Thursday, July 16, 2009

Your first draft

...right now I'm nearing the end of another first draft, and I've been having a conversation with people I know about their first drafts. It seems like we all write in different ways:

- spewing out onto the page, worrying about it in revisions
- making an outline and carrying that thing out, baby, come what may
- making an outline and deviating some
- writing but editing as we go for a cleaner first draft (leaving heavy rewriting for revisions)

I'm the last sort. I like to re-read my last chapter or so, before I start so I have a good indication of where it's going, a cleaned-up first draft, and a stronger idea of changes that will have to be made in revisions (and I note them in the text).

How do you write your first drafts?


  1. Well, as evidenced from history, I apparently produce an outline, write 20k words, deviate, chop 10k words, rewrite back to 24k, chop another 9k, retool the outline...

    Can you see a trend here? :)

  2. For the most part, I'm of the last variety. I'll write madly, sometimes tens of pages at a time (long hand, I always write full length in long hand first). But then I'll get interrupted or have to stop for rest, or I'll go to sleep on the damn notebook, and when I come back to it, I'll sit and read over the last pages I wrote, changing things and re-insinuating myself into the story.
    One thing I have noticed, is that the more ms's I write, the tighter they are on the first go around. *duh* I know, but I thought my writing would improve, I didn't expect it to, streamline, as it has. Not that I don't edit a ton, but it's the difference between chopping 40k words of blather, and fine tuning. I find that I'm more concise and to the point, without the extra nattering, so unless I want to change a scene entirely (which I've done on several occasions because I'm now working on the fourth ms in a series and have the chance to lay them out and tweak for where it's all going) I don't have to overhaul anything like I'm rebuilding a '38 chevy shine runner.

  3. Same as you, but I also edit line-by-line as I go. I just can't help it. Makes it slow going but tighter in the end for less work in revision time. Though there's still plenty to do in that phase too.

  4. I sit down at the computer and write. I don't outline. I just write. Subsequent drafts are for clean-up on aisle six. The first draft is to get the story out of my brain and onto the hard drive of my computer. It works.


  5. I used to edit more as I went, but it really slowed me down. My word count just wasn't climbing. Then, it hit me. Why don't I just let it be? I know I'm going to change things when I revise and edit, so why not just write and get the darn thing done? Every once in a while, the editor in me kicks in, but for the most part, this seems to be working.

    Lynnette Labelle

  6. I'm with Scott and Lynnette.

    I sit down and just try to write it all out and if I remember something I need to fix or change or if I think of a scene I should have written, I write it all down in a notebook to do once the 1st draft is finished.

    Of course, sometimes I just can't help editing. I see something that's wrong and I have to fix it or it'll drive me nuts.

  7. Mostly I slam it out, and rewrite in revision, but before I start a session, I will go back and re-read the last few pages so I can get back into the flow.

    I do a really brief outline, but mostly I see the ending, which usually has a very twisty path to get there, start from the beginning, and fill in the middle.

    Along the way lots of things change, sometimes the ending, sometimes the beginning, until I finally get the first draft done. Then the real work begins, cutting out the unneeded scenes, characters, etc.

  8. I spew a lot onto the page, then go back and muck around, tightening up things, wrenching a little here and there, and sometimes scrapping a whole lot. I think I write better that way.

    I don't want to stress about every sentence being perfect the first time. That, and I get a rush/buzz from editing my work (is that weird?).

    I'm 20+ chapters into my first draft of my WIP and so far, it feels more like all these ideas, characters and themes are bits of fabric I'm quilting together as I write.

    Writing my first novel is a trip I've only just begun but my bags are packed and I'm in it for the long haul.

  9. I'm a combination of the third and fourth on your list. I've tried the first and it didn't work too well for me.

  10. I typically just sit down and write, but unlike most people, whom I believe have a tendency to put to much in the first go around, I don't write enough. So, what I do first I call a skeleton draft, essentially a very well detailed outline I guess you could call it, then I go in and add material to help the bring the story to life. After that, (which I consider to be the first draft) I will edit starting with the second draft.

  11. i'm experimenting w/ the snowflake method. it's very different from how i've written first drafts before, but i wanted to explore a tighter weave, one that front-loaded a great deal of the thinking and work.

    we'll see how it works for me :P


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