Updated: Jul 3, 2020
Starting a story out can be an absolute ton of fun.
When you first begin, it’s like you’re on an exploratory expedition. You’ve committed to undertaking an adventure, one that involves getting to know your story… the plot that paves it… and the characters who push it along.
You might have thought it all out significantly before you actually typed or wrote out word one. You may have mapped out every bit of it that you possibly could.
But there’s always going to be some room to outdo yourself someway or to be surprised somehow.
That’s often most true of the middle of a story, which can be a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs – for you as well as your characters. One moment, you’ll feel on top of the writing world.
The next, you’ll be plummeting into the depths of despair, wondering whether you’ll ever be able to finish it.
Eventually, with the right levels of motivation though, you get it done. You reach the story’s ending.
Which then begs the question of what happens next.
I can answer that question with just a few simple lines.
After you’ve written a story’s ending, you have an official first draft on your hands. And once you have an official first draft on your hands, you’re right back to the beginning.
Here's the expanded version of that advice...
Whether you’re actively writing it or reading over a full version, a first draft is your attempt No. 1 at telling a story in an engaging, evocative manner. And because it’s an initial attempt, it’s also known as a rough draft.
Dictionary.com defines draft as “a first or preliminary form of any writing, subject to revision...” It’s a work in progress, with basic plot, character, setting and dialogue details established or being established. When dealing with a first draft especially, the key word here is “basic.” It needs some extra work to take it to the next level.
Naturally, we’re going to discuss that “extra work” and “next level” as the week goes on.
Until Thursday’s Writing Challenge comes along, just understand this: Once you finish a first draft, yes. It’s true. You’ve reached the end – but only of a to-be-published phase.
You’ve still got a whole lot of story-strengthening work to go.
So go ahead and celebrate once you’ve completed your story’s first draft. I feel as if I mentioned this recently, but go ahead and be a little piggy if you’d like. Order a large stuffed-crust pepperoni and onion pizza, complete with dipping sauces (and a cookie pie).
Chill out in front of your TV for some Netflix binge-watching if that’s your thing.
Or go all out and do both. Because, hey, you deserve it! Finishing a story’s first draft is, indeed, a big deal.
But it’s a big deal like getting into Harvard is a big deal. Anyone who’s worked that hard to make it in has some certain bragging rights.
They just have to understand that there’s still work to be done: as in, surviving the first year of classes... Then the second year of classes... Then the third year of classes... And then the fourth.
Arguably, that’s when the real bragging rights begin. Or maybe it’s just the start of another journey altogether. In which case, it’s once again a perfect match for our story writing analogy.
In short, when it comes to writing a story, the first draft is literally only the beginning.
Editor’s Note: Read the next post on editing a first draft here.