When it comes to revising our drafts, there’s a tendency for writers to get a bit too cozy.
Particularly if we’ve typed and printed off pages. Forget it — it’s like the scene has calcified somehow.
We’ve built a structure. And it feels so good to have a roof over our heads after standing so long in the cold empty page.
The house may not be everything we hoped for, but maybe if we polish it up and install some window dressing, we can make it a lovely place to live.
So we settle in, trying to tweak and tinker our way to a better draft. But this is rarely what the story wants from us.
When I catch myself in this impulse, I remember: a draft is like a glow stick.
We need to break our draft in some way to get to the illumination of the next draft.
That illumination leads us to deeper layers of meaning, more satisfying plots, and more dynamic, vivid characters.
What does breaking the draft look like, in practice? It could be a matter of…
- Starting over from a new voice or location or perspective.
- Doing something UNREASONABLE, like putting your characters in a tricky position you don’t know how to get them out of.
- Being weird. Trying something you didn’t want to do. Upping the ante.
Whatever we do, it’s not a tweak or a tinker. It’s tearing the house down. And it’s worth it.
That’s why I think writers need the courage to break sh*t.
Throwing out your draft doesn’t ever mean your creativity was wasted.
That draft mattered. It taught you something. And you have more creativity where that came from!
So break it. Let the spark out. Create again with new insight.
It’s uncomfortable. The results may be unknowable. You may feel a quickening of fear.
But that’s how you know you’re onto something.
May we have the courage to break our drafts.
ps: Our April theme is courage. Last week I wrote about the courage that’s needed to be a writer, why writing is always a transgressive act, and how I write even though the fear never really goes away.
Photo credit (top): Steve Johnson on Unsplash