Yesterday I began to read a first draft that I put aside during NaNoWriMo. I was very pleasantly surprised with what I found. It’s definitely a mess, but the potential that I envisioned months ago when I first conceived of the story is clear.
This isn’t always the case. I’ve run into a few discussions lately about the worth of first drafts. I had a Facebook tussle with the NaNoWriMo RA from Northeast New Jersey over whether or not any piece of writing can be considered “unsuccessful.” She was relentless, and I decided to end the argument by politely accepting her point of view though I still think some writing really is just bad. Then yesterday there was this post by Josin McQuein who says that first drafts are “raw,” not “crap.”
McQuein’s point is that everything needs work. That’s true. But some things need a total overhaul, plastic surgery and divine intervention. And it’s your job to know when a piece of writing is not worth the effort.
There’s a danger in thinking that there’s potential in everything. And while I don’t advocate bashing yourself and your own work because you’re having a bad day or you’re dealing with poor self esteem (which are pitfalls that we all deal with), just remember that if you’re not ruthless with your writing, someone else will be.
Sometimes you do yourself a favor by just moving on. And that’s OK too.