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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  1. I'm taking away a lot from your writing and experience Tina. Found myself in the same situation. I often write with my eyes closed. It's a pretty cool experience. I subscribed to your emails as well. Happy writing my friend!

    1. Thanks Peg! So glad to have you aboard... will be updating this shortly (I promise! LOL)


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