I'm a fan of the crappy first draft. It's remarkably freeing to give yourself permission to write clunky dialogue, or thin and watery descriptions, knowing you can go back and fix them later. But lately I've also begun to see first drafts as more than just initial word crap.
I've begun to see them as underpainting.
What is underpainting, you ask?
According to Wikipedia:
In art, an underpainting is an initial layer of paint applied to a ground, which serves as a base for subsequent layers of paint. Underpaintings are often monochromatic and help to define colour values for later painting.
EssentialVemeer.com has this to say:
In its simplest terms, an underpainting is a monochrome version of the final painting intended to initially fix the composition, give volume and substance to the forms, and distribute darks and lights in order to create the effect of illumination...Color was then applied over the underpainting only when it was thoroughly dry.
It also adds:
Underpainting is rarely practiced today. For the last century, artists have simply begun painting directly on commercially pre-prepared white canvases with full color surpassing anything but a abbreviated drawing. Therefore, neither the function or the practice of underpainting are well understood.
I can understand why it fell out of fashion. Why paint the same picture twice?
Because that's how you get depth. Even if the first layer is completely painted over, it still informs and supports the picture as a whole. It's a place to get the lighting and the volume right, like in this example of seven layer painting. Or as seen in this video.
In short, underpainting lays out the foundation for the art to come. Just like a first draft.
For example, in City of a Thousand Dolls, I ended up rewriting the end completely, with a totally different set-up. And that was a lot of work, so much so that I actually debated not writing the full ending of this next book and just sending it to my editor in outline form.
But if I hadn't already written the ending to City that I did, I don't think the new ending would have been as solid. What I wrote earlier was like underpainting, making the whole thing better, even though the reader will never see it.
And you know what? I like thinking about first drafts this way. Instead of just wading through a crappy first draft so I can get to revision (my first love), I now see myself as doing essental work for my story, laying down a base coat that will add depth and beauty to my final book.
And that's kind of amazing.
How about you? How do you get through the first draft?