I’ve started writing Insecticide Two. I put sixty hours into the outline, felt good about the path forward, and excited to write a beginning that had been forming in my head. So, I started the first draft. The ruminated beginning resulted in a couple of pages. Then, I found myself writing in a manner that’s not much more literary than the outline.
If you picked up the draft, you’d find yourself reading something along the lines of: Jane went to the closet. Jane got her coat. Jane went outside and put the jacket on because she was cold. , shivered, and put her coat on.
I wrote the first draft of Insecticide in a similar manner, and it didn’t slow me down, because my primary goal was to finish—quality was secondary. In the long run, I don’t think a poorly written first draft held me back. First drafts (and maybe writing in general:) aren’t my strength. I’m better at planning and editing.
I’m finding it frustrating to read my new, poorly written first draft. By the end, I thought Insecticide was well written (relative to my capabilities). Now, I read my short, dull, declarative sentences and feel like I’ve taken a step back. But, this first draft is an opportunity to acknowledge a weakness in my writing and work on it.
I’m using three approaches to turn the first draft into something better and more useful.
First, I’m using the draft to bolster my strengths (planning and editing). My dull sentences spark ideas for additions to the outline, details of characters, and themes I want to carry through the book. I frequently stop my bad writing to flesh out those things in my notes.
Second, I’m taking lessons learned from editing Insecticide and trying to incorporate them in this draft. For example, in the first draft of Insecticide, I frequently wrote something like, Brandon knew NatureAid was commercializing killer hornets. Or, Brandon had heard rumors about NatureAid commercializing… I wasn’t giving explanations of why characters knew things, or foreshadowing why they should know. So, while my writing might not be significantly better on this new, first draft, I think the draft will be incrementally better by leaning on my relative strengths and lessons learned from prior edits.
Third, I’m giving myself narrower confines (other than just finish:) to write within this time. I want this draft to be shorter and have more immediate action than Insecticide. I think those confines will help address my weakness too.
Combined, I think the three approaches will result in a better finished product and they give me the level of comfort I need to push on despite my writing weaknesses.