You’ve probably already heard some of the most famous writers tell you just how hard writing can be:
Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.”
And Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
Call me crazy, but I think they’re both liars.
The truth of the matter is that writing . . . is easy.
Okay, before I go any further, let me qualify that. Taking your turd of a first draft and turning it into publishable gold IS hard. In fact, it’s nothing short of alchemy, transforming something gross and worthless into something precious.
But I’m not talking about revisions here—because (let’s admit it) almost nobody seems to be bothering to DO more than a first draft these days before they hop on Amazon and publish their “masterpiece.” (But that’s a rant for another time.)
My point is that writing your first draft is supposed to be easy. It should be fun. It should fill you up with the joy that comes from doing the thing you love, fulfilling your goals, doing your life’s work.
If you’re sitting at your desk agonizing over the words you’re choosing, torturing yourself over sentence structure, reading lines out loud and asking yourself, “Does this sound right?” while working on your draft . . . you’re doing it wrong.
The first draft should be quick and easy. The writing should flow out of you like water from, not a faucet, but a fire hydrant after city kids bust it open to enjoy the spray on a hot summer afternoon. It should explode out of you, fast and furious and full of life.
You shouldn’t be COMPOSING at this point. You should be simply telling a story.
Write like you’re having a drink with your best friend and telling him/her a story. Do you worry about picking just the right word when you tell the latest work gossip at happy hour? (If you do, you have bigger problems than I can help you with—I’m an editor, not a psychiatrist.)
Keep it simple. Keep it casual. Use your everyday voice and your everyday words. Don’t WRITE; just write (if you get what I mean—and if you don’t, you may be in the wrong business).
Each day here at Blydyn Square Books, when I make my way through manuscripts, I read far too much writing that tells me just how hard its author worked. And trust me: Nobody wants to read anything you had to consult four different thesauruses to come up with. If you even glance at a thesaurus during your first draft—hell, during ANY draft!—you’re trying too hard. And it shows.
Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” And you don’t talk to yourself like you’re giving a formal speech to the queen. (I hope! Again, if you do, you have bigger problems and should consult the proper medical professionals.)
Just frigging tell the story. Write it like you’d say it—to yourself, to your buddy at the bar, to your dog while you’re out on a walk.
Just. Tell. The story.