Lately I've been having high school nightmares. You're probably familiar with at least one of them: the one where you bring your math notebook to history class, maybe, or the one where you're late to class but you're stuck at your locker because you forgot the combination. The one where you're sitting in French and you realize there's a test and you haven't been attending class all year. Or perhaps the one where Mrs. North turns into your grandmother and they're both mad at you and you hate hate hate disappointing them, but you don't what you did this time or how to fix it and why are you burying your math book in the garden anyway? and now you're crying in your sleep, you silly dork... No wait, maybe that last one's just me.
Well anyway, I hadn't had dreams like that in a long time until recently, but I guess there's something in the air (it is exam season, after all) or, hmm, I suppose the fact that my characters go to a high school similar to mine might be to blame. (What's that? I'm writing a book set in high school and now I'm dreaming about it? Shocker!) Or maybe, just maybe, the dreams are coming out of the fact that I have first draft anxiety, which feels an awful lot like I've just gotten a D on my physics test and now I'm desperate to bring up the grade.
Raise your hand if you've ever wanted to flush a first draft down the toilet. That's where I am right now. Is there a twelve step program for perfectionists? Even if there is I wouldn't join—I'd be too afraid of botching one of the steps! For all the excitement of writing a new story, I keep seeing all the flaws in it. And now I'm fighting first draft nerves.
What do you do when...
-You have a totally flat beanbag character flopping around in your scenes?
-Your dialog is way out of proportion with the rest of the writing and it's throwing your pacing all off?
-Instead of an arc your plot line looks like a rocky financial chart?
-Your main character's voice is growing stale?
I guess there's only one thing to do: suck it up, keep writing, and if you're really desperate, quote some Anne Lamott: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.” Fixing the issues is what the second draft is for. And besides, that bad character just balances out the really great one, that dialog is pretty decent, the plot is going somewhere, and at least the main character has a voice to begin with. There's always a silver lining.
Anyone else going through first draft blues?