It's time you all know something about me. I'm an obsessive drafter. Nothing is ever finished, it's just assigned a new draft number. Now I know editing is good and you should have multiple drafts of your story, it wouldn't be right to send out the first draft and call it done. But my problem is I can't stop.
If you're an obsessive drafter like myself, and have problems letting a story go, you're in good company. But we can't stay like this forever. When is it okay to call it quits or send it out as is? This is something I'm still figuring out. But for now, here is my feeble attempt to understand the need to keep drafting and how to stop the cycle.
First of all, there's the mindset. What makes an obsessive drafter?
1. The Perfectionist: For me, everything I do has to be perfect. I've been a perfectionist for most of my life and my writing is no exception. The only problem is, writing is far from perfect. It will never be done, editing is messy, you can always make it better, and you'll probably always be able to find errors. Thus, the endless string of drafts.
2. The "I'm a bad writer" voice: You know those times when you sit down to write and that little voice keeps telling you that you're not good enough? You think about all the authors you love and admire and feel you can't possibly compare. So what do you do? You keep editing and making more drafts of that same story, putting off sending it out.
3. The "This story stinks" voice: Most often this little bugger accompanies, or even precedes, the "I'm not a good writer" voice. For some reason, your story just isn't right in your eyes. So you keep trying and trying to fix it. Eventually, you're so deep in drafts that you don't even feel like it's getting better, it's getting worse!
4. The Procrastinator: When a story is done, the hard part starts. Now it's time to send it out and open yourself up to possible rejection and criticism. That doesn't sound pleasant at all and before you do that, you really should fix this, this, and this in your story. So you keep on drafting.
The sad truth of obsessive drafting is this: obsessive drafters will never be published. Our stories will forever be "in the works" rather than in the readers' hands. So how do we combat this need to keep holding onto our stories when it's really time to let them go?
Breaking the obsessive drafter mindset:
1. The Perfectionist: I've learned to deal with my tendency to be a perfectionist in other areas of my life. Now it's time to do that with my writing. After getting our cat, I eventually gave up on having the bathroom floor 100% free of little bits of cat litter because after a week of constant sweeping, I came to the conclusion that it was just part of the deal of having a fun cat around. I'm trying the same approach with my novel. There will be places that don't quite sit right and scenes that could be better, but it shouldn't stop me from sending it out. I know it can always improve, but it has to stop somewhere. That's just part of the deal of being a writer. I don't want to miss out on being published because I was too knee deep in drafts. Besides, editors are there to help make your story the best it can be, so let them do their job and help you. But in order for that to happen, you've got to send it out first.
2. The "I'm a bad writer" voice: I draft and draft because I feel insecure about my own writing abilities. Everyone does at some point. That's when I step back from my story for a bit and look at all the things that I have gotten published, won scholarships with, or had good feedback on in writing groups. Encourage yourself and don't forget about your past successes. Something that can always pull me out of this slump is a comment that my college creative writing professor wrote on a story of mine: "You are a writer." Plain and simple. I have that written on a note card above my desk to remind me to be confident, keep learning, and to not be afraid to send things out for others to read.
3. The "This story stinks" voice: If you're an obsessive drafter, then you've been staring at your story for a long time. Much too long. If you've never taken a break from it, then do that right now! If you come back a couple months later and it still doesn't feel right, here are some things you can do instead of starting yet another draft:
4. The Procrastinator: First of all, ask yourself why you write. Is your story for your eyes only? I'm guessing if you're an obsessive drafter you've put a lot of time and energy into this thing, so the answer is most likely no. The reality is, you want readers. That means you have to send it out. Edit for grammar, spelling, and then even if it's not perfect, pull the band-aide off and send it out. Rejection and criticism are part of the deal. It's just the reality of being a writer. Besides, it may get accepted! You'll never know until you try.
I'm not saying I have it all figured out, but writing should be fun and it should be shared. So let's stop drafting and get those stories out in the world where they are supposed to be.
My 2017 Writing Resolutions
Well now, it's mid-January. The holidays are over, the bleak midwinter has started, and there are no more excuses for me not to write. Which is why I've decided to give myself a little motivation.
I've never done New Year's resolutions before, but this year I've made an exception because for the first time in my life I'm finding it very hard to sit down and write. My first real job, being married, first apartment, it all begs for my time. Not to mention our newest member who we adopted from the animal shelter. He likes time too and I am all too happy to give it to him.
So I've made a list of things that I want to accomplish with my writing this year. I'm not going to hold too rigidly to them, it still has to be about enjoying my writing and not about a checklist, but it doesn't hurt to play into my other enjoyment of crossing things off lists!
Here it goes, my first New Year's Writing Resolutions:
1. Submit three short stories to journals. (They don't have to be accepted, just have to get out there.)
2. Read and write about at least one book each month.
3. Start keeping a journal again. (I'm afraid I've grown a little too relaxed in this department.)
4. Pick up where I left off at 50,000 words and finish my NaNoWriMo novel.
What are your New Year's resolutions? Even if you haven't gone so far as to make a list, what are you hoping to improve in your writing this year?
Hi, I'm Jessica! I'm on a mission to make my writing better in hopes of becoming a published novelist. It's been a crazy journey so far as I learn the twists and turns of the publishing world, but it's been worth it. Though I'm still learning how to be the best writer I can be, I'm excited to share what I learn with you. Happy writing!