The first draft is the hard part for writers. Writing your story, no matter what the story is, is a process of getting words on paper and then fixing them.
In my last post, I talked about how to get started. The next step in writing your story is to get the first draft out of your head and into a form that can be revised.
Writing your story one word at a time
My process is to dump the first draft out of my head onto the screen. I advise everyone to do this, even though I know it doesn’t work for some.
For me, trying to find the best word, or insert the dazzling dialogue while I go through the first draft slows me down. In fact, it can bring me to a complete stop.
Why? Here are three reasons slow writing the first draft doesn’t work.
The little voice inside that tells you the work is bad. That part of you built out of all the voices that told you you weren’t good enough. When you are writing your story, you need that voice, but not in the first draft. By moving slowly, you give that voice power.
I have tried a few tactics to keep the voice out of the first draft, and the one that works best is to agree with it. I know that sounds counterintuitive. The thing is by arguing you keep the conversation going. Anyone in sales or service knows how to deal with difficult customers. You acknowledge the facts and the feelings. You don’t argue with them about the problem.
The next time your inner editor tells you that the words are stupid, or the plot twist is obvious, try answering this way.
Thanks for pointing it out. You are right, it’s not the best I can do. I need to get the bad writing on the page so that I can get the good writing there too.
The efficiency fallacy
If you are anything like me, you hate wasting time. I used to think that by taking my time with a first draft, I could avoid a revision pass or two. When writing your story, remember that the success of a book comes from the revision and rewriting. Until you have the whole story out, you don’t really know what kernels of brilliance lie in the words.
You won’t save any revision time by trying to get it right on the first pass
The first draft is crap fallacy
So, that inner editor told you all of the words you put on the page in your rush to get the first draft out were crap. Here’s what I hope you’ll find when writing your story, the first draft isn’t crap.
Even though I know this is a fallacy, and it’s been true for all but one of my books, I still think the first draft is going to be embarrassingly bad when I start revision. The first drafts need work, but they tend to be 80% of the way there. And the story is complete, which means I can focus on the writing in revision not the story.
The one book that didn’t fit this pattern was Hubris. I rewrote it three times. That’s right, a complete rewrite. It was one of my first books and I honed my craft on it. There was something about the characters that I couldn’t let go. The final rewrite was fast, the revisions were straightforward and I’m proud of the results.
When writing your story if something isn’t working, try a new process.