I was recently struck with an idea for a fantasy story, almost more of a fairytale, that had some dark elements to it. Not Tim Burton dark, but definitely with some heavier overtones.
I started brainstorming on it, jotting ideas in my notebook, and pretty soon realized that it had solid potential for being a full story.
I got to work on it, full steam ahead for a couple of days, and then came the creeping doubts: Was there actually enough here for a full story? It feels like I’m flagging a bit on it today, does that mean I’ve lost the fire for it? And does that mean it’s not as interesting as I thought it would be? Because if I’ve lost interest in it, so will the reader. They can smell that like a dog smells fear. If there’s any doubt in your mind about the story, it’s not worth your while to finish…
But then I gave my head a shake and reminded myself that I spent way too long–years, perhaps edging into decades–with that mentality, and that approach to writing just ends up with a lot of stuff started and precious little finished. I’d promised myself in the last couple of years that I’d work harder at finishing the stories I started.
Because as has been said by smarter people than me, a) a first draft doesn’t have to be anything but exist, and/because b) you can always improve on writing that has been done, but you can’t improve on writing that hasn’t been done. The first draft, or rough draft, call it what you will (I recently read about a writer whose friend calls the first draft of writing the puke draft, because it’s just you getting everything out and onto the page), just has to be done. It doesn’t matter how bad it is or how little of it makes sense or the fact that you have key characters who aren’t named yet (another hangup of mine I’m trying to work past). No one has to see it if you don’t want them to. As Mur Lafferty has said time and again on her podcast, let your first draft suck. But get it done.
In that spirit, I’ve pushed away (okay, pushed back, because I know they’ll return) the creeping doubts about the story. It may well be something that will never see the light of day, and it may be something I look back on months from now (let alone years) and cringe at ever thinking was a good idea, but dammit, I will finish it.