Monday, September 16, 2013

Attacking That First Draft

The worst thing you write is better than the best thing you didn't write - Unknown

I plunged into the first draft of my novel as if that was what would be submitted to a publisher so I had to get it right. I have since learned that was absolutely the wrong way to approach it. I was setting myself up for failure right at the start. First of all, not even the best writer just rattles off the perfect novel in the first, or even the second draft. Secondly, I was boxing myself into a corner thinking all of the characters were solid and the story plot would remain the same throughout this magnificently written yarn. I am now approaching this with a new mindset.

For the thousands of writers working on their first drafts, only a small percentage of them actually finish it. The pitfalls are many, but I believe doubt and fear are the biggest culprits. I start off on a huge high, but by the time I've hit the first 30 pages I already doubt myself. Is this story going anywhere? Is it flowing evenly or am I jumping around with too many characters and backstories
that may confuse the reader? Even though my genre is fantasy, it’s based on historical data. Are my facts right? Are my characters believable? Is this grammar correct? Maybe he/she shouldn't do or say this or that, but I've already written it, so I’ll try to work around it. I found myself bogged down in pausing to research things that stop the process of writing for days. In doing that, I found relief. I didn't have to face the page again for a while. This was ruining my joy. The joy I feel when I write without hesitating to examine every motive I have for each word on the page. I have come to realize writing and rewriting the first parts of the story to try to make it perfect instead of surrendering to the process really is a stalling tactic. It’s a fear of actually writing something that’s total crap! 

When I draw or paint; I sketch first. I use a pencil, draw lightly and eek out vague images of what will be. I know it’s just the bones of the drawing - the meat comes later. I should do the same with writing. So I have rethought my plan of attack for my first draft. I will look at my first draft as the bones of the story. First, make an outline – and be prepared not to stick to it. The outline will be my guide through the corridors until I get to the ballroom (to dance, of course). I now know that my characters may change or fade away all together.  New subplots or characters may appear. I will free myself to allow the story to go in unexpected directions, even to the point where the main plot may change.

When I realize I need to fill in more information or research something for accuracy, instead of stopping I'll just highlight these sections in red. After the complete story is laid out I can go back and fill in whatever may be needed or correct any historical faux pas. This actually makes me feel a lot better about approaching and finishing that first draft. What was I thinking? Of course I'm not limited to that draft. I’m writing it on a computer – editing is no problem at all. Nothing is “written in stone” and no one needs to see it until I'm ready. I just need to remember that during the first draft I wear my creative hat and in the second draft I put on my editing hat. I plan to really enjoy that first draft now that I realize I can write with wild abandon! As my friend and author Mariam
Kobras always says… “writers write.” So, off I go. I am reclaiming the pure joy of writing – the most uninhibited, creative, exciting part of the whole process! I am determined not to be one of those writers who never finish the first draft. I’m stubborn. I will find my way through this process to the bitter (well, hopefully not bitter) end! 

What are your thoughts about writing a first draft? Have you started and then stopped because you felt “stuck” or that your story just wasn't good enough? Did you leave it and come back at another time? Did you just abandon it altogether? Or maybe you are a published writer. Do you remember the emotions, setbacks, triumphs of finally finishing that first draft? Please feel free to leave a comment below. I find reading other writers comments and questions very helpful to others who are researching about the craft of writing.

Below I have posted 10 Rules for Writing First Drafts. I thought they were some great rules to think about when writing your first draft. Good luck with yours and KEEP WRITING!

Until next time… Tina 

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Reality just is not cooperating with my expectations!

Writing a novel is hard work.  In my mind I imagined myself sitting down at my desk, coffee in hand, industriously hammering away on my laptop.  All those characters and story plots dancing around my brain would just waltz out onto that page and miraculously gel into a perfect syncopated rhythm, similar to a great piece of jazz music.

The cold, hard reality is that although there are times the story does just fly out of your fingertips you eventually hit that wall.  Just what direction is this character taking me and if I go there does that ultimately change the vision of who I thought this character was?  If I let him develop "on the fly" like this, will it change the essence of my story line?  I didn't want to allow every character I introduce have the ability to just take off in any direction and possibly sabotage my story.  I needed to know more about my characters.  I needed to know, in my mind, exactly where their ego, mood, disposition and motivation would take them.  I knew I had to learn everything about them from the cadence of their speech to which foods they hate and which foods they eat for comfort.

Facebook is a wonderful social media tool.  If you have ever read my blog a Marzocca's Europe, you will know how essential it has been not only in redirecting the course my life has taken, but allowing me the opportunity to reach out to people in life and death situations. Sounds overly dramatic, but is actually true.

available on
This being said, it was not surprising that it was through a Facebook friend that I was introduced to Mariam Kobras, author of The Stone Trilogy. She was kind enough to offer me advice and encouraged me to get onto Twitter, which I did.  I have to admit, I'm not very comfortable on Twitter yet and I don't really use it as much as I should.  But if you are not on there, I suggest you create an account and start following people.  Mariam was gracious and introduced me to some of her fellow authors and I have learned (and am learning) so much from them I almost have to take a step back because my head is spinning.  There is so much great advice and insight to gain from other writers it is well worth the leap into the Twitter realm.

It was through Twitter I was introduced to K.M. Weiland.  Ms. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction and mentors other writers through her website, editing services, workshops, books, CDs, and blogs. I sorely needed to get to know my characters and had no idea how to do a character sketch for my novel.  It was through a free download of her "Crafting Unforgettable Characters" that I found out just how detailed I really needed to get.  In preparing my sketches (with my own additions) I found a voice for my characters. Surprisingly, I also found a better direction and a new confidence in the way I want to tell my story.  It was a great help to me.  This prompted me to download her books "Outlining Your Novel" and the newly released "Structuring Your Novel."  I am in the process of devouring the information and using it to get my book going in a structured and organized way.  I highly recommend her books if you are struggling to get your story out. They are written clearly and easy to understand.  Her points make good sense and I felt that I was finally being pointed in the right direction.  It is for this reason I am featuring K.M. Weiland's newest publication "Structuring Your Novel" as my first feature in my very post blog post for OPENING PARAGRAPH.

I hope that you find the information on this blog helpful.  Please feel free to comment or email me with any questions/comments/suggestions.  If you are a fiction author who is published or about to be published and would like to be a guest blogger, I invite you to contact me.  I know that this is a new blog and it hasn't built a great number of followers yet, but I think that this blog could be very informative to those of us who are struggling with our first works.  Your sage advice would be most welcome!

Until next time... Tina

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