Most people who write never actually talk about how much their first drafts suck. Since I clearly have no shame, I’ll say it out loud and in a public forum: I know for a stone cold fact my first draft sucks. It’s legitimately awful. It’s full of spelling and grammar issues. It’s likely to have favored words and phrases repeated every few pages. There are whole sections that I’ll want to rip out, stomp on, and never think of again. That’s the nature of a first draft. As much as we’re tempted to think of it as the beginning of the end, it’s really just the end of the beginning.
My tendency, and I can only assume it’s shared by others, is to want to launch a new project out into the world as quickly as possible. Of course this is a terrible, terrible mistake because it doesn’t give you the time and space necessary to really work out the kinks and rough spots. Since I know that going into it, what I’m planning on doing now with this short story is absolutely nothing. I don’t want to re-read it. I don’t even want to think about it for at least two weeks. A month would be better if I can convince myself to stay away that long.
Time and distance is the only thing that helps give a layer of objectivity when I get back to a work in progress. For me at least, if I try to edit my own work just after it’s finished, I know I’ll do a lousy job of it. Being too close to the story, I’m reading what I think is there (or maybe what I wish was there), rather than the words that are actually on the page. Really editing your own work is mostly a fool’s errand. That’s why the best editors can make a boatload of money plying their trade. Those of us who can’t afford the best editorial support, simply make do by asking trusted associates to take on the job for peanuts. Frankly, if you’re interested in more than a free copy of the finished product, I probably can’t afford your editorial services at this point anyway.
So where I am now is in a bit of an operational pause, somewhere between active writing, re-writing, and editing. Since I’ve built up a good head of steam and have forced myself into the habit of writing every night, though, this isn’t the time to lay in the cut. My job now is to keep writing, even if that means taking on another project or maybe doing a little freelance work to keep my chops up. I’m tinkering with a few ideas and even managed to free write for a while last night which is something I rarely ever get the chance to do.
Whatever small project I take on during this damned interregnum, you can rest assured that it will be in some way geared towards continuing to build my little hobby into something a bit more substantial. This may never been what I do to pay the bills, but I’m still fairly certain it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.