Finishing Your First Draft


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!


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.


Not So High Anxiety Adventures

I write this from a lounge chair in Utah, facing a stunning pool, surrounded by majestic mountains. Sometimes my day job has nifty perks.

These perks are a rarity so I am getting the most out of this adventure. My first commitment isn’t until 8:00 p.m. tonight so I took an early flight to enjoy a full day. After a 3:45 a.m. wake up and an unusually smooth hop through the airport,  I boarded a long flight. And what a great flight! 

I finished Arran Bhansal’s beautiful novel, Infertility, Infidelity and Insanity. His very smart, brutally honest portrayal of a terribly challenging time in his life is shared in luscious prose. I couldn’t put it down and I applaud Arran for his bravery and his clarity of thought. Visit his page to learn more.  I’m not a reviewer, but I can tell you if I were, Arran gets very high marks.  I don’t trust hyperlinks on my phone so…


I made good progress on Book 2. The characters are developing voices and starting to speak to me.  The joy that brings me is impossible to describe. I was a little worried it was a one and done thing, but it seems to be ongoing. My god I love writing. Don’t you?

So I finally arrived in Salt Lake City. I have never traveled this area of the country as there are no beaches. I decided to be a big girl and rent a car and explore. Lord only knows when I’ll have this opportunity again. I picked up the little SUV and got some excellent advice from the rental agent for how to spend my day. I followed her instructions to a tee and they were great instructions.
Without getting boring with details,  suffice to say I did the following:

Navigated all the hell over the place all by myself, on unfamiliar highways, blaring Mumford and Sons with all four windows open, staring at unfuckingbelievably gorgeous snow capped mountains with tears in my eyes.

I hiked a very steep trail. Alone. I could have fallen to my death in any number is places and no one would have ever heard me scream.  And I should mention I was neither raped nor murdered. Authors note: we don’t do much trail hiking alone on a weekday around DC.


Lastly I explored Park City and had a marvelous lunch overlooking a city that looks more like a movie set. A hostess was very shitty to me and I did NOT tell her to fuck off. Yay me.


All in all it has been a great day. I had to share. The moral of my story… Get the fuck out of your comfort zone. It’s a hell of a lot of fun out here.

It’s Not All Good

In the interest of maintaining a somewhat honest blog, I need to just vent about this crap day. I intend to rant for about 250 words and then wrap it up with a tidy little bow of optimism at the end. Or maybe I’ll add a link to a song instead. Let’s see how it goes…

I’m sick. Nothing bad, just a nasty cold that includes strange symptoms of whininess and overeating. My preference is always wine to whine, but this is over taking me! Yesterday’s sick day cost me a box of Kleenex, but allowed me 14 hours of revisions on my current draft. I pulled a few “big reveals” out of dialog and wrote the scenes as flashback. This was very challenging. I think the pain was cloaked in dialog because writing snappy conversation around the action isn’t so gut wrenching. I did terrible things to my poor characters!  I bled all over the damn page. It felt horrible, but effective.

Needless to say I spent a sleepless night with violent nightmares, those really bad ones where I have to get up and walk the house to shake it off. If only I had walked to the basement.

I awoke feeling crappy, but the good girl in me got ready for at least a half day at work. Until – the discovery of a flooded basement. Insert curse words, dripping towels, wet vacs, probably ruined carpets, and all that mundane garbage that will never find its way onto my pages.

And then my cell phone died.
And I’m heading out of town for a wedding tomorrow.

Sooo – 90 minutes at the Verizon store (not too bad actually), where dueling sound systems playing different music from two sides of the store blared into my brain. It was good music too. As punishment for all of my life’s crimes, I sat in the middle, until I thought the sensory overload would be the death of me.

There is probably more, but I’m getting sick of me and my word count is high. I’m going to turn my whine into a glass of wine and set up my new cell phone. I’ll wallow just long enough to share this song with you. It reaches my most miserable core. Truly I am grateful for every minute of every day, but this day has been fucktastic.