Cue Meek Mill’s inspirational rap-anthem Dreams and Nightmares, I finished the first draft of Project BAN! The manuscript ended off at just over 67k words. Let me tell y’all, writing THE END at the end of that ridiculously long Google Doc was such an incredible feeling. *chef’s kiss*
After copious Googling of the phrase “what to do after you finish your first draft”, I have taken the advice from writers that came before me and am going to take time away from Project BAN until Mid-August. No re-reading, no drafting, no editing, no nothing.
In the meantime, I will be refilling my creative cup through new books, television, and movies. (Recommendations are welcome!) I may take on a new creative project for July’s Camp NaNoWriMo as well, whether that is a collection of short stories, poetry, a novella, or a screenplay. Who knows!
This creative marathon has taught me a lot about myself as a writer. Five of those things are below:
1. No Writing Routine, No First Draft
By far, the #1 reason I finished the first draft was that I was dedicated to my writing routine. Over the past couple of months, I wrote 6 out of 7 days a week. The number of words varied each day. But, I made sure to open up my laptop and make progress on my manuscript as often as possible. If I wasn’t consistent, I knew this project would just become one of my many nameless, forgotten files in my Google Drive.
2. I’m a Mixture of a Pantser and a Plotter
Since Project BAN is a reimagining of an old story, I had an idea of the beginning, middle, and end. Before writing, I had a vague brainstorming session and spent most of my time during the novel pantsing the way through it.
But, before each writing session, I would brainstorm what I would like to happen in the next scene. It is usually just a few bullet points. That way, when I sat down the next day I wouldn’t be spending precious time just staring at the screen absentmindedly. I would often go off my “outline”, but it is just nice to have an inkling of an idea. It is like walking through a dark room with a candle instead of walking through the room with nothing to guide you.
3. I Need Music to Focus
For me to write, I need music. If you would like to see the many kinds of music I listen to while writing, check out my previous blog post. With a soundtrack, I can get lost in the story. With silence, I am easily distracted by the world around me.
4. It’s Okay to Skip Over Elements Of Your First Draft
Award-winning OG children’s/YA writer Judy Blume said, “The first draft is a skeleton…just bare bones. The rest of the story comes later with revising.” The annoying former-Honor Roll student in me wants to get everything right the first time. It took a while to understand that getting every detail correct is not what the first draft is for. It is more about learning how to exercise your creativity at will. I can always go back to elements of the story I skipped, whether that is a particular street or city’s name.
5. Finished is Better Than Perfect
I heard it from every writer on Beyonce’s internet: rough drafts are supposed to suck. It took a long time to allow myself to suck, though. When I was caring too much about my first draft’s quality, I wasn’t writing. I was worrying. Worrying doesn’t get anything done.
I had to remind myself that nothing is set in stone. Like I said previously, I can always go back and edit it. I can’t edit what’s not there.
But, it’s time for a celebration. I wrote a freaking book!!!
Where are you in the writing process: outlining, drafting, editing, revising, getting feedback, querying? I would love to learn more about your current creative project.
Whatever you are working on, I wish you health, wealth, and overflowing joy.