The first draft is about gathering all the basic materials you’ll need for the finished product and organizing them before you. Laying them out, taking inventory, making sure nothing significant is missing. If you can do this, you have a very successful first draft.
The first draft is about paragraphs and ideas. It is about laying the beams, not hanging the curtains. There will be time to tend to the sentences, to the language. The first draft is written from several yards away. Don’t look too close. There’s no point in it. Few of these words will survive. Look only close enough to ensure the bones are in place.
The first draft is ugly and unfit for a reader’s consumption. Show it to no one. It is a waste of their time. Its only purpose is to get you to the second draft. It is a fumbling start. It is full of holes. It is held together by chicken wire. And it is the only path to the “next”, and to “done.”
The first draft is horrifying and exhilarating. The rush of the first draft. It is always amazing to see what comes out. What inhabits the first draft is raw energy, hope, promise. A first draft is optimism incarnate. And it is a wonder how a thing that did not exist an hour before now is.
The first draft seeks a tone, a thing inherent in the first words that emerges. Listen for it. As you come to hear and feel it, and then see the hue or color – focus in and move toward it. Sneak up on it. Don’t rush. Creep in from behind and throw a net over its form and drag it onto the page. In a few drafts it will seem that it has always existed, that you simply heard it, honed in on it, and subdued it for all to see.