Finishing Your First Draft

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Welcome to my first attempt at ADVICE FROM A WRITER!

As of late, I have had many discussions with writers about the complexities of finishing a first draft of a novel.  While my credentials as a fiction writer are still developing, I have learned that comparatively speaking, I have an exceptional pace with first draft writing and a good understanding of the revision process.

Many writers (me included) start with a fantasy scenario that their first draft is their book.  Over time we all discover that -THE END- comes a bit later. Completing a first draft is an extraordinary accomplishment, but no one is publishing first drafts. I heard somewhere that an early draft for the screenplay of Good Will Hunting included aliens and a space ship or something. That award winning screenplay was somewhat of a different animal. In my first draft of Circling one of my characters was almost a murderer. Who she ended up being, was very different. In my writers workshop, we discussed an average of six full revisions for a completed novel. SIX! Circling is on it’s SEVENTH revision!

Why?

Finding a story is one thing. Creating complex, interesting characters within a cohesive, well developed story is quite another. I can’t sit down and start writing with a fully formed character in mind. Some writers begin with a very formal character study before developing a plot – physical description, likes and dislikes, quirks, habits, car make and model, favorite ice cream, sexual preferences, etc. This is not my way. I like to feel my way into the plot and see how the character acts and reacts to the circumstance as they develop. My Book 2 male lead is exhibiting some unusual character traits. After 25,000 words, it became clear that his mother was abusive. This developed out of words and scenes written, not out of a preconceived notion of a character that I want to fit into a box. This is my way. You can find your way.

That being said, for successful first draft writing – that means letting the words out – THERE MUST BE A WILLINGNESS TO SUCK! This is the most important part of first drafting. I’d love for every word I write to be considered perfection, but it is far from it. Perfection (always a dicey word) comes from editing and revising and examining and rethinking and reordering and editing and revising. Rinse and repeat.  I could mull a sentence for thirty minutes in my head to perfect the word choice and the flow to communicate an idea, before letting those words onto my pages. But that doesn’t get a work written. Let it out. Let it breath in the open air.

I visualize my first draft process as a spiral. Here the story starts to unfold and then I discover something about a character on page 26 that requires and adjustment on page 12. Then a scene on page 40 explains what motivated an action on page 17 so I have to go back and expound on that there. It is a fluid back and forth of ever forward motion.

Remember, if you write you are a writer.  Completing a first draft requires you to forgive your writing the imperfections required to, in fact, be a writer.  Relax. Open a bottle of wine, pour a cup of coffee or whatever your are into.  Turn your favorite playlist on repeat. Don’t move. Just type and type and type. Leave perfection for a rose on a rosebush or a cloudless blue sky.

Write your first draft, because you are a WRITER.

 

4 thoughts on “Finishing Your First Draft

  1. Yes, yes, yes! This post couldn’t be anymore perfect. First of all, I write exactly as you do. I start with a very basic raw concept, and as I go it starts to unfold and shape itself. Which is awesome and beautiful and a hugee headache for revisions 🙂 I average probably four complete rewrites and dozens of revision stages. But that’s part of the journey, and I’ve come to (sometimes) love that part too. All of it is writing, all of it is creating a beautiful story. But yes, you absolutely have to give yourself permission to suck in that first draft, or words would never get down. You can fix bad writing, but you can’t fix a blank page 🙂

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