Hooray. I’ve finished slogging through the first ten thousand words of my newest novel (the sequel to the soon to be released The Children of Darkness). For the past two years, I’ve been working on Along the Watchtower and The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky , so it’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with the dreaded blank page. I’d almost forgotten how frustrating it can be.
First drafts are like driving down a dark country road on your way to what you hope will be a glorious vacation. You’ve read the brochure and seen the pictures, but you’ve never been there. So your enthusiasm is tempered by a fear that things might not turn out as you hope. As you drive along, you can see only a short ways, the length of the beams from you headlights. Beyond that, the way forward gets murkier. You worry you’ll make some wrong turn along the way and end up miles from your goal. You hope you don’t get irretrievably lost.
For two years, my mantra has been based on quotes like this one by Vince Lombardi:
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”
Well, time to adjust my mindset. Better to recall the infamous Hemingway quote:
“First drafts are sh_t!”
For me, first drafts are about discovering what I’m trying to say, getting the basic concept down and firming up the characters in my mind. It’s much like an artist’s preliminary pencil sketch. Worry about color and shading later. That’s when perfection will once again come to the fore.
In the meantime, keep staring at the road ahead, pedal to the metal, and finish that draft. There’ll be time to make it perfect later.