Writing First Drafts

I am currently working on a first draft of my next project. I previously wrote a bit about drafts in my posts on my writing practice and Scrivener, but there's always more to say. In this post, I would like to discuss some commonly held beliefs about first drafts and what I think about these ideas.

  1. Just sit down and write it. Sometimes, in writing advice, I see an emphasis on word counts and writing speed. However, for me, there's a certain amount of dream time that has to occur before I actually begin to write chapters. I first have to imagine a project. It has to call to me. To the outside observer, this may look like incredibly inefficient dilly dallying. But I need to write notes about characters and the world. I need to figure out the story to the best of my ability. I take my time and fill my head with ideas before I start to write actual chapters.

  2. Keep writing. Don't look back. I give myself permission to work on a scene until it feels right to me. I don't move forward until I'm happy with what I have on the page.

  3. Write the scenes in whatever order you'd like. I have followed this idea before and have since abandoned this practice. As an anxious new writer, it felt great to just choose a scene that felt the least intimidating on any given day. But when it came time to revise, I found that the tone and the emotions in this draft did not progress in a way that made sense. It made for a lot of work in subsequent revisions. I am still in love with scene lists as a way to organize stories. (For some reason, graphs make me profoundly uncomfortable.) But I like to write the story in order so that I can go through the journey with my characters.

  4. It's a painful process. Sure, there are challenging times, but I seriously enjoy writing. I find a lot of joy in the experience.

  5. No one writes in longhand any more. I do. Before I write a scene, I create a mind map in my notebook. Then I write it out in longhand there. I feel I dive in further when I write it first in my notebook. Then I rewrite it in Scrivener. (I attach it to a new digital index card with the chapter title and number and color code it to correspond with note cards I've already created that pertain to this scene. Once I have finished the scene, I move all those notes to another folder, Saved Notes. At the end of my draft, in my Scenes folder, I will only have one card for each chapter with its corresponding draft.)

  6. You need continual feedback on your draft as you write it. This works for some writers. It stops me cold in my tracks. I am private about my work until I feel that I can't “see” it any more, and that's when I turn it over to trusted readers to hear what they can tell me about my story.

As always, every writer is different. I am continually tweaking my own process and checking in with myself to see what feels good to me. But I hope this is helpful, and I wish you happy trails on your writing venture.