Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How I Write My First Draft

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How I Write My First Draft

After my outline is set, I'm ready to get down to the nitty-gritty process of writing the first draft of the novel. I do this with pen and paper instead of on my computer's word processor. This is for a couple of reasons. First, I enjoy the process much more, and I find if I'm having fun, the words come out better (both in quality and quantity). Second, when I type out what I've written onto my computer, I use that step as a first pass-through in the revision process. I don't make any big changes, but I'm able to clean up sloppy wordings, punctuation, and grammar. This saves me a bit of time later when I'd rather be focusing on fixing the story.

The first draft process is basically nothing more than following my outline. I make sure to keep a notebook open next to me so I can jot down notes that will both help in later chapters as well as in the revision process. Mostly these notes are names I come up with while writing: secondary and other minor characters, places, things important to the story, etc. I also take notes on ideas I have which will improve the story overall. If I haven't yet come to that part, I'll add the notes to my outline after my writing session is done for that day. Sometimes I can simply jot the note down on the appropriate 3x5 card, while other times I'll need to redo a number of cards.

if I come up with changes to parts of the manuscript I've already written, I don't go back and fix it during the first draft stage. I'll simply jot down what needs to change and make those corrections/improvements in the revision process. In the meantime, I continue writing as if those changes have already been implemented. The most important thing in my mind is to get the first draft down on paper. As long as my notes tell me where I began writing as if the changes were in place, it's easy enough to both fix it later without worrying that the story won't work.

For the most part, that's it. As long as i did a good job in the outlining stage, the first draft should run smooth. Of course there are always days where the words flow better than others, but as long as I stick to my outline, I know I'll get through the first draft sooner rather than later. I also keep in mind that overall first drafts are terrible. Sure, on the whole they're good stories with many instances of sparkling writing, but they're also filled with sloppy wordings, cliches, and many other mistakes. That's fine, as I've learned to, for the most part, keep my inner editor at bay during this. I believe first drafts aren't meant for anyone but the author. I don't share my novel with anyone until well into the revision process, but more on that later.

And speaking of the revision process, I'll begin discussing what I do next week. Check back next Wednesday for that. Until then, keep writing and/or reading.