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Day 17: The Fallacy of the Shitty First Draft

Yesterday, I extolled the virtues of writing the Shitty First Draft (SFD), especially during NaNo.  Today I want to tell a cautionary tale about taking that advice too far.

Last year, having drunk deeply of the SFD Kool-Aid, I dutifully set out to write the shittiest first draft I could muster during NaNo.

The Standard of Shittiness

Thing was, I struggled through the entire month, having very fun little fun pounding out my 1,667 words a day. On the last day of the contest, with sure victory in my sights, I relaxed my standards (if one considers shittiness a ‘standard’). I slowed down my writing and allowed myself to do a little bit of research.

(In this case, research involved Googling a Waffle House menu to ensure proper representation of this cultural icon). I found myself obsessing over the details of the grungy little restaurant and something happened: the words poured out of me with a sense of ease and joy. It was the most delightful writing session of the month. I realized that trying to write an SFD had let me down.

Now, I’m not saying that this will be true for you, too. I think a great deal of my trouble stemmed from how I interpreted the advice to write an SFD. I saw it as permission to go for quantity and speed over quality and craftsmanship. Such a stance is in alignment with the challenge of NaNoWriMo, after all. It’s pretty hard to churn out 50,000 words in a month and maintain some semblance of a life unless you go for speed and forsake quality for quantity. But in aspiring to write an SFD, I forsook something else: my passion for the story.

Don’t Forsake Your Passion

Your passion for the story provides that essential juice that gets your creativity flowing. It is a precious resource. You can write when you are cut off from off, but it is no fun. And when writing is no longer fun, what’s the point in doing it?

So, I suggest you hold the SFD advice lightly. Use it as an invitation to release yourself from the expectations of others. But do not apply it so dogmatically that it robs you of your writing passion.

Much more on tapping into the Flow in your writing tomorrow…

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