Some people see first drafts as the writer’s playground. No limits. No rules. Just a beautiful mess of semi-organized chaos. But first drafts terrify me. Sure I just blogged about keeping the faith; about how remembering that I’ve done it before is the secret to doing it again. But that’s the secret to all creative work. And that feeling can sometimes be hard to hold onto when you haven’t started something new in a few months.
But when it comes to first drafts there’s another means of conquering the blank page. See first drafts aren’t just a playground. They’re a desolate field ready for sowing. They’re a workshop. They’re an experiment. And they’re not about getting everything right on the first try. Or even most everything. The only thing you truly need to capture is the sentiment.
Emotions. That’s all you need. Because that’s the hardest part. Writing a book isn’t about constructing scenes, it’s about capturing moments. It’s not enough to just ask yourself what happens, but how do my characters feel about what happened? And more importantly how do I want the reader to feel about what happened? And maybe you don’t even know why or how but that can wait until rewrites.
So when I’m faced with a section that just totally stumps me–an action scene or maybe just a really important conversation–I don’t have to sit there mulling over the mechanics. All I need is one paragraph, one sentence, one word even. Love. Fear. Guilt. And that’s enough. Capturing the sentiment is enough because capturing the sentiment is everything. It’s the secret ingredient to conquering a first draft and it’s the secret ingredient to telling great stories.