I’m working on a new play. Just noodling around at the moment. It’s the honeymoon stage where there isn’t even an outline – I’m just writing down thoughts, scraps of dialogue, images, character names. There’s no pressure and for this particular work there’s no deadline. I have my notebook off to the side, ready to be grabbed when something floats through my brain. The honeymoon stage can last a little or a long time, depending on the play. I know I’ll be ready to start more constructive work when I’m tired of writing with pen and paper. When I’m ready to get to the computer, organize my ideas and move forward with a first draft.
But even then, even in writing the first draft, the complete picture of my play won’t be fully realized. Even with my thoughts organized and a clear path from beginning to end, it’s not a finished work. A first draft is not a final draft. This is something I come up against time and time again with young writers, or writers just starting out. There is a feeling of astonishment that getting to the end is not the end. That the re-writing process is necessary. If you’re watching the Olympics this week – (Sidebar! I love the Olympics. I love country exuberance and country pride. I love when the unexpected athlete wins. I love when someone is thrilled to win Bronze. I love it when scandals emerge because some are willing to do anything, anything to get Gold. Did you see those Badminton ladies? Unreal. )
If you’re watching the Olympics this week, you may see a track athlete get from the blocks to the finish line and think that’s all there is. Point A to Point B. When they get to the finish line, they are done. Finished. But what you’re seeing is certainly not the first time any of those athletes have run the race. You’re not seeing their first draft. You’re seeing hours and hours, for some years and years of practice. You’re seeing athletes who have run race after race. Athletes who have worked on their craft, worked on their product. And when it gets to the Olympics their product is honed, it’s been examined, it’s been practiced, it’s been raced. That trip from the blocks to the finish line is the true example of a final draft.
Are you an Olympian? No. But then again, why not? To see the work that goes into presenting the final draft of that Olympic race, why wouldn’t you do the same for your play? Why wouldn’t you present an Olympic worthy piece, rather than something that’s been gone through only once? Why wouldn’t you practice, examine, hone, try out your work before presenting it to the world?
This post was written for novel writers, but really it applies to all writers. Never submit your first draft to the world. Be Olympian in your efforts.