Writer Life Lessons #18: Finish Your First Drafts

Progress is measured in several different ways. If you are an athlete, progress is measured by how well you perform at your sport or sports. If you are an artist, progress is measured by your art portfolio. If you are a writer, progress is measured by words written on the page, and the amount of pieces you finish.

Can you call yourself a writer before you finish a piece? Of course. If you are putting words on the page, or the screen, or whatever you write on, you are indeed a writer. Can you call yourself an accomplished writer? Sure! But do you have anything to show for it?

When I first started writing, by hand, in pencil, in spiral-bound notebooks, I used to read unfinished pieces to my best friend. Yes, I was a writer,  and yes, I wanted to feel accomplished. Some of those drafts I finished, but a lot of them I just left him hanging, waiting on the next cliffhanger, for the next chapter or sometimes even word.

The lesson for this week is: Finish Your First Drafts.

There are tons of quotes out there about finishing what you start, how blank pages are ugly and how you can’t edit a blank page. All you have to do is google the words “writing advice” or “writing quotes” and you’ll get a ton of advice on how to write, how to finish your drafts, and even how to edit them.

Yes, this advice (Well most of it) is true. To move on, to mark your progress and to grow as a writer, you need to finish your first drafts, or at least move on to a new project if you get stuck. There is nothing worse than looking at an unfinished piece years later and thinking “Now where was I going with this?”.

Yes, you can leave your pieces and come back, but eventually you should try and finish them. This is an area where I need to take my own advice, I have about three times the amount of works in progress than I do works finished. The point is: I do intend to go back to them once I finish current projects, or if I don’t continue them I at least plan to rewrite.

Finish your first drafts, even if they suck, because there is always room for improvement. There are some pieces that I look at, from several years ago, and when I reach the point where I stopped writing for whatever reason, I wish there was more there. Often times I think “I wish I could remember where I was going with this”.

You can take a break from pieces, but at least write a little outline so you know where you left off, or even a little note in the margins that explains what happens next. You will thank yourself when you come back to it later.

Finish your first drafts so you can edit them and make them shine later.

Happy Writing!

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