Oh, yes, first drafts. Love them or hate them, you literally cannot get anywhere without a first draft. Right now, I’m on the first draft of my current work in progress, and, even with a writing schedule, it is going sooooooooo sloooooooooowwwwlllyyyyyyyyyyy. I’ve been working on the same chapter for about a week now, and have only been adding a few sentences a day. They call them “rough drafts” for a reason. Writing them is rough. If you are also someone who struggles with first drafts, stick around. Let’s talk this out!
I am a super self-critical person. I pretty much hate everything I write as soon as I type it (which is another issue that I’ll be tackling later on… possibly). I’m sure you can imagine how awful writing first drafts are for me. I constantly get in my head, and only ever stare at the page saying “this isn’t good enough” rather than actually writing something down. I have, however, been working at this. The important thing to remember with first drafts is that they are meant to be terrible! Let me explain.
The purpose of a first draft is to just write. You need to get your ideas down in a way that kind of makes sense. No one is going to read it. Yes, you’re going to have “said” after every single piece of dialogue. You may know you want character A to give an inspirational speech, but you have no idea what they will actually say, or what you do write for them doesn’t seem inspirational at all. That’s okay! Even best-selling authors don’t have good first drafts. Sarah J Maas has said that her editors would probably drop her if they read a first draft.
Odds are, if you have writer’s block when writing a first draft, it’s probably because you think whatever you write won’t be good enough. Let me tell you the truth: It isn’t going to be. It will be terrible, but you need to let yourself be terrible. Focus on what you say, not how you say it. The actual language you use and the dynamics of how things work can be worried about later. For now, tell yourself that it is going to be bad, and it’s okay because it’s supposed to be bad, and just write.
That’s what I’m reminding myself every time I sit down, and the only thing that gets me to write. I suggest you try it, and let me know how it works for you, or if you have a different way of thinking. Everyone works differently, but if it works for me, maybe it will work for you, too.