I am thrilled to be starting 2013 with Speculative Fiction Writer, Makayla Yokley. Over to you, Makayla.
Hello everyone! Welcome to my post on the fabulous Ellie Garratt’s blog! Several months ago, a friend of mine who was a guest on Ellie’s blog in November and did her post on NanoWriMo (Samantha LaFantasie) showed me the blog, I had to say I was really excited to contact Ellie and see if I couldn’t get a spot for myself. Now that I’m here, I’m really happy to be! Ellie’s blog is great, and I’m happy to be here!
“The Ruby Curse” was definitely a labor of love. No, it was more than that. It was a labor of compulsion, of desire, and of obedience. I had to travel so far out of my comfort zone to write this that I was basically chopping down tree limbs and hoping the dirt road took me where I needed to be. I tried to enjoy the scenery, but I was so often scratched by low hanging branches that there were times when I wished I could’ve just been done already. I didn’t have an iota of an idea of what I was doing when I started. I mean, I knew how to write. I knew how to string words together in a way that might’ve been okay in the first draft but there was so much room for improvement.
The problem was that I was either lazy or so submerged in self-doubt that I didn’t believe I could do better. My money is on the former, though. Laziness and I go together like ice cream and that brand of magic syrup that hardens after its put on the ice cream. But with “The Ruby Curse” that wasn’t an option. Something was definitely not working and the minute I decided that I would overcome the laziness that so hindered me, I could tell how much difference there was in not only the way I felt about my work but the overall quality of it. Something had improved, and when I can say that about my own work you know it’s true.
When I was writing the first draft it took two years to finish because I had a bad habit of quitting and going to work on something else when things weren’t going as I planned. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing to do— it’s by no means a good thing, but sometimes it’s nice to have something else to occupy your mind when you’re having trouble. I read in an article once that the brain is always searching for ways to solve problems even when you’re not actively thinking about it, and I feel having a side project really helps this— but it’s definitely not good when you’re doing the first draft. The first draft is going to suck. There’s no way around that. It’s only meant to get your ideas down on paper as they come to you; to capture the moment and put in a box for further examination once the hunt is concluded. After that you can start being anal. After that you can start hating what you wrote because you think it’s terrible, even when it’s not. Just don’t waste too much time hating something that is supposed to be lacking in quality. Show me a novel that was written perfectly in one draft and I’ll show you how to produce gold out of thin air.
Over the course of writing “The Ruby Curse”, after deciding once and for all that I would stop hating the first draft as much and just get it done so I could start on the subsequent drafts, improving on it and making it shine, the story grew and changed in ways I would never have imagined back when I penned those first few words onto the first chapter for the first time.
If there’s one piece of advice I could offer to new writers looking for a nugget of wisdom, I would say not to overlook the editing process like I did. It doesn’t matter how much you think you might love the first draft, it’s always got room for improvement. That’s one of the things I like best about being a writer: you don’t have to get it right the first time. You’ve always got another chance to find just the right word, the right direction to move a scene, the right adjustment to a character so that your work of pure love can truly shine through.
Thank you for your wise words, Makayla. As I always say, first drafts are pants. It's what a writer makes of them in the second, third, and subsequent drafts that matters. As the great Stephen King says, 'Write with the door closed. Re-write with the door open.' The first draft is for the writer. All other drafts are aiming for the reader.