Fire Starter

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


In Florida, we don’t really have a change in seasons. We get cold fronts that sometimes (literally) blow through, but certainly nothing like the winter season farther north.

I prefer this, actually. I lived in Pennsylvania for eight and half years, so I’ve experienced snow and true winter. I discovered I needed the sunshine I was born in, and by need, I mean that almost physically. I was wilting in the sunless days of a heavy Pennsylvania winter.

I still welcome the occasional cold front. Especially since we have a fireplace in our apartment. We didn’t put it there, but we enjoy it when we get a chance! It was the act of trying to light a fire in our fireplace last night that inspired this next thought process.

Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash
LET’S SAY YOUR NOVEL IS A FIRE

It took a lot of effort (probably because this is like the second fire I’ve ever tried to build) and too many “paper logs” to count (paper bags from stores when we would forget our totes, which sometimes happens) before my tiny, two log fire finally lit and burned merrily away. While trying to light this fire, I was also thinking of my novel and what kinks to work out and where I was having trouble with it.

And staring into the fire sparked this thought: it took work, and many false starts, but I eventually got the fire lit. The “paper logs” burned fast, and bright, and it took forever for the actual wood logs to light up. But my efforts with the “paper logs” is what led to the wood logs lighting up, and it is this thought process I want to focus on.

Writing your first draft is like lighting those “paper logs”, using them as fire starters. You burn through pages and word counts, and you feel the sense of accomplishment from getting that far, but like the “paper logs”, that sense of accomplishment can fizzle out into a feeling of disappointment as perfectionism sets in. They burn bright, and fast, but they can fizzle out just as quickly.

FIRST DRAFTS ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE PERFECT

Your first draft is the “paper logs”, the fire starters. Your novel is the fire that catches on the wood logs, that burns bright enough and long enough to give warmth and enjoyment to the reader. In order to enjoy your ‘fire’, you have to put effort into starting the fire. You have to put effort into your fire starters, your “paper logs”, your first draft.

REMEMBER WHEN I POINTED OUT THIS WAS MY SECOND FIRE?

If you’ve never completed a first draft before, why are you so hard on yourself about how you’re doing on your first try? We all know this: if you’ve never done something before, there’s a good chance you don’t do it well on the first try. Or, maybe, you do it well, but it takes forever

Then you do it again. And it’s faster this time. Or, you don’t hate the result as much. Then you do it again. And again.

Building a fire is a skill you learn and practice. Writing a first draft is a skill you learn and practice. When you do either for the first time – or second – it’s a given that you may not be that good at it. But if you keep doing it, keep writing your draft, lighting your “paper logs”, you’ll be able to eventually enjoy the warmth and beauty of a finished first draft, burning brightly.

*Originally posted on previous blog on February 29, 2020

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