A little while ago I wrote a post titled, “Stephen King on Writing the First Draft“. It was an interesting post to write because it allowed me to compare my own experience with advice from King.
Today I have a video from Gaiman where he talks about writing generally, but he also includes a section on writing that dreaded first draft. Gaiman said something very important, I think. He said no one will ever see the first draft. Only you. Just write it. (That is mostly true, unless you’re in a workshop and you’ve submitted your first draft for critiquing like I did. Don’t worry, I survived, but I did grind my teeth a couple of times).
Now, on the face of it, it seems like obvious advice, but as someone who looks at his own writing critically, I can tell you: when you write that first draft you judge yourself constantly. It’s natural of course, because you want to write the best damn story you can. You want to use the words in such a way they’ll awe readers. That is what you want, and so you torture yourself while you write.
As I’ve recently discovered, switching off the editor and shutting up that judgmental asshole that keeps telling you how you suck, works so well you actually manage to get into that elusive writer’s trance King talks about.
And when you finish your story and Mr. Asshole starts up with you again, you just look him straight in the eye and tell him, “It’s only a first draft, idiot. From here on out it can only get better.” That should shut him up for a little while.
Anyway, watch the video. It’s about two years old and I’ve heard some of the advice before, but I never grow tired listening to Gaiman. As always, he provides wonderful bits on writing, and the way he communicates that advice alone will inspire you to start writing.
From The Nerdist Podcast:
2 thoughts on “#Writing Adventures: Neil Gaiman On Writing”
Gaiman is just fantastic. I too can never gete tire to listen to him.
Well, nobody ever see my first draft. Nor my second draft. Very often not even my thid draft. So I suppose I can write whatever shit I want 😉
No, seriously. I know what I’m aiming for, and the way I write, I can never achieve the beginning of that goal in less than three drafts. First, I get the idea down… and only I would know what I mean on that first draft. Then I rearrenge the entire sequence of scenes so that they make more sense in the project. Then I focus on characters’ reasons. And only after this I start revising.
That’s when I trust showing my work, because, seriously, I don’t think it’s even readable before this stage.
I know people who can write fantastic first drafts that look and sound like my third drafts. I’m not that writer 😉
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Oh, I agree with you there. My first draft sucks and no one ever sees it. This year was different because it’s for a project, but then, I also write it after I drew up a complete outline, which is also a change for me.