While many first drafts do suck, not all of them do. Write what you're passionate about, because that will shine through in the work. Just don't stress if that first draft doesn't live up to your expectations. Not everything we write falls out of our heads perfectly. When that happens (and it does from time to time), enjoy it and treasure it. Use it to help encourage you on the days when the words aren't coming so smoothly.
Serve the story. If you love an idea, go for it full tilt.
Author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro said at World Fantasy that she's a one-draft writer. Of course, she's been doing it for forty years, and she has developed a way to make sure her one draft is as good as it can be, but she's proof that first drafts don't have to be terrible. I've read about other authors who only do one draft as well. Like any skill, I can see how after you've done it long enough, you get it right the first time without much trouble. But for most of us, it'll take time to get there. If you're one of the lucky ones to get there first, enjoy it. (And tell us how, would you?)
It's also important to remember that just because a first draft sucks, that doesn't mean the final novel will suck. It just means the first words out of your head weren't great. Once you have a first draft (which is an accomplishment in and of itself and should never be taken lightly) then it's time to polish it and make it the novel you know in your heart it can be.
The ONLY thing "first drafts usually suck" means is that we don't need to be hard on ourselves for not being perfect from the get go. It's okay to write junk before we write well. It's okay for stories to need a few rounds before they grow into novelhood.
Write the stories you love. After all, ugly babies do grow into supermodels.
Looking for tips on revising your novel? Check out my book Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, a series of self-guided workshops that help you revise your manuscript into a finished novel. Still working on your idea? Then try my just-released Planning Your Novel Workbook.
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and The Truman Award in 2011.
Janice is also the founder of Fiction University, a site dedicated to helping writers improve their craft. Her popular Foundations of Fiction series includes Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, and the upcoming Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).
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