Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Shitty First Draft



Why would anyone want to write a shitty first draft? Why pour hours of hard work into something that you know isn't going to be good enough to share with even your most trusted readers? The answer is simple. When you’re done you have a beginning, middle and end. You've gotten to know each of your characters. You've created their world. You've discovered what’s important to your characters. What they will face. How their actions affect the people around them. You started a journey and made it to the end, a task some writers never accomplish.

I think it’s important to get the first draft written. It creates a foundation you can build on. I've found that by the time I reach the second half of a first draft I've learned so much about my characters that I hadn't know when I began their story. By pushing my way through the first draft I discover little hints that can be woven into the beginning chapters to foreshadow things to come. I know exactly what needs to happen in that chapter I stumbled through.

The revising process is when I look at my work with a critical eye. I add sensory detail that I may have missed. I add in the necklace that is important to my character because it represents the memory of her mother or the brief encounter with a quirky neighbor that explain something that happens later on in the book. And I add the missing details needed to allow readers to draw a picture of each scene in their minds as they read.

Everyone has a process that works for them. Over the years I've discovered that there’s no need for me to stress over what my characters discuss at the breakfast table in chapter two because the answer will come to me as I work my way through the first draft.

How about you? Do you polish each chapter as you write them or do you let the words flow and go back later to do the polishing?

10 comments:

  1. I always write with the end in mind. If something happens in the middle and the story veers too far off course, I stop to fix things. I generally break the thing into chunks and edit big chunks after the first draft of the chunk is done. I think it's interesting how everyone does it differently. I say do what works for you.

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    1. I love to hear how others tackle their stories. I have to admit that while I usually have an idea of what will happen at the end of a new project when I start writing it my characters have been know to have me changing my mind somewhere in the middle of a story.

      Thanks for sharing your process!

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  2. You are spot on about getting the first draft written. I am so struggling with that, right now. I have three projects going and I am so stalling with each, unsure where I want to go. I tried singling-out just one story, but that didn't work either.

    Guess I just have to forge forward and write!

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    1. I've been in your shoes. Have you tried skipping a chapter or just jotting down a lot of what if this and what if that? Those tricks usually help me when I'm stalled.

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  3. The hard part for me is going back through the first draft. Smaller works I can handle. It's the larger word counts, the big novels that stress me out when revising. I've got two first-drafted novels, and I'm yet to go back it. :/ First drafts I just plow through, but I'm wondering if I revised some while drafting, if they wouldn't be so intimidating in the end.

    Great post, Cherie!

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    1. Revising is one of my favorite steps, but I know what you mean about it be intimidating. I do have friends who revise as they go and it works for them.

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  4. I'm a polisher-as-I-go. But I also get through the first draft and come back for a second and third. With my published MG there were six drafts before I thought I was done. Oh, and I was far from done.

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    1. I here you on that. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. First drafts are such a struggle! It's so nice when they are done and there is something to work with instead of starting with a blank screen every day.

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