There seems to be a huge weight in the simplicity of saying, “I’m writing a book.” As much as it’s exciting, fun, it’s also daunting and difficult. You’re making something out of nothing. And at the end of it, that something is called your First Draft.
This is laudable. You did it, you got that living thing out of you! How did you do it? Coffee, lots of coffee. And persistence, and slamming through writer’s blocks, and probably jotting down random ideas on your phone in combusting gasps of realization to that plot hole you were trying to tarp. Your back space key survived, hopefully. I hope your joy survived as well. Hold on to it. Don’t let it go, not even a little bit. Because I promise you, there will come an onslaught of feelings that follow the next steps of your beloved first draft.
It’s almost like a water cycle of emotions. You’re soaking up all the radiance of your document as you fill it with all these words, and your creative juices are storming through character development and world building, only then to possibly feel… dry, empty, lost even.
Where am I going with this?
Why am I doing this?
Who’s going to even read this?
Well, you know what? You probably don’t know where you’re going with it. You’re probably doing this because you love to write. And… let’s be honest… no one, not even the author, really truly likes to read their first drafts.
Moon Reign – my debut – went through this water cycle of thrilling joy and confused, helpless, tears.
I started Moon Reign back in the winter of 2013, shortly after I was married. Four years later, I had a fat stack of book printed and sitting on my desk waiting to be edited. Only, I was naïve and thought it was done. Thought, this is it, this is ready. Just a few edits to make sure it’s all set.
And there’s when the tears began.
I was lost as to what to do next as I battled severe bouts of insecurity, of doubt, of confusion, of worthlessness. But yet, four-years-worth of book was sitting there waiting to be published. Surely, it was good enough. My husband had read it. My mother in law had read it. They loved it, and they weren’t just saying that.
My gut told me otherwise.
My gut, by now, was also a trampled mess of emotion and I was stressing the heck out. I’m not sure how long I let Moon Reign sit while I dragged my helpless self through research on Indie Publishing. I retained nothing. Nothing.
Except for the one harrowing, gut-punching, terror-striking piece of advice I’d stumbled upon.
Print out the whole thing and rewrite it word for word.
Yes, I near dropped out of my chair before throwing my laptop in denial of ever reading such sin.
Retype the entire thing from the ground up. Start with a new page and re enter every single word. Word for word.
The weight of “I’m writing a book” just got heavier.
The joy? What joy? I was staring at a pile of my life that dared to be reconstructed! I fought it for about three more months. But it was haunting me. I could not ever un-read that stupid advice.
And it was the hardest, the best, stupid piece of advice I’d ever listened to.
Word for word. Four years of a first draft evolved into a true book in a mind-blowing nine months. Moon Reign, my writing, my storyline, had plunged into a deeper, better, version that I had no idea I was capable of producing.
I had to tell myself, Sit down and write the truth of everyone, of everything, like no one is ever going to read it. Make it raw. Make it real. Make your own self hurt and squirm in your chair. Make you own self cry. I did exactly that.
Word for word, Moon Reign’s second draft was complete.
Editing was a two month battle of letting someone evaluate this new gem. And it gave me a final draft.
You can edit all you want on your own. I tried that. Didn’t work for me. The work was too dear to my heart, even more so now, to realize the change that could make it better. The words were too branded to memory to think of anything that could be said better. Your eyes and soul are fused to your work – you’re going to mindlessly skip over things.
Advice no one likes is usually the advice that will shape you into a better person.
No one’s first draft of anything is world-worthy, is not publishing material, is not ready for the gnashing teeth of the critics. Because that’s what it is – A draft. You have to make sure that your work is strong enough to be your bullet proof shield, because if you can’t take criticism, if you find yourself shaking your head at your own work after publishing and thinking, “oh man, this isn’t good enough, what have I done,”… well, that’s what happens when you rush things. A first draft of anything is not a shield. It’s a soft security blanket that’s not ready to be let go of.
Patience is the grounding root of taking this advice.
Because its’ going to take more time to rewrite that soft first draft. It’s going to take time to find an amazing editor. It’s going to help you find your true writing voice. It’s going to turn you into a stronger, better, bullet-proof writer who is bold enough to face the world with a real book and say, “Read this. You won’t regret it.”
But this is only the lesson I’ve learned. This is only my story. This is what turned Moon Reign from a sucky first draft and into a book that is on the verge of publishing.
No, I had no idea what I was doing when I started this book all those years ago. No, I had no other clue as to why I was writing again other than that I knew I loved to write. I had no idea who was going to read it. But this process I’d stumbled upon gave me purpose, gave my book meaning and depth. It’s the most terrifying advice I will dare give to anyone else who asks me how I did it.
Word for word. Trust it.