If you want to write that memoir before you die, I suggest you get comfortable with writing a rushed, crappy, bull-in-a-china-shop mess of a first draft.
Yeah, you read right. Rushed. Crappy. A mess.
You need to write a first draft that’s a technical embarrassment. Write a first draft that frequently makes no sense. Let it be pure manure on a stick – and love it that way.
Your first draft should be written quickly and sloppily. Sure, it’s O.K. if you forget something important. Heck yeah, go ahead and use a word that doesn’t really exist. Don’t know what name you’re going to use to disguise your best friend’s identity? Forget about it. Call her anything. Call her a different name on every page, if you want.
There’s no rule that says you have to write your first draft with a computer, either. Want to write it by hand, with a purple felt-tip pen and legal pads? Be my guest. Want to use your dad’s vintage typewriter? Cool, as long as you can still get the ribbons for it. You can write some of your first draft on your computer, and some on paper. What matters is that you feel comfortable and motivated throughout the process.
Why is this all okay? Because your first draft is not going to be your final book. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to fix, change, delete or add anything you want. That’s what drafts are for.
Wait – I just heard somebody out there thinking, “Yeah, but I want to get this memoir done. So I’m going to write the most perfect first draft possible, so I’ll only need to make a few small changes afterward. That way I’ll get it published a lot sooner. Let the suckers waste time on multiple drafts.”
Fine. Have it your way. But a year from now, you’ll either still be sitting on an unfinished memoir and thinking, “I’m just not cut out for writing a whole book”, or you’ll have a completed memoir that people are too polite to tell you stinks.
I promise: you will actually work better – faster, more efficiently – if you start from a hastily-written, thoroughly imperfect first draft.
To get one-on-one help with your memoir, request a coaching session by phone.
Kim Brittingham is the author of Write That Memoir Right Now (AudioGo/Blackstone, 2013) and Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting and Live Large (Random House, 2011).