Four Rules for Surviving a First Draft

4. Expect Hell.

It comes like tax day – inevitable, dreadable, and completely manageable. I call it the 2nd act slump.

Remember this?


Yeah that’s a thing. And it’s worse than you expect, every time. No mater how thoroughly I’ve plotted a story, no mater how enchanted I am with the premise, characters, and plot twists, this still hits me like a bad flu; somewhere between the midpoint and the conclusion I start to doubt what I’m doing. The whole story, it’s purpose, everything.

In this dark time, I want nothing more than to throw away the story and start over. Ideas that radically alter my concept become powerfully alluring. I doubt my own ability, my vision, and my purpose.

The only advice I can offer at this time is this: when you started on this journey, you believed in something. Trust that version of yourself. What they saw was worth something to them, and it will be worth something to the audience too.

This is the time all the planning and preparing was for, when you must draw on everything you’ve crammed into your outline to keep you excited.

At this time, I am tempted to abandon my plan: don’t. Keep writing. Trust the plan. Finish the draft.

“Turning out a column is easy. You just sit at your typewriter until little drops of blood appear on your forehead.” – Red Smith

This is not easy. Anybody who said it would be easy was lying to you. But it is possible, and the way you do it, is you sit down every day at the same time and focus on doing it. Your fingers move. The words appear. You hate them, but damn it they appear.

And then, eventually, you have a draft.

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