What’s the first thing you do when you put a puzzle together?
I posed this question to my spring semester creative writing workshop on our last day of class. I was trying to get them to think about what comes next for them, now that they have all started writing their novels. I also asked the question on my Facebook page to see what answers non-writers might come up with. Only one of them came up with the answer I was looking for. I got a variety of responses to the question, including:
- Find all the edge pieces
- Look for the corners
- Sort the pieces by color
- Throw the puzzle in the garbage because puzzles suck!
As I mentioned, there was one answer I was looking for, and only one person thought of it: Dump out the pieces.
If writing a novel is like putting a puzzle together, then writing the first draft is akin to dumping the puzzle pieces out of the box. You don’t look for the edges or the corners, or even sort the pieces when you’re writing the first draft. The sole purpose of the first draft is to get all the pieces of the story out of your head and onto the table where you can see them.
Jumping ahead to the editing and organizing stage during the first draft can often lead to writer’s block. You’re too busy worrying about how you’re going to fit all the pieces together to get them out of your head.
Who cares if your first draft is a mess? It’s supposed to be a mess! It’s supposed to be full of plot holes and twists that make zero sense. That’s none of your business while writing the first draft. Worry about that in the second draft stage. For now, just get your pieces dumped out. Remember, sometimes done is better than perfect!