Friday, November 17, 2006

The POS Draft

I believe I first heard this term from Nora Roberts. In an interview she was describing her very first draft of a novel, the one she just spit out onto the page with no thoughts about editing or word count or even, necessarily how it was all going to end up. She called it her POS. Piece of $hit.

Would that my finished, polished, edited and critiqued draft had the same selling power as Ms. Roberts’s POS. But anyway, that’s what she calls it.

I’ve begun using the term and have added it to my official writing vocabulary. All my first drafts will be called POS from now on. Not because I think of my writing as a POS...though I do have my moments, but because I think it sums up the way we need to look at our very first draft. If you struggle and strain over a first draft, agonizing over the placement of every word and every comma, and you edit it to death, you may never make it to your second draft. Granted you might have something nice when you’re finally finished with that draft, but if it took you four years to complete it what good is it?

I’ve realized the value of getting something down on paper. Just write. That’s one of the best pieces of advice I would give any new writer. Just write. Worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation and the eloquent turn of phrase later. Get the story down and give yourself permission to write a POS because you can fix it. As Ms. Roberts has also said, you can’t fix a blank page.

I know the stuff I’ve been writing feverishly this week isn’t my best work. It’s rough, it’s loose, it smells faintly of old gym socks. But I have glimpsed small kernels of the finished product there amid the onion skins and eggshells. I can dig out those diamonds later and polish them to my heart’s content once I have the story out of my head, where it has begun to fester a bit, and on paper where it can’t give me anymore late night headaches.

Do you write a POS draft? Would you to? The freedom of it is a wonderful thing. Take my advice and give it a try.


MK Mancos/Kathleen Scott said...

Oh know I allow myself that POS. You've read it and critiqued it. I think you make a very important point. You have to allow yourself that freedom to get it out on paper and out of the part of your system that turns if from idea to malignancy. I've told my main critique partner more than once that sometimes even I don't know where I'm going with a plot, but I'll flesh it out later. I have to get the skeleton out of the way first. The veins, arteries, and muscle will go on later. Never under estimate the power of a good underlying stucture. It's what the body of your work rests on.


Skylar Masey said...

I don't call mine a POS, but that is in a nutshell what it is. It's what I feel, think, or react to at the moment. But it does get things added, taken out, switched around, and of course jazzed up. Because not everything I write off the top of my head is print ready:0) Though I do have my moments of brilliance...most of the time in the shower or on the potty, when I don't have a pen and paper handy.

Jennifer Elbaum said...

How do you turn off your censor to crank out that draft? Tell me your secrets!!

Xandra Gregory said...

I call it the "discovery draft" - but yeah. It's a POS. I think in little scenes and snippets between characters, and they need to get out more than they need a place to go. If I don't get them out, I spend way too long trying to set them up and end up swinging and missing (baseball analogy there). If you NaNo, that's good for getting your internal editor to STFU for a little while. Using BIAW (book in a week) groups is good for it, too.

I find that I'm more comfortable with a little bit of plot sketched out before starting, though. Yes, I end up hating it and changing it all around, but when I've written myself into a corner, it gives me some place to back out of and get to.