Fifth time’s a charm.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I wrote what I thought was going to be the next Great American Sci-fi Novel.
I have recently reread my first draft of this book, and, to put it bluntly: no one in their right mind should ever have to read a book that bad.
During my junior year, I decided that the book was terrible, and I needed to rewrite it. So, I did.
That draft wasn’t good, either.
My senior year — you’ll never believe it — I rewrote the book for a third time, cutting out 3/4 of the characters and knocking down the word count from over 156,000 words (in the first draft) to a little more than half of that.
I did nothing with this book until I reread my third draft my freshman year of college, when I realized that — another shocker — it still wasn’t good.
I know what you’re thinking: why didn’t I just give up? Clearly, it isn’t working.
Well, I wanted to give up.
But I had faith in this book, and I had faith in the story itself. I did not want to let it go.
So I didn’t.
I spent my freshman year of college rewriting it for a fourth time, and I was absolutely thrilled when I finished that draft. I loved the characters, the plot, the message, all of it.
I loved it until I reread it the summer before my sophomore year of college.
Not to surprise you, but I decided I was going to rewrite this book again.
And I have to say I’ve learned a lot from rewriting and rewriting.
Your first draft will not be perfect.
We knew this already, but sometimes it’s hard not to get hung up on making your first draft “perfect” so that you can prove to yourself you are a good writer.
But first drafts being “good” have nothing to do with having talent.
You can be the best writer in the world and still write a shitty first draft. Sometimes it just happens.
And what’s so bad about that? Why stop there? Write a couple bad drafts. Write three or four or fifty. Just because something doesn’t work the first few times doesn’t mean you or your project are destined for failure. It just means you’re seeing areas you can improve on and are getting better every time.
There’s nothing wrong with having multiple drafts.
It gives you lots of options, for starters. You like a certain scene from draft three better than draft four? Use that one. You like a new character you introduced in your latest draft? Keep them around.
You also get plenty of practice in. And I mean plenty. And what’s wrong with getting more writing practice in your life? Absolutely nothing. Take what you can get.
You learn, then you learn some more.
One of my favorite things about writing is how much you can learn about yourself within it. The more you write, the more you understand yourself, your emotions, your needs and wants, your hopes and dreams.
So why not learn about yourself through several drafts? You’ll get a better handle on your likes and dislikes, as well as what you’re good at and what you might need to improve upon.
There’s no downside, really.
There are no negatives to writing more. There are no negatives to working on yourself and on your writing at the same time.
Think about it: what do you have to lose?
I’ve already said it’s hard to get rid of the idea that everything has to be perfect on your first try, but once you can finally move past that, well, the writing world is your oyster.
So, keep trying. Keep writing.
Don’t quit something because you didn’t absolutely nail it the first time. Persistence and endurance are key here, and we won’t let anything get in our way.