by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine
Who do you trust to read your first draft?
The answers we received from Karen White, Cindy Woodsmall, Marji Laine, Joy Ross Davis, Randy Ingermanson, Stephanie Bennett, Bryan E. Powell, Hope Denney, E.E. Kennedy and Connie Chastain are as diverse as the genres they write in.
One thing they have in common is a degree of bravery. It takes some fortitude to fork over your hard-fought words for their first reading.
An even more important trait they share is that of choosing those readers with care. By making a discriminating selection, they are assured of getting constructive feedback which will be valuable for their first rewrite.
Getting to the end of a first draft is usually a mix of satisfying and scary, excitement and dread. But your book has made it to the page from start to finish, and hopefully the rewrite can be met with the same enthusiasm.
But what if you're having trouble even getting to the end of the first draft?
The reasons are multitudinous, and here are some of the more common culprits:
- The story stalls midway through
- It's not as easy as you hoped
- It's not as perfect as you envisioned
- You gave someone a sneak peek and lost that initial spark
- You gave someone a sneak peek and let a discouraging word sink in
- You're self-editing and stifling your creativity
Even the most experienced authors can become their own worst enemy midway through the first draft by listening to the negative voices of self-judgment.
That's when many authors find it helpful to try to separate themselves from their writing. Often, this is attempted by putting the project aside indefinitely (not the recommended choice, because it may never get returned to). A more advisable method is to become the conduit, rather than the creator.
Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles, is a champion of learning to listening to inspiration. He writes:
“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”Remind me to look up "accrete".
By emptying yourself of the critical you, you make room for the inspiration and motivation that's trying to get back in.
When your creativity gets stuck, step outside yourself and stop, look and listen for what's just beyond you. If you're lucky you'll get completely lost, and your story will bring you home.