In the early 1990s, George R.R. Martin (GRRM) called it quits with Hollywood and hunkered down at his home in New Mexico. He was tired of being told to cut his scripts down, and he wanted to write a sprawling epic that was not constrained by budgets or other meddlesome hands. He began to write his A Song of Ice and Fire Series (which the mainstream public primarily knows as Game of Thrones).
GRRM, of course, has weathered criticism for the length of time that occurs between his novels. I’ve been a fan of ASOIAF since 2000, and I’m definitely someone who gets impatient with the delays. But as I was thinking about his books, and their relatively recent mainstream fame, I’ll bet there are times when GRRM wishes for the peace and serenity of working on that first draft. When he started writing the series, he was a well-known figure in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror fandom, and he obviously had contacts in Hollywood, but the Ice and Fire novels hadn’t hit the bestseller lists, and he hadn’t achieved his current level of mainstream fame.
And that got me to thinking about my own fiction and my friends’ projects.
All writers are basically GRMM when we face a blank page on our computer, tablet, or notebook.
I’m a writer who has a very strong urge to self-edit. It’s actually a personality trait (which is a topic for another blog post), but it can be oppressive when I’m working on a new story or project. I’m learning to let go and just enjoy the initial process of drafting, of creating itself. It’s okay to go onto strange tangents in the first draft stage, and it’s okay to write scenes and dialogue that are not polished. It’s a draft. The first draft. It needs to live and breathe and take its first few imperfect and awkward steps.
Because I know that one day, external success or not, I’ll think back happily to the moments of writing a first draft, when the future was unknown and it was just me, the story, and the characters.