Thursday, January 21, 2010

Writing Process III: The First Draft

The first draft is my least favorite part of writing. Maybe because I outline the crap out of it, and the story holds no surprises (which I'll admit is a bit dull at times).

Maybe it's because the beautiful shiny idea in my head doesn't match what my fingers are putting on the page.

Or maybe it's because I can't seem to turn off my editor and just let the words flow, no matter how hard I try.

Most likely it's a combination of the three. Either way, the first draft is also the hardest part of the writing process for me.

I've come to peace with the fact that I can't turn off my inner editor, so I allow myself to edit and revise as I go along. Before I start writing I re-read the whole last chapter and whatever I've written thus far in the current chapter. I line edit as I go, checking for spelling errors, grammar errors, and sentence structure.

But I don't stop there. I edit the thing as if I were preparing to send it off immediately-- I make sure the dialogue flows, I pay close attention to repeated words, I cut unnecessary words, I deal with dialogue tags, I make sure I'm not using a passive voice, I make sure I don't have run-on sentences (like this one) or use 'I' too much (ditto). Basically I try to make it perfect. Even if it's chapter two, and that's as far as I've written.

Since I've already outlined nearly every detail, it's easy to keep some things in mind as I write. I ask myself: Does this add to the overall story? Is this essential? Is this necessary description, or does it move a character or plot forward? If the answer is 'no' I ditch it right then and there.

Does this take a long time? Yes. A hella long time. My first drafts are painfully slow-- I mean, I read and line edit for at least 20 minutes before I even get to the part that moves the story forward.

Is it worth it? I think so. When I finish, my manuscript will be very clean. I usually don't have to deal with a lot of rewriting/revising. After another read through or two I can send it off to betas, and then they can let me know what works/doesn't work and I take it from there.

In the end, I'd like to think that my "first" drafts are very polished, well thought out, and don't need a lot of work. But I guess you'd have to ask one of my betas to be sure :)


  1. It def. sounds like you have your head straight.

    I like to write my books with what I call the 'core' story. That means everything has to happen to make it all together. From there, I can go on to checking my sub-plots and fat to make it all fit. It works really well for me, but of course everyone has their own style and story telling. =D

  2. To me, first draft high is the best. Maybe that's because I really don't outline so the story kind of unfolds as I tell it. I do line edit a. lot. though and this makes the process go by much slower than I would like.

    Good luck!

  3. I usually write my first draft with no outline. I find it easier to write and more exciting.I love the feeling of not knowing but then the editing is a pain and I am kicking myself the entire time.

    Still, that first high is worth it.

  4. Whew! I am not an editor... I write what I feel, and I don't look back for several days... just read the last sentence I wrote before I begin again... thats amazing!

    It sounds like you have it all worked out though! I think I might have to try this!

    I can't wait to continue following!