I attended a smaller writing conference this weekend and in attendance were the likes of Shannon Hale (Austenland), Ally Condie (Matched), and Lisa Mangum (The Hourglass Door series) to name a few. I will be posting notes from said conference later this week. I mention the conference, because a lot of the sentiment, especially from Shannon Hale, followed the quote I had selected for today from C.J. Cherryh (Downbelow Station):
It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.
I’ve heard varying opinions on the use of NaNoWriMo from love it to complete waste of time, but I tend to fall into the think it’s brilliant category. No matter how clever we think we are, our first draft is going to be closer to garbage than it is perfection. And that’s okay! Somehow many of us miss that memo on how creating an awesome novel comes mostly out of careful revision. For some reason many of us think one has to be or is born brilliant and never needs to practice their craft. Just as concert pianists aren’t people who suddenly decide that tomorrow they’ll be a perfect pianist neither can we be bestselling novelists after a first draft.
Shannon Hale, being a mommy, compared it to a toddler being proud of essentially, well, making poo. Yep, you made it and how wonderful, but it’s not anything anyone wants—and for a writer the key is not yet. The easiest way to look at it is to think of your story as a diamond, and the first draft is merely digging the lump out of the filthy coal. But to make it really, truly valuable it needs to be polished and cut. Sure, some might take the lump of coal off your hands, but only because they know they can take it to have it shaped and polished. There’s just too much value in a diamond presented that way. Should we want any less great a fate for our stories?
Shannon also mentioned for one of her books she had revised it more than 50 times. Yikes! 50? Okay, I’ll just stop complaining now… But if you stop and actually think about it, you know there are those sentences that you passed over as good enough, those sections you knew weren’t quite right but shrugged them off. If we’re serious about publication then we must be equally serious about polishing every single corner of our novels.
So write garbage. Get it out, get it done. And then edit it brilliantly, or using our diamond analogy: edit it to BRILLIANCE.
Do you agree with the quote? How do you feel about rough drafts? Do you let anyone read your first draft or do you have to do a little editing first? How many drafts are you currently on? Do you like revising? If so, did you always and if not what changed your mind? Let us know below.