When you write the first draft of your book, who do you write it for? Whoever it is will severely affect how it turns out… or if it even turns out at all. With Camp NaNoWriMo upon us and writers launching themselves at some new first drafts (or ones they’re currently working on) it’s probably a good time for me to drag this post out of my drafts.
- Find out who the first draft is actually for
- Start writing for them
“Write for your readers!” people chorus.
That’s good and all, and in no way am I going to just dismiss it. But I’ll address that later in this post.
The thing is, when you’re writing the first draft, it’s going to be a mess. If you do what everyone says and write for your readers, how do you think you’ll feel the entire time you write it?
Believe me, I know. If you write for an audience, you’ll want your performance to be perfect. And, as we just agreed on above, the first draft is going to be a mess. There’s no way that you’ll be able to meet your own expectations, or what you are imagining is your reader’s.
This will start a domino effect of negativity. If you feel horrible, and you’re sure your writing isn’t up to par, then you’ll start thinking that you aren’t a good writer, that you aren’t up to this. You’ll start to hate writing, and, most importantly, your own writing. You’ll compare yourself to anyone and everyone. You’ll try to measure up to those master storytellers who are NYT bestsellers, and find that you are lacking, and even though you are most certainly not an NYT bestseller, comparing yourself to one somehow makes sense…
A spiral. Down and down you go, and before you realize what’s really happening, you’re so far gone that you feel like you’ll never be able to claw your way to the surface again.
Okay, that got pretty dark. But the mind can do some pretty nasty things to you if you aren’t careful. Besides, in this post, I’m here to help protect you from this reality.
Who You Shouldn’t Write for:
I think that by now you understand that you shouldn’t write for your readers during the first draft. You’ll never finish it because you think that it should be perfect when that’s impossible.
You also shouldn’t write for your family, your friends, or, well anyone actually.
Who You Should Write for:
Saw that coming, didn’t you?
But even if you did, tell me: who are you writing for right now? (also I just spelled ‘right’ like ‘write’ in that sentence 😂) And why?
If you can answer those questions and feel comfortable in your answers, then the rest of this post is probably not for you. Maybe you’d enjoy some of the related posts I suggest a bit further down, though. 😉
However, you probably do need to read the rest of this post. The sad truth is, the majority of people will.
I was writing with the intent of being a professional writer for a while before I learned this lesson. Literally, I sent my first stories to people all the time as I wrote them. As I went and did them, I was thinking about what those people would think, and adjusted my story to match that. When I got back my book from them, I would change the plot and the characters according to their whims. I would actually email people and double check that they were okay with some changes I was going to make before I made them to my own book.
It wasn’t until about a year ago that I finally stopped this. I had finished the first draft of The Triad of Caosdif on December 31, 2017, and took a break for a month from it before beginning again. In February 2018, I started draft two. In that draft, I took a few suggestions at the beginning and started off. I’d gotten a good chunk through before I realized the book had no plot.
It was then that I stopped taking suggestions. Do you know why?
Remember how I said I changed things based on what people said, and checked with them before I did something?
I realized that my story had gone off course and lost any coherency (and would never gain any) because I had done so. It was because of all those other people’s ideas that my story was no longer a story that I was really telling. It was based on what they wanted.
And I knew that wasn’t the story that I wanted to tell.
I spent around 24 hours replotting and changing that entire book. That’s what I did in Camp NaNoWriMo in July 2018. In August 2018, I started that new draft, but then realized I’d outlined it a bit too much. With no creative room, I took off to fix up another old project: The Storm Inside.
However, that’s not the point of this post.
I haven’t actually told any of those old readers of The Triad of Caosdif about the changes. I guess an old, small part of me is sort of nervous to know what they’ll think about how I’ve made their ideas different. But I like this version so much better. It’s written for me, by me. It’s my story.
I am not writing that book at the time that I’m writing this post, but I am slowly starting to get new ideas for how to make it even better. I can’t wait to see where it goes in the future.
So I literally shouldn’t write with readers in mind?
You should be writing for you… but you should have readers in mind, at least at the beginning for a little bit.
If you want to self-publish or pitch to a publisher, then you must have an audience in mind. “Everybody!” won’t cut it, but that’s a subject for another day. This post is already over 1,100 words. You just have to know who you’re writing for, and what genre your book is. Your audience could be tween girls who like mysteries. That’s way different than adult men who like horror.
After that initial decision, you should ignore your readers in the entire first draft. The first draft is so finicky because you’re bringing life to your idea and a world is being born. Your character has a story to be told, but it’s hard to put it down into words sometimes.
During the first draft, you’re telling the story to yourself. You can say anything as blatantly as you want, make the foreshadowing crazy obvious, and exaggerate things. That’s because you are finding your own way through the story.
There’s a reason this is a first draft. There are more drafts to come, which is a beautiful thing. You can always fix it, polish it up, and make things less obvious. After the first draft, then you can rework your book with readers in mind.
But that first draft is always written by the writer for the writer. You’ll want people to read later drafts for sure, get real people’s opinions who don’t know every twist and turn of the plot and every character’s secret. That’s a critical part of the process for sure, but it’s not here yet. You can change necessary things later based on their constructive critism.
But they’re not here right now.
It’s just you and your book.
This one’s for you.
Now it’s your turn!
The next time you’re writing the first draft of a book, don’t write it for someone else. Do it for you. You’ve got this! 😃
Who do you write the first draft for?
Have you ever sent someone your first draft of a book before?