I think the members of my writing group are saints. I have just started reading a new book to them, and it is the ugliest first draft ever.
I began last night, prefacing my reading with: “For at least the first forty pages, I’m feeling my way along, trying to figure out the design of this book…” and while they liked what I offered, and had incredibly astute insight about a few things, I sure feel odd about it.
After all, we all like to put our best foot forward, right?
Well, maybe not in your writing group. It pays to be willing to be vulnerable, and this is a safe place to do it.
I’ve always been an advocate of the ugly first draft. I’ve always given my students permission to just “Get on with it and fix it in the rewrite.” But it’s been a long time since I’ve presented something this raw to my writing group. I’ll have to get used to it, though, because this is going to be a long process, and as I’m a very busy girl, I won’t be able to carve out the time to polish a piece before reading it every Monday night.
And the truth is, I don’t mind when one of the other members brings something equally raw to share. We’re getting the story down. We’re making progress. And we’ll fix it in the rewrite.
I know myself, and I know that if I allowed myself to edit the first three chapters of a book before I went on to complete the entire first draft, I would waste away the day agonizing over the placement of a comma, and I would never advance the page count. So this is the only way it works for me: Write, and keep writing until the entire first draft is finished. Then let it cool, read it in as close to one sitting as possible, make copious notes, and then write a second draft. Because by the time I know where the ending actually is (as opposed to where I imagined it would be), I need to change the beginning to coincide.
So I’m writing ugly these days, and it makes me cringe, but these are the times that my writing group, and their astonishing patience, is golden.