Wednesday on Writing: Drafting- A Word about Mechanics

You have a brilliant idea for a story. You know your characters- their virtues, their failings, what they think, feel, do. You know where, when, and why. Now, it’s time to write that Great American Novel (or Short Story or Novella), right?

 Well, maybe. I mean, yes, once you have figured out all of the above, in whatever amount of detail you need to, it is time to start writing. Just don’t expect it to be a Great anything right away.

See, what you are going to do now is write your first draft. Of how many? Well, that depends on a lot of things and is a subject for a later discussion. Right now, I am going to focus on that glorious mess known as the first draft.

First drafts are, by nature, messy and a bit incoherent. This is where you will be working out the intimate details of your story. No matter how meticulous a plotter, planner, and outliner you are, things will come up that you didn’t think of. The plot will twist and turn, characters will show a side you didn’t see, and things will get a bit topsy-turvy. Don’t worry about it. Too much. As we are told many times, that’s what revision is for.

Now, that it not saying you can or even should just let the story meander and jog all over the place. You want to write something that has a definite beginning, middle, and end. You want your main plotline to flow through all the subplots and twisty bits like a (mostly) straight arrow. But don’t worry about exact wording, don’t stop and tweak a sentence until it’s perfect. Just write. Write the story that lives in your head. Bring those characters to life and let them live their adventure. If you can’t think of the exact word you want, note that and move on. I use red text to highlight things like that or things I might need to research a bit more.

Your first draft is that one remarkable moment- well, many moments- where you just let the words spill out, unrestrained and unedited. It is simply getting that story out of your head and onto the paper.

There are, of course, many ways of doing that. Some people just sit down with a wisp of an idea and let it take them where it will. Some plan every detail they can manage and work from that plan. Most writers, I think, fall somewhere in between. Whatever the method, we finish getting the story out of our heads, and then dive in to make it perfect.

So, if you are struggling with your first draft because it doesn’t seem to be perfect as you write it, don’t sweat it. Just write it. The rest is, as they say, what revising is for.


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My Writing