Go Nuts!- Rough Drafts

Published by audenjohnson on

The first draft is going to be garbage. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Say it with me- the first draft is going to be garbage. Do not sit at your computer or over a notebook and expect to churn out Shakespeare at your first go. It will not be perfect; will not be close to perfect. I’ve been writing and studying writing since I knew how to but even now, after I’ve written too many stories to count, I do not expect the first draft to be anything astounding. The whole purpose of it is to move the story from your head to paper or computer.

I’m writing out a story that’s been in my head for awhile now. I called it, in Novel Planning, the draft before the draft. My characters are demons but I don’t know what their powers are yet. I don’t have to. If I want them to shoot beams of flowers out of their eyes I can. The first draft is the time for you to go nuts- experiment. It may sound silly now but- you know what the great thing about being a writer is… we can make anything sound spectacular. You may find you like it after you’ve given it some thought.

Some writing advice says to reread what you’ve already written before continuing on. Try it, if it works for you great! I used to do that but in the end, I found I wasn’t going anywhere. I’d spend so much time polishing what I’ve already written, I wouldn’t write anything new. Then, I read in Susan Bell’s The Artful Edit how some authors gain distance by not rereading as they wrote so, I tried it and love it. Now, I don’t look back. If I just finished a scene and think of a way to do it differently, I write the scene down in my journal then add it when I’m editing. Because of this, I’ll be rereading my draft and won’t even know what happens next! I’d find little surprises like a phrase or dialogue I don’t remember writing but love. I make only minor edits during the first reread and use the comment function in Word a lot. If something doesn’t make sense- insert a comment. If something needs to be reworded- comment. If a scene moves to fast- comment.

I plan as I go along. I first write out the story then see where my holes are and figure out how to fix them. This frees me to experiment more, to allow the story to take me in a direction I didn’t plan. For one novel I’d been working on, I intended the female protagonist to be the main voice but as I wrote, I found I was writing more from the male’s perspective and I really like it. Letting the story write itself will take you in a different direction, it may even be the wrong direction but that’s what editing is for.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re like me, no one will read your story anyway until you’re ready for them to. If you have a story in your head and don’t know where to begin, sit in front a notebook or computer and just start writing. It doesn’t have to make sense. The scenes don’t need to be in order. You can start in the middle if you wish. Your scenes, your words are not set in stone. You can change them later. Go nuts, have fun and see where it takes you. Writing is an adventure. Experiment- find what route works for you.



Nicole Pyles · July 1, 2011 at 7:59 pm

I love your ideas on how to approach the first draft! So often it seems as if there are "rules" to writing. But I often come up with scenes in my head well before they are written.

Lately, I am working on a book that I did get started, but now, after 40 pages, I feel like I have enough of a start to outline and develop a character. So, I am sort of going backwards in a sense.

I'm also with you on not rereading! I have done that before with awful results — aka all I do is rewrite!

Good post!

Auden Johnson · July 1, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Thanks Nicole and good luck with your book!

Debra Gray-Elliott · July 1, 2011 at 11:45 pm

This is a great post and one I needed.

Auden Johnson · July 2, 2011 at 1:17 am

Glad I could help Debra.

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