GETTING THE CLAY
ON THE WHEEL
One thing that has resulted in so many ﬁrst novels languishing in desk drawers is the false belief that you've got to get it right the ﬁrst time.
Not true. Published authors know that anything can be repaired and improved in the rewrite, so we just go ahead and write a “Secret Draft” with all the mistakes, goofs, and wrong roads that occur.
We know we can write as badly as we want to now because we can ﬁx it later.
Full-time authors usually blast through Chapter One without giving much concern to its quality. We know how difﬁcult beginning a manuscript can be, and rather than wasting time and energy on trying to make the ﬁrst chapter perfect, we continue writing until we reach the end.
You can do the same; blast through your ﬁrst (secret) draft and ﬁx things later.
Here are five advantages of writing a secret draft:
1. thinking that “it’s only a secret draft” makes it easier to get started. Knowing that the secret draft is a raw and unﬁnished product that needs work frees you up to write creatively, not like a really strict copy editor. Think of a ﬁgure skater warming up. You can’t be expected to win a Gold medal the moment you get off the bus. The secret draft is the warm-up; revision is your “medal round.”
2. A secret draft is also a terriﬁc way to ﬁgure out what it is you are actually writing. Once the secret draft is ﬁnished, you have the entire story in front of you. There, in your secret draft, is the clay ready to be formed into something which looks like a novel.
My second novel, Extreme Close-Up, is an example of the advantage of foresight and hindsight you can gain by writing a secret draft. I was two-thirds of the way through writing my secret draft before I discovered who had really killed the actress who dies earlier in the book. Once I knew how the book had to end, I was able to go back and rewrite and revise earlier scenes so that the ending (once the reader knew it) seemed inevitable. If I had perfected the book sentence by sentence the ﬁrst time through, I’d have wasted a lot of work.
4. A secret draft can be like your ﬁrst love; vivid and passionate. Enjoy all the pleasure and excitement that comes with invention and creation by writing a secret draft without editing yourself. After all, you’re at the beginning of a long road leading from your idea to ﬁnished novel.
This is the perfect time to overwrite, the place to be too romantic, too cute, or too melodramatic. You can always ﬁx it later. There will be some inspired moments when you write scenes that seem to leap directly from your unconscious mind to the page. That’s when you will fall in love with writing ﬁction.