A-Z Blog Challenge Post By April Moore
“You write the first draft with your heart. You write the second draft with your head.”
First drafts. They’re inescapable; that novel, essay or short story has to start somewhere. How writers do them varies. First drafts can be exciting and dare I say, fun? Getting brand new ideas, thoughts and characters out of your head may be exciting and invigorating. Some, however, may associate the task with another F-word because they’re unsure of which direction to take and might end up feeling stalled. Here are two common methods of getting that first draft down:
The Bare Bones Writer. This is usually done quickly, getting the gist of the story down on paper (or electronically) as it comes into your head. Knowing you can fill in the holes and add the “guts” to the bones later, takes the pressure off of you—for now. Some writers feel this method is very motivating and it helps those who tend to lose their train of thought easily. On the flip side, writers may find they become overwhelmed with the amount of work still left to do when they return to fill it all in. Suddenly, their motivation is in jeopardy and they’re left with just the skeleton of a story.
The Long-Winded Writer. Taking their time, writers jot down everything and anything that comes to their mind, spilling their proverbial heart until there’s nothing left. For some, cutting out extraneous words, sentences, and paragraphs is easier than having to add content. This can also be a daunting and overwhelming endeavor, especially if there are lines and passages they love, but know they should cut for clarity and flow. It can become a struggle where editing out content starts to hurt. The story is then at risk of losing its momentum and structure along the way.
Is there really a right and wrong way to do write a first draft?
Dissertation coach, Dr. Rachna Jain, advises her clients “to write a messy first draft, one filled with passion and developing thoughts and enthusiasm.” She also tells them that writing is writing. It’s not revising. It’s not editing. It’s just writing.
In Bird by Bird, Ann Lamott devotes a chapter to “Sh*tty First Drafts” and says, “The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.”
I tend to tackle a first draft with a good old fashioned pencil and pad of paper. Ideas seem to flow better, while a blank Word document intimidates me. On paper, at least I can doodle if I get stuck or lose my train of thought—otherwise, I’ll check email, read the latest Twitter updates, and basically drown my inspiration by surfing the net. Once my ideas are down on paper, that first “computer” draft is much easier to plow through.
Or . . . you can take Calvin’s advice:
How do you approach a first draft?
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