What’s A Perfect Draft? Pixar Rule 11 (and 12!)

Hello again! I’m a day or two behind (no blogging Sundays) and I had a friend from out of town visiting, so (shockingly!) I spent some time off the computer today!

Getting back to Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling, I’m going to cover rule 11.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

I’ve been thinking about my current WIP for months. Granted, I want to be more thorough in the planning stages with this one, and I’ve been querying, interning, and revising as well. But I will admit a small part of me is nervous  my draft won’t live up to my expectations. It can’t possibly be as good as it is in my head. It can’t be as impacting or engrossing as I imagine it.

If I don’t try, I can’t fail, right? Sure. In a sense. But (you knew there was going to be one, didn’t you?) I can’t succeed with this story, either– not until I put words on paper.

So maybe you’re thinking I’m going to tell you to knuckle down and bulldoze through. Trust yourself! Be inspired! Take a risk! You can do it!

More helpful than that, I think, is taking the pressure off drafting. A draft isn’t a book. A draft is just a starting place. Here’s my rule about drafts:

All a first draft has to do is exist.

A perfect first draft has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That’s it. Is that a perfect book? Of course not. A draft isn’t the same thing as a book, though. Don’t expect to hit your literary goals with your first draft. Good writing is rewriting. Second and third and tenth drafts are for adding layers and subtlety and poetry. Don’t expect too much from your first draft. Don’t burden it with your visions of grandeur to the point you’re scared to write it. An unwritten book isn’t a book. So take the pressure off drafting, don’t expect perfection, and trust yourself to improve it and make it what you want in later drafts. That is what they’re for. All a first draft has to do is exist.

My one caution about this is actually about something that needs serious consideration before you start drafting: the concept. Rule 12 addresses this nicely:

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

My super cool “list of 10” trick applies well here. I talked more about this and gave examples in the post for rule 9, but here’s the general idea: when you’re working on your concept or trying to figure out any problem in your story, make a list of 10 things that could occur. Don’t let your critic get in the way here, just list 10 options. The first 3 or 4 that come to mind need thrown out. Since you thought of them first, most likely everyone else did too. A concept that low down on the list isn’t going to be original enough to carry the story. Push yourself from the very beginning to explore original ideas, motivations, and fixes in your story concept. If you’ve got that covered, you’re in a great starting place. You can write your draft and trust yourself to make it everything you want it to be in revisions.

But first, the draft has to exist.

Check out the posts from my blogging friends who are doing this challenge with me!

Talynn Lynn, a writer, editorial intern for Entranced Publishing, and writing assistant extraordinaire,

Mary Pat, a writer, fellow teacher, and fantastic blogger,

Alex Yuschik, a writer, grad student, and also an intern to a literary agent,

and Regina Castillo, a dedicated reader, writer, and blogger.

As always, thanks for reading!

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