So it’s been a while since I posted – either here or on Ice Cream for Zombies – but I have this compulsion to do NaNoWriMo every single year, because it’s fun, and the community is great, and it forces me to complete at least two first drafts a year. This year, though, it was like pulling teeth. With my novel just launched in October, and all the events and signings to attend afterwards, I was starting November with low energy, and by the end of the month, my first draft of Some Assembly Required was a complete mess, with notes to myself everywhere, scenes out of order, and a ton of poorly written dialogue.
And it was wonderful.
I got so discouraged in those last days; I could see that the emotion was poorly distributed, that the tension was too high at some points, and too low at others, that some things were too easy. And I was ready to give up, for the first time since I started doing this. But then, I did something I had never done before: I decided that it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if everything was in the right order, if I threw out something later, if the first draft wasn’t perfect. And not only did letting go permit me to finish, but it was also one of the most liberating experiences of my life.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never written a perfect first draft. Nobody does. Even when you’re as much of a planner as I am, there are still revisions to be done. But I’m a control freak, and my first drafts usually have to at least feel perfect when I’m done with them (and then of course I tuck them away for months without looking at them so that when I pick them up again I can really see how much work really needs to be done).
Now, for the first time ever, I’m looking forward to the rewriting and revision of this manuscript. I know what it can be, and I know what there is to correct; the best part about letting go of the fact that it has to be perfect is that you are much more open to great ideas all the way to the end, even if it means you’ll need to make massive changes. When you’re dreading revision, and when you think your first draft has to be absolutely perfect, it can become easy to dismiss awesome ideas just because of the work they represent.