Monday, 20 July 2009

About Writing First Drafts

So you want to write a story. It can be a novel or a short story or anything in between. You've done your research, you've made an outline if you're using one, and your world is built if needed.

What do you do now?

You write it of course. We're writers (even those of us - like me - who aren't published yet), that's what we do.

Somehow we manage to make it more complicated than that but it really isn't.

There is however some advice which can help (well it helps me, I hope it'll help you).

  1. Get anything you need notewise together, grab your pen or keyboard, and do battle with the sea of whiteness. Believe the first line is the hardest - once screen or page has words on it it no longer seems so intimidating.
  2. And in this vein never end your days writing at the end of a page - make sure when you start again the next day the page you start on is already sullied by words. It'll make it easier.
  3. Don't edit yet. Editing and writing are psychologically different processes. First draft is a heart thing and editing is a head thing. Most people can't pull them off at the same time. Just keep writing - yes, it's a mess. You can sort it out later. (Note I said most - a few people can pull it off and find it impossible to seperate the two)
  4. Again in this vein. Don't reread - if your notes are good enough you shouldn't need to fact check, and you reread you'll notice how bad it is and either start tweaking what's already written and never move forward, or worse become despondant and stop writing.
  5. Know that it is the nature of first drafts to be lousy - almost anything is fixable with rewritting and editing.
  6. Set yourself a daily goal in wordcount, but don't beat yourself up if you miss it. Just make sure you write something every day.
  7. Have fun. You're creating art here and that should be fun.
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2 comments:

zoewhitten said...

Huh, well this just goes to show that what works for some people doesn't apply to others. Going through your list, I reread research all the time to make sure I'm getting the words right. I finish on sullied pages most every night and get up the next day to keep working without issues.

I also edit a lot, and I have no problems getting projects finished. In fact, sometimes while I'm thinking, Why did this happen, it doesn't make sense, the muse replies, "So go back and add this to chapter 4. Then the decision here will make more sense in that context."

It doesn't work for other people though, and I think it works for me only because I have the displine to know when to quite adding back information and just forge ahead on what I've already written anything I really don't like can be fixed in the revisions, right?

Interesting post, if for no other reason than it made me see how different we are in our approaches to the writing process.

Becky said...

Yep, it's definately true that everyone is different. That's why there's so many books purporting to tell us the one true way of writing (which amounts to what works for that author). They can be interesting, but they only have occassional use.