M.A. Wohl

Writer on a Quest

At University, I had my first creative writing class. Many would follow, but in the first one, I learned one precious tip.

The teacher, a best-selling author who happened to wrote really good novels, sparked a passionate debate when he shared that tip with the whole class.

 » Work hard on your first draft, take your time, do your best and when you’re done, trash it. »

Even I, who was sold on every word the teacher said, flinch a bit. You mean… I have to… trash… the manuscript I have been working on for the past two years of my life (when you’re twenty years old, two years seems the equivalent of two decades).

Why is it essential to trash your first draft

That was the question in every student’s eyes. One spoke first

Why, cried, utterly hurt, one of the student, an artist-to-the-core type of writer.

The kind that made feel like a complete poodle s**t because I was writing fantasy or kid’s novel. It was all in their amused look and condescending grin.

She was in a total disarray. I could she possibly listen to the advice of a best-selling author when she, she of all people, poured her entire being into her words?

He could have said what many other writers and bloggers, blessed with a similar opinion on the first draft matter, are saying right now:

« Your first draft is c**p ».

Now, a good creative teacher must be, before being an excellent writer herself/himself, a diplomat.

With diplomacy, he explained the why.

Take comfort, little heart

Ready to meet his argument with all her strength, the artist-to-the-core writer mastered the urged of not let him speak



In the first draft, he said (more or less, its been a while) you’re meeting new people, their friends and family, for the very first time. 
 
The second time around, you know your characters, you know their surroundings, you can push your plot even further. 
 
You will write a better novel the second time around. Promess. 

 
The artist-to-the-core did not concur. Followed a somewhat long exposé about artistic differences, an interesting discussion I didn’t take part in. I was there to write, not to quieveled on details. 
 
I went home that night with a heavy heart. Without thinking too much about, I trashed my beloved manuscript and went to bed, feeling like I would never get published, I would never finished the work, I would never be taken seriously. 
 
Take comfort, the first time is the hardest.
 
If you are completely new at this, rejoice ! You are prepared to face the inevitable. 
 
It’s the big secret behind the idea: understand why you have to trash your first draft and prepare yourself. 
 

Drafts Cheating 

Of course I cheated the first time ! I was in my 20’s. It was my first almost completed manuscript. Lots of emotion attached to it. 

I kept the first chapter, started from there. Turns out I had to rewrite the first chapter at the end, because it didn’t make sense anymore. 

I cheated again a couple of times, even recently. I still regret it.

The novel is a mess, there’s scenes that don’t make any sense anymore hiding within the new chapters.

Instead of getting the words out, I spent way too much time editing and getting the timeline back to consistent, clear, happy timeline.

Do as your heart tells you, but once you understand that trashing your first will transform your novel into a better novel, go all the way. 

After how many drafts you can send your manuscript to an agent/publisher ? 

That is a story for another time. 

 

What do you think of the whole trashing your first draft business ? I’m curious to see on which « side » you’re on !

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