By June Hur
My worst nightmare has always been that I would wake up one day and realize that I was no longer a writer.
After sending in my Regency romance to an agent, I decided to start a new book. I rummaged my mind for the perfect story. When I found a possible one, I would be up all night planning it out, and would end up brainstorming the plot to death. The idea just wouldn’t be good enough. And so I’d search for another plotline. I’d brainstorm it to death. And on and on I’d move from one plot to the next. My critique partner told me I was trying too hard. And she was right.
The sad truth was this: After a year and a half spent on revising The Runaway Courtesan again and again—I knew how to edit a book, but had forgotten how to write one from scratch.
I have to thank K.C. Bryne for my state of overflowing enthusiasm to write again. A few days ago I met up with her at Starbucks after our English literature lecture. I told her the issue I was having, of how none of the plots were good enough. Her answer was simple: Write for the pure joy of writing, write for yourself.
Write for myself? I couldn’t grasp onto what the purpose behind writing just for the sake of writing was. Why write for the fun of it? Why waste my time? If I’m going to write a book, I wanted to know that it would be marketable, that it would be original.—This mentality was my stumbling block. My expectation for the manuscript was way too high for me to meet up to in my first draft. How was I to write if every sentence I typed out was expected to be a masterpiece?
The first draft of our book is like a rough sketch, a guiding map, to a work of art.
Observe a famous oil painter: the moment inspiration roars through him, he will sketch it out onto a canvas. And if we were to observe this sketch, one eyebrow would shoot up, and our reaction would be: What the hell is this? We would only see a mess of pencil marks.
Just wait. Be patient.
Once the paint dries a bit, lighter shades of paint will then be applied (…or so my art tutor told me).
Then more hours will pass, perhaps even days, as the artist mixes the colours, brushes it onto the canvas, in light or heavy strokes, in dots or blotches.
A masterpiece has been created and it steals our breath away and brings tears to our eyes as we catch a glimpse of the divine beauty captured within each stroke of the brush.
But, with the perspective I had, placed into this analogy, I would have remained stuck on day one, sketching then re-sketching, getting nowhere. So the lesson I learned was: Do not expect a masterpiece by sketch number one. The point of the first draft is not perfection, but to capture the essence of that undecided, ambiguous yet beautiful story in your head.
Just write, write what your heart tells you to write. Your story, at draft one, might not be publishable. It might not even make any sense. But still—Just write! Worry about the plot holes, the grammatical errors, the character development, the theme, the marketability AFTER you have draft one. Don’t let that inspired imagination cool down while you edit paragraph one of your story over and over and over again. Let your fantasy unwind onto paper without being hindered by technicality—even though you might end up with a piece of trash that might require two years to revise. But the point, ladies and gentlemen, is to write for the pure joy of it.
June Hur is the author of The Runaway Courtesan. She is currently awaiting the response of an agent who requested her full manuscript. When she is not working on her next book, she can usually be found at a book shop, searching for a Great Love Story to read and analyze. You can follow her on Twitter or through her blog.