Hey guys, this is the latest post in my series About Writing. This week I’m covering writing another subject I touched on briefly in my step-by-step guide to writing your first story. I know a lot of writers struggle to get past their first draft, so I hope this is helpful. If there’s anything specific you’d like me to cover in future, you can drop me a line.
1) Write now, edit Later
One of the hardest things about getting through the first draft is separating out your inner writer from your inner editor. Each role uses different parts of the brain and they’d don’t co-operate well. If you let your editor take over while you’re still in first draft, you’ll never make any real progress. Worse still, your inner editor isn’t really going to do a good job until it’s got a complete piece to work with. Worrying too much about sentence structure and characterisation when your plot doesn’t even have an ending is like taking two steps forward and one step back. When you’re writing your first draft, leave your editor at the door. His time will come.
2) Have a plan and know it well
We’ve covered before why it’s so important to have a plan, even a loose one. You’ll encounter seat-of-the-pants writers all the time, but they’ve usually honed their skills over years. Just remember, writing isn’t like following a set of blueprints. You need to be free to write what comes to mind and get a feel for the piece. Your plan should be clear enough, and loose enough that you can learn the major points without too much worry. Then when it comes to writing, you can just sit at the keys without having to refer back to your plan. Get the story clear in your mind, and the words will flow soon after.
3) Don’t be afraid to go off script
A plan is important, but it’s usually a little sterile. They’re created from the spark of a bright idea, but often a plan just hammers out a functioning plot from that premise. During the writing process you’re going to be setting off a lot more sparks in your head, you need to be free to follow these whims if and when they crop up. A plan should prevent you writing yourself into a corner, but if you find it’s inhibiting new ideas, take a detour. Whatever happens, you’re in control, and you can always find a way back the pre-arranged path if you need to. The idea is to always do what’s best for the story.
4) Specifics can wait
Don’t get bogged down in the details. The best thing about a first draft is that nothing is permanent, you can always sort things out later. Can’t decide on a name for a new character? Don’t sit back and mull it over until you find the perfect name, write the first name that comes into your head and move on. The same goes for any little details. Technical details, place names, references, sources for quotes. Whatever it is, it can probably be worked out later. Just write whatever you have now, and mark the place with a little star. When it comes to rewriting, you can take as much time as you like making it perfect.
5) Write unrestrained
Restrictions and confinements are as much a part of good art as unbridled creativity. Painters study colour wheels to learn which colours go together and which don’t, musicians usually confine themselves to musical scales. For a writer, rewriting is very much a process of restricting, restraining and cutting writing to make it read better. In the first draft, however, it’s important for the writer to be as liberated as possible in their approach. This means you should write every sentence as it comes to you. Don’t worry if the language seems corny, or if the subject matter starts to become graphic or distasteful. Don’t worry about subtlety, be totally overt about what you want to say and why. When it comes to rewriting, you’re going to smooth things down and clean things up. Make sure you know exactly what you’re trying to say first.
If this article was useful to you, take a look at my other posts exploring the writing process, or check out some of my books on Amazon. Subscribe using the box on the right for more updates and articles.