Given how last month was NaNoWriMo, there may be many of you who have a rough draft of a story on hand. Or you may not have gotten that far. You may have characters but no plot, too many version of the plot, or a plot with no strong characters.
Wherever you are in the writing process, I wanted to offer you a few words I’ve hope I’ve been living out in my own novels lately: You don’t have to get the story right the first time. A strong novel doesn’t have to flow off our fingers in one smooth typing session.
A good story can be like a patchwork quilt, as we get some parts right and struggle through others. It can have pieces of one draft and snippets of others, and in the end, it become a beautiful piece where everything belongs.
I think we sometimes pressure ourselves to get it right the first time, to “spend the time now so we don’t have to rewrite.” We don’t want to talk to anyone else about the story or let it go until we have it “right,” and we may think we’re saving time by “getting it right the first time.”
But it can actually take a few passes through the same idea to get the right version. Our writing can be like a puzzle, where we find different pieces as we write along. Our first draft might have some great romance elements, but the adventure part is wrong. The second draft could figure out the adventure, but leave the romance in shambles, and the third one could marry the two perfectly. (Or it may take dozens of attempts to assemble all the bits necessary to “cut and paste” our way to literary victory.)
In my own writing, I find it takes a few attempts–some of them wrong attempts, where you step out to see if you’ve found the stepping stone only to discover that it won’t hold your weight and are quickly sinking into the bog of plotting disasters–before I see my way clearly. It’s only by venturing into the marsh that I learn where the true path lies, and it’s only by getting soaked a time or two that I find where I was trying to go all along. I criss-cross the path, hitting the right spots now and then, and sometimes I’m quick to realize I’m “on the right trail” and sometimes I take much longer.
But every draft brings me closer to mapping the whole area and understanding the consequences of my writing choices, for this story. Every attempt helps me know what works (and doesn’t work), eliminating one of the possible variables in creating the story I want (or need) to tell.
What about you? Do you find writing multiple versions helpful, or just distracting? How do you find your way from the beginning to the end (and all the chapters in between)?
Copyright 2016 Andrea Lundgren
Photo by bluekdesign and