— written in Berlin

My first motorbike was a Honda 750F. Not the ideal bike for a beginner — It is big and a bit clumsy in traffic; and it is fast. The first time I had tested it on a motorway, oh boy — Going faster than 200 km/h was scary! The faster I pushed my Honda, the slower the reality around me. In some miraculous way, the fear of speed would disappear and I could fully, sort of divinely, focus on the ride.  

Buddy, your first draft will suck. 

You are not God, I am not God, no writer is. Your first draft will be at best immature and incomplete, likely inconsistent, probably shitty. It will need long rewriting sessions, precise corrections at every word and then self-editing, polishing, and proofreading. 

Be prepared. The suckingness of that first draft will strike you. 

The good news is: The first shitty draft is not “the final novel.” The first draft is the account of the exploration of a plot, of characters’ lives, of an idea. The first draft is like the journal of an explorer who is transferring his/her experience to paper.

Despite its crappiness, your first draft is a gold mine.

Write It Fast, That Shitty draft

I have been doing this, writing fast, since my first unfinished manuscript (I was 14). I did not do this rationally. I did not plan it. I did not decide it: “Let me write fast… because of this and that.” I had to write fast in a desperate attempt to escape from the unpleasant feelings that assailed me every time I would put the pen on the blank page with the intention of writing “the novel.”

Feelings like discomfort; Self-doubt; Fear.

I did not know it at the time, but blank page after blank page, I discovered that these feelings are actually normal — Natural. 

What I did discover is that, by writing my first draft fast, I could systematically defeat those asshole demons — Discomfort, self-doubt, and fear.

So, write it fast, dear flash author! Finish it as soon as possible. Because, by writing fast, you will…

Become the Master of the Three “Fuck!”

1. Fuck fear! 
The fear of failure, of not being good enough, of not being a real writerChallenge these fears! In fact, let those fears be your guide. You know, Mikhail Bulgakov was not born “Bulgakov”Writers are not born writers. Writers become writers by rewriting that first draft again and again and again. Your aim then is not to try to write the masterpiece of the century at the first attempt. Your aim is: To keep writing No matter what.

2. Fuck perfection!
I am a perfectionist and I do believe that you should aim at perfection. But the first draft is not the time to do this. When you are writing your first draft, forget style, rhythm, and accuracy. Forget perfection — Fuck perfection! Remember? The first draft represents your personal exploration of the unknown. The account of that experience. Therefore, turn off your inner judge! Put the editor inside you to sleep. Your initial draft is beyond good/bad, beyond any aesthetic judgment. Breathe in, breathe out and let the words come and go freely.

3. Fuck time!
The point of fast-drafting is to get that exciting story-mess out of your head and down onto paper. Do it fast, before those demons, your inner editor, your inner judge catch up with you. Fuck time! Write fast to never be out of the story.

Fast! — Word After Word

How do you do this?

Well, it is not rocket science. Just write — Word after word. Fast. Do not stop. Do not judge. Keep writing.

It sounds kind of simple because… guess what? It really is: 

  • Write on paper
  • Remember: Your first draft is just a shitty summary of “the novel”
  • Write fast
  • Keep writing — No reading back
  • While you are doing this, build a flexible structure of your story
  • If your writing sucks, and it likely will, accept it
  • Keep writing until the end — No matter what

Et voilÀ — The Thing is ready

Done? That was fast! 

So, do we have the first draft? Good Job!

I bet it sucks, does not it? But do not despair!

Now it is the time to gently switch that inner editor on; to carefully choose every single word. Now it is the time for the rewriting phase — That painful quasi-infinite process, during which you rewrite that first shitty draft from beginning to end, again and again, until… well: You throw up.

Now is the time to aim at perfection. 

The cover photo was taken during my road trip to Croatia.
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Phaedrus’ Journey

by Arturo Robertazzi

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