I don’t know who originally said it, or in what context, but a quote that always stuck with me was, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” I think sometimes this perfectly sums up the first draft. You could also substitute hell with: crippling self doubt or a candy shop of new ideas or oh God I don’t think I’ll ever pull this off or what will I tell my family when I fail? All of these totally work.
A first draft is not about writing eloquently or writing something that will get you published because you’re never going to write anything if you continually try to make it sound better before it’s finished.
Because beginnings get deleted. And so do middles. And sometimes that ending that you thought was brilliant is completely out of character once you start revising and you’ve got to sit down and figure it all out. Again. Of course, I’ve never finished a manuscript so this is all what I’ve heard and read. But perhaps you’ll be different. Maybe you’re better than all those bestselling authors who have this exact same problem.
So stop trying to sound perfect (I’m talking to myself here, not just you). Stop it. Just get the stupid words on the stupid page and hit enter. Move on with your life. You can come back and make fun of your diction later when you have the confidence that it’s actually going somewhere and that you aren’t revising something you’ll eventually delete because you found a new hobby.
Just keep swimming.
The hard part is that new idea you get. Write it down in a little notebook of new ideas or changes you want to make. Have it sorted and filed if need be. But for crying out loud, don’t scroll back through the thing and start adding it in. That’s a death sentence. You’ll get stuck on it like fly paper and you’ll start telling yourself, “I’m only going to fix typos.. and sentence structure.. and what was I thinking with this prose?” And it gets worse and worse and suddenly you’ve spent a month revising something rather than actually finishing your book. This has never happened to me. Never. Nope. Not once.
I promise you. And again, this is just stuff I’ve heard from people much smarter and more determined than me. When you finally finish (and by that I mean, you type “The End”) you’ll realize that it was all worth it. And then you can put it on a shelf and forget it for a month, which will be the second hardest thing you’ll ever do because it’ll help you when it comes to revising. But you did the whole “write to the end” thing, so you’ll know you’ve got this.