The Ugly First Draft

Oh my gosh, the first draft of my book was ugly. It was an awful mess, with me just blathering on incoherently. They say that the first draft of your book is you telling yourself the story, which is true for me, for sure. Since I’m writing a memoir, I had to unscrew the timeline and start digging into deep memory and all the reasons why. I was all over the place, jumping around, introducing people and events out of order. A real mess.

But you know what? I was thrilled. I had a draft!

I think some new writers might get discouraged because their first draft is ugly, not perfect. But, that ugly first draft kept me writing.

I had too much time invested in it already to walk away from it. That I had a 60k+ words under my belt was a great revelation. I’d never written a document that large before. As ugly and skeletal as it was, writing an ugly, book-size document was now something I was capable of. I could do that.

That’s where my shift happened. The shift into believing that I could actually write a book. I had to go through the motions, though. Ugly, stiff, inelegant writing motions on that first draft. We have to teach ourselves how to write books.

I started a second draft last year. It feels good, not as stiff. My theme is there. My dialog needs some help. My timeline is straight and moving along. My voice feels strong. I feel excited every time I sit down to work on it. This thing has legs and a heartbeat. I couldn’t kill it if I wanted to.

My book is alive. It has form and shape and purpose.

It’s not ugly anymore, my sweet draft. She’s blossomed into something greater than myself, and will have a life of her own. There’s plenty more work to do, though. I’ve got to finish it and get it published.

Ugly transformed into beautiful. Books start ugly and get beautiful by the work of the writer. That’s my job here. I’m pretty sure the only rule is to keep working on it until it’s done.

Until it’s beautiful.

(then, start another book)

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