Three Things You Don't Need to Worry About While Writing Your First Draft
Drafting is difficult. (Even drafting blog posts. I've written and rewritten this sentence like five times already. Grrrr.) Unfortunately, drafting is made even more difficult by the extra expectations we put upon ourselves (like getting it all right on our first try --- wuttt?)
I know both sides of this stress. I've been on the side of writing the draft and on the side of editing the draft. So it is with a kind, compassionate desire to make your drafting load lighter that I present to you three things you absolutely DO NOT need to worry about while writing your first draft.
#1: Don't worry about spelling, grammar, and typos.
This might sound so obvious, but many writers (and their extra-helpful beta readers, friends, and family members) forget this and want to start nitpicking these minor things right away. The reality is that a first draft is only about figuring out the big story parts: plot, character, conflict, world building, POV. It doesn't matter if you're typing like a parrot and yer words cokm out like this. As long as the big parts are falling together, you are on the right track.
So, turn off your micro editor for good while you write your first draft. And if you are asking people to read your work, make sure you tell them that you aren't looking for that kind of feedback. Otherwise, you will get lots of feedback that literally gets deleted because when you go to revise your draft, you are pulling out sentences and paragraphs and even chapters like weeds. So that one typo on page three doesn't matter. At all.
#2: Don't worry about making your writing beautiful.
Don't pay attention to your tone, your imagery, your sentence fluency. (Whaaatttt??? Did she just say that???) Yes, I did. It matters so very little at this stage how your words sound because all the most beautiful sounding words in the world can't tell a good story if they don't have a good story skeleton to build on.
Let's run with that metaphor in fact, because I think it's a good one to keep in mind. A first draft is all about the story bones. But often writers throw a few skeleton pieces in there and then start layering on muscles, nerves, and skin, only to have the story collapse in a bloody heap. (Sorry, that got gross.)
But you see my point: A first draft is about building out a strong foundation for your story. It's not about the other things that make your story worth reading, like lovely prose and captivating imagery. All that comes later. For now, build that skeleton out as strong and intricately woven together as you can make it. You will add in the rest during later revisions.
#3: Transitions between scenes and chapters.
While it might be lovely to describe a spring day in the opening scene of chapter three, you don't need to include that in your first draft. Why? For all the same reasons mentioned above: 1. It doesn't contribute to the story bones. 2. You might change the time of year during one of your revisions and end up deleting it. 3. You might get lost in a lengthy description and waste time writing fluff that gets cut out later.
Basically, it's nice to sit down and write whatever comes into your head, but unless you want that story road kill we discussed earlier, save yourself the time and skip straight to the part where you write about the characters, the conflict, and the action of the story.
Hopefully knowing that you don't have to worry about these things will free you up to focus on what really matters as you write your first draft. And if you are wondering what exactly SHOULD be in your draft, you are in luck because I am writing about that next week!