“‘A movie should be there in rough cut,’ the film editor Paul Hirsch once told me. The same is true of books. I think it’s rare that incoherence or dull storytelling can be solved by something so minor as a second draft.”
-Stephen King, On Writing
This isn’t the easiest stone to swallow, but makes a lot of sense in light of how hard it can be to slug through a first draft. Because, as King’s observation makes me realize, the first draft is the essence of the thing. And as much as we want to give ourselves permission to ride roughshod over any rules of the craft as we put it down, somewhere we know that its quality does matter.
And that’s part of what trips us up: The closer we get to being finished, the closer we get to potentially realizing that the piece was never any good to begin with, that the whole thing was a waste of time.
So we claw through it, slower than better judgment tells us to. Because in some persistent part of our brains, we know the faith that the second draft will redeem the sins we commit in the first is only partly true.
Lest we ruin any chance the piece ever had to be good, we (ok, I… I’d love to hear to what extent this does or doesn’t apply to you) take that excruciating, distraction-prone extra time on the first draft.
Which, of course, is what King ends up warning us against doing.