The Promise of First Drafts
One of the things I do is read and respond to first drafts of books, non-fiction or fiction. They are rough and raw with the intensity of the writers who are wrestling ideas down to the page. I have such admiration for anyone who is willing to just sit down and bang out a draft. It is so much!
I get to make suggestions and give direction about how to move the draft toward being more readable and beautiful. Often the writer has hurried through some really fabulous scene, and I feel like I just had a drive-by kiss and I want MORE! Sometimes I get confused about where we are and who is who, so I need the writer to explain things better. Other times I just need more information to be convinced of an argument or a perspective. Of course, I am careful to answer the questions the writer has asked about the manuscript.
I also celebrate when I forget about the writing and just enjoy the book. I sort of snap out of it and have to look to see how long I’ve been under the writer’s spell. And then a perfectly splendid turn of phrase or the plot causes me to literally applaud the writer’s cleverness. These first drafts are fresh, surprising and usually very, very authentic.
First drafts are full of promise. As much as is required to create the draft, there is just as much left to do to craft the draft into something that communicates well to readers. The great promise of a draft can be realized with some new ideas and perhaps a new perspective here and there. For the writer who wants to be done, this is not good news. But the vast majority are so excited to talk about their work that they find the energy to redouble their efforts. Recently a writer said to me, “I am really enjoying rewriting; it is so much fun!”