Writing Your First Draft
Give yourself permission to write a rough first draft. Write pages and pages in which you describe the who, the what, the where and the when of the story. Later, as you rework the piece, the why will be written in.
If you are one of those memoir writers who is not otherwise a writer and who will perhaps never write anything else, know that you need to be kind to yourself. In the Turning Memories Into Memoirs workshops, I am often surprised—and dismayed—at how demanding writers are on themselves at an early stage of the process. There are even times when a writer will not turn in a piece of writing because it was not “good enough”—and that in spite of my having told the group that the writing they would submit would still be in its first draft stage.
Think of the first draft of writing as “fixing” the story in the same way that in days when photographs were fixed by chemicals that stage was important if the image was not to be lost. You first draft is the stage when you “fix” your story, keep it from being lost rather than make it into a masterpiece.
Don’t reward yourself for being a perfectionist!
Perfectionism is not a virtue at this first-draft stage. In fact, it is often not a virtue at any stage if by perfectionism you mean to fiddle with the story forever. I’ve seen writers change the word home for house and then back to home and then…
No, in the first draft, it is better to keep writing for volume, to get the story into a document, to get the whole sweep of your memoir written. Quantity at this stage has this going for it: it will encourage you to keep writing as you see your pages stack up. You will have a tangible experience of your efforts adding up to something.
Quality will enter in later—as it must. You will rework your piece for various stylistic elements and eventually you will have a memoir that you are ready to launch into the world, but for now get your first draft written—and give yourself permission to let your first draft be a rough first draft.
There are many stages in the memoir writing process. Writing a first draft is just one of them. Let it be an early stage—rough, incomplete.
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