Based on the title of this article, you might be wondering… what the heck is a heart draft? Well, I will allow my guest author, Emily Rooke, to tell it. But before we dive into her insightful brilliance, I wanted to share my own words of encouragement.
Writing a book, even if it’s just the first draft, is a ton of work. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions for your characters and you. Be proud of every word, even the terrible ones, put on the page because every word matters. Your art matters. Your story is yours, and you are the only one who can tell it.
But in order to tell it, you have to invest a bit of your heart and soul into the process. So now I will turn things over to Emily, who will share from her own experiences of releasing her latest novel, The Dying Light.
Finding Your Heart Draft
By Emily Rooke
How do you feel about your first draft? If you’re anything like me, perhaps you felt your heart sink or your stomach twist at that question. It’s fairly common practice amongst writers to trash talk our first drafts, and quite typical to see memes flying around on social media about their questionable quality. But my hope is that, after reading this article, you’ll come to see your first draft through different eyes.
1. Our words matter
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that for many writers, our books are like our children. Granted, I beat the first draft of my debut novel up with the best of them, but it never once made me feel any better. So when it came time to approach the first draft of my sequel, I took some time to reflect on the language I was using about my draft – and, by extension, myself.
I hope this doesn’t sound too ‘out there’, but I truly believe that our stories are our creations. First drafts are little lives still in development, and they deserve to be nurtured and cherished.
2. Understanding our bully
Do you have a little voice buried somewhere in the back of your mind, whispering at you that you’ll never make it, that there’s no point even trying? Does it feel as though the owner of that voice is spying on you from the shadows, just waiting for you to trip up or make a mistake, so they can relish in your embarrassment, pain and shame? That mean voice is your inner bully. I think all of us have one, regardless of how outwardly confident we may appear.
Shall I let you in on a secret?
Your inner bully is trying to protect you. It doesn’t want to see you fail because it knows failure hurts. But the inner bully is confused. It’s convinced that you cannot cope with pain, sadness and disappointment. It tries to beat you down until you lose confidence in your own abilities and potential, to keep you safe from harm. The problem is, if we listen to our inner bully, we limit our capacity for growth, and the potential for our life’s joys
3. Forgiving our imperfections
Hi, I’m Emily, and I’m a perfectionist. I can see my story come to life in my mind in perfect detail. I know the exact emotions I want to evoke in my readers. When I turn on the shower, my characters’ voices come to me in vivid detail, and I am consumed with excitement to write their story. But when I sit down and open my draft, I freeze. The words won’t come. My confidence drains away, and I berate myself about my lack of talent, my inability to translate my internal experience of the story onto the page.
At these times, I try to gently unwind the chains that years of cruel words have tangled around me. I picture myself as a small child, bewildered at the rage and pain she is faced with. She did not have the tools to know how to cope with those experiences at the time, but now she has someone who knows better to look after her. I visualise embracing this small, perfectly imperfect child, and telling her that I accept her for who she is.
This is deep work. It may well stir some emotions that you thought you had buried long ago. It might lead to an immediate shift in your writing approach, or it may take regular check-ins with yourself before the reassurance sinks in that it is OK to make mistakes, to play, and to explore. Believe that, in time, you will get there.
4. Finding the heart
Our stories can strengthen us through this inner emotional work. Consider your protagonist. What central character trait makes them so compelling to you? When you imagine them in their world, what values do they embody? What message are they desperately trying to convey to you through their actions?
When I think of my protagonist, I picture him standing alone, a determined scowl on his face, his hands clenched as trembling fists at his sides, all reckless bravery and barely-concealed fear. He is telling me to survive, to keep fighting, no matter what.
5. Protecting the heart
Writing about nebulous concepts like the heart draft can be daunting. They can easily come across as strangely off-putting, rather than deeply meaningful. But if anything in this article appealed to you – especially if you fluctuate between despairing at your first draft, yet desperately wanting to complete your story – I would encourage you to try giving these exercises a go. My hope is that, in reading this article, you felt something click into place inside you, somewhere along the way.
Writing is a kind of magic. It truly is a creative act, in the sense that we are creating something out of nothing. My own experience has been that reframing this process as a joy and a privilege – a challenge, yes, but one to relish in all its wild glory – has led to a much more rewarding experience of drafting.
My heart draft is no longer something shameful to disparage, but something special to protect.
More About Emily
Emily Rooke is the author of ‘The Dying Light’ and ‘A Silent Night’. She has lived in a number of different cities, including Osaka and Berlin. She was born in the south-east of England and is a graduate of the University of York and King’s College London. She currently lives and writes in Tbilisi, Georgia. She is often anxious and checks things far more often than is necessary. Nothing makes her happier than when she spots a dog coming towards her.
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