born to create. People with words at their fingertips. People who breathe color and think in song.

People who see the world not for what it is, but for what it could be.

Some people just do not understand this. It is on no fault of their own, and no fault of yours. They are simply not wired the same way we are. They do not see the worlds you hold in your head. They do not see the colors and shapes swirling behind your eyes. They do not hear the haunting melodies in your ear.

It is hard for people to understand something as intangible as art. They do not see the hours and hours of work and stress and tears that go into it. They don’t see the world through your passion.

Instead, they see the world through their own filter. If you think about it, we all do. We were all wired in different ways that can make it hard for us to see things through other perspectives. Some people think more logically whereas others think more creatively.

There is nothing wrong with either way of thinking. It is just the way things are. That means there will be a lot of times when you find yourself surrounded by people who don’t see the world the way you do. It is a hard reality to get used to.

But just because they don’t understand, doesn’t mean they don’t care. Often when people are trying to push you towards a different way of life, they do it because they care. They genuinely believe they are helping you in the best way they can.

It can be challenging to get used to, speaking from personal experience. It takes time to learn to see past a person’s words and hear their intentions. Accept the fact that the way they communicate things and the way you communicate things may not ever synch up. They may never understand exactly why it is that you do what you do.

But that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with what you do.

Different isn’t bad. The world needs different. If everyone saw things the same way, there would be no art, no technological marvels. There would be no growth.

So don’t be ashamed of your passions. Don’t deny your desire to create. Embrace who you are and embrace the wonders you were born to create. Don’t let the world tell you who you should be.

You were created this way for a reason. The world needs you as you are, not as it thinks you should be. Without creation there is no light, there is no growth.

The path will not be an easy one, but then again nothing worth doing ever is. Ask for help. Tell those who love you how they can better support you (because they want too, they just don’t always know how). Find a community of fellow creatives who can help support you and who you can support as you all go on this journey to being who you were meant to be.

The world may feel scary at times, but it doesn’t have to be. Even if your creating never becomes your career, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create. Life is too short to let your passions die in the pursuit of what the world tells you that you need.

If you are like me, then you need to create. If only for yourself.

Chances are, the world needs it too. So stop hiding behind your insecurities. Stop hiding behind the person you think you should be. Start living the life you want and create the things you were born to create.

The world with thank you for it.