Rule Three: Ignore all the rules…

Posted: May 4, 2014 in Keeping It Novel, Keeping It Novel - Bare Necessities
Tags: , , , , ,

That’s right. Ignore them all. At least to begin with.*

The first stage of writing anything is the first draft. At this point, the most important thing is to GET IT DOWN. You don’t want to be staring at the screen wondering about whether this sentence is in the passive voice, or whether this scene should go here, or here. You have to get all of that wonderful, fantastic, beautiful idea down on paper before it slips between your fingers like butter.

(I don’t know why you’re holding butter in your fingers. It’s a weird thing to do.)

So, the first draft. People much wiser and, well, wiser than me have said many things about first drafts. Ernest Hemingway said that ‘the first draft of anything is shit.’ Anne Tyler advised ‘any beginning writer to write the first drafts as if no-one else will ever read them – without a thought about publication’.

The message I’m trying to share here is that the first draft is just that: a first draft. It is a practice run – a method simply for getting it all out of your mind and into a real, tangible form which you can then work on at your leisure.

With that in mind, I urge you again to ignore all the rules. I would humbly suggest that while you are in the first, beginning stages of writing out your novel, you throw everything you’ve ever learned out of the window. My reasoning? How else is anything new and original ever stumbled upon, if once in a while someone doesn’t say ‘Ah, damn and blast the rules. I’m gonna do this my way”?

Once you’ve bled out your first draft, and the whole, magnificent, albeit probably riddled with errors, creation sits in all its glory on your desk, then take out the red pen, and all the notes you have made over the years about story structure, plot, and character development,** and attack it for all you are worth. The first draft will need a lot of work, probably, and now is the time to apply all the finesse and technique you’ve been working on. But to begin with, just write. Write, and write, and do not worry about all of those finicky little things, but just the story. Pour it from your soul, tear it from your heart, wrest it from your mind.

There is a reason you are writing this story. And it is because only you can write this story. So listen to yourself. Reach deep inside and pull out your story, piece by piece, drop by drop. Take out the red pen later, when you have poured everything you have into it. Then, by all means, revise, edit and polish.

After all, the first draft of anything is shit.

*There is one caveat. My first two rules (here and here), are not ignorable. These two must always be observed. However, they do not affect the writing of the first draft, and so I’m gonna allow it.

**Subjects, which, among others, I shall be covering in future posts in this series.


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