First drafts are funny things. Writing them is an exercise in discipline, both in what we write and what we don’t write.
The discipline around what we write is probably more obvious. I don’t think I need to say, a writer doesn’t have a story to edit or submit until they at least get a first draft done. This can be a long, tedious process. Think about it. Suppose you are writing a story which is projected to be complete at, say, 80,000 words. If you set yourself a goal of writing 1,000 words per day, that is still 80 days to complete the first draft. (Not including the occasional day off.) If you write 1,000 words a day before or after work and manage to do it for six days each week, the duration is still over three months. Three months of forcing yourself to sit in a chair, stair at a blank screen, and figure out what comes next. This takes discipline.
Ironically, what we force ourselves NOT to do while writing that first draft can also require discipline. I find this falls into two major categories. First, it is tempting to waste time agonizing over the exact, perfect words to make each sentence sparkle. It takes discipline to remember this is only a first draft; the sparkle will be unearthed later during the cutting and shaping of revisions. The second category includes those things we recognize need fixing in the words we already wrote. Again, the reminder is: this is only the first draft.
I’ll give you some examples. I am nearly done with the first draft of the next story in my Colorado Wildflowers historical romance series. Last week, I thought I could finish it by the end of June. However, my discipline to stay in the chair lagged a bit earlier this week, and I'm not as far along as I had hoped. I’m still close to typing “The End,” but it won’t be tomorrow.
I also have examples for the second category. While I was writing the first quarter of the book, I felt the pace was too slow. I wanted to stop and cut out chunks of it. I had to force myself to do nothing until the draft is done and I can perform the first read-through of the entire story. Perhaps I was correct and I end up slashing entire scenes. Or perhaps it is fine as is. Sometimes it's hard to know when only viewing a small part of the whole.
My second example caught my eye a few days ago. I have a few short scenes toward the end of the first draft which are in reality probably only snippets of a scene. At some point, I may decide to expand the scenes, or perhaps I will merge two or more into one scene. Again, it’s too soon to make that call. I reminded myself to maintain my first draft discipline and leave them as is for now. The first read through will tell me how to handle them.
It all comes down to discipline. First, maintaining the will to get words onto a blank page, and then finding the will to leave those words alone, once written, until reaching “The End” on the last page. But the discipline pays off when we are able to view what we created.
I write historical fiction, and I invite you to share the journey to published author with me.