When I’m teaching writing in a class, we always start with a draft. I tell my students that they can go nuts with their ideas and see where it takes them.
That doesn’t stop my students using their erasers every five seconds. Their first draft becomes a map of smudges and half-written sentences. They become stuck.
“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” I say. But I think that makes them even more scared to write. Students have been taught to think that something needs to be perfect straightaway.
It’s like that with my writing. I’ve been writing new short stories for the sequel to Thai-riffic! Some stories write themselves, they flow out like water from a hose before 10am (or after 4pm). Most stories get bogged down on the first draft, cos of that voice in your ear screaming “it has to be perfect or else.”
Whenever I get stuck on a first draft, I wander off to my other stories-the stories that you’ll be reading in Thai-riffic! Each story has gone through more than ten drafts. Surely you can’t edit much more when you get to draft number 12, but you can. I’m writing funny stories, so I make sure that each page is loaded with zingers. (jokes, not the burger mmmm Zinger burger *drool*) I always re-discover something with each fresh draft. This is before the peeps at Penguin go through it too. I wonder how many more drafts will come before it’s shelf-worthy?
Now some authors can churn out a first or second draft and it’s good enough to be sent straight to the printers. But I think that’s the exception. I’ve heard of authors who go through up to 20 drafts of a novel and it’s still not perfect. I know how they feel. I have a story that I’ve been working on since 2005. It was known as Winter in Korea and now has the name Starstruck! I’m still not happy with my ‘nerd falls in love’ story. It’s going through its 17th draft now-and it’s almost there. What keeps me going? It’s the essential core of the story. I still believe in it-it’s a story that hasn’t been told yet out there (last time I checked anyway hehe). I look back on the drastic changes, and they have improved the story. I’ll keep you posted on how Starstruck goes. The fire still burns brightly.
So I’ll go back to my latest adventure with Lengy now. Yes, it’s the first draft and I’ve been chopping and changing like crazy. Maybe because I haven’t got a clear idea of how it’s going to end. But I need to put my teacher hat on and tell myself to chillax! I’ll push through this draft. The first cut is the deepest, baby I know. But I know it’ll get easier from here on in.
For the writers and authors out there, tell me-how many drafts do you go through?