First Draft Dragon

So you made the commitment and now you’re wondering if you should be committed! Never fear! We’re all taking this leap together! And we’re gonna make it together!

If you were going to fear, however, it’s a pretty safe bet that one of the biggest things you’d be wary of would be the dreaded blank page. The horrid emptiness. The beginning. But lesser writers than you have slayed that dragon, so go fetch your trusty pen and your stalwart helmet (aka thinking cap). We’re a’goin’ dragon huntin’, varmint!

When I was in the fourth grade, I read Beverly Cleary’s novel Fifteen. Which is about a girl. Who is 15. And that’s about all I remember. But although I don’t remember the plot, I do remember how it made me feel. And it made me feel like I wanted to WRITE! I decided, at the ripe old age of 10, that I should add my voice to Beverly’s and write a novel like Fifteen. My novel was about a girl name Jeanie, and it was called….Jeanie. Jeanie was spunky and fun and older than I was. Maybe about 15… And I wanted to get her down on paper so badly! But after the first chapter or so, my enthusiasm waned. I wasn’t sure how to actually plow through that first draft. And that’s because I didn’t know the three secrets. But now, you will.

The Three Secrets to First Draft Strategy

Nothing will come out if the faucet isn’t turned on. In my fourth grade mind, a person just decided to wite a book, walked in, sat down, and wrote it. What was all the big fuss? But sometimes you have a hard time making your way into the world of your novel. If you can’t get your head into the story, write until it gets there and throw out all the stuff that made it onto the page before you arrived. Or write about something else. We writers sometimes feel like we must be writing on our specific project day in and day out in order to be productive, and writing outside that isn’t necessary or fruitful. But can you imagine an artist who never doodled? A musician who never played scales? An athlete who never ran outside of races?! Writers need practice. Try one of these great online writing prompt sites to help you flex your muscles and warm up. And although the tap might sputter a bit, the water will quickly warm up and begin to run smooth and clear. http://www.seventhsanctum.com/generate.php?Genname=writeprompt
http://writingexercises.co.uk/index.php

Writing isn’t a linear process. You don’t write like you read – starting at point A and ending up at point B. When I was 10, I thought I had to sit down and begin on page one, and not lift my pen until the last punctuation mark duly graced the last sentence. But that’s very rarely how creativity works! Sometimes a backstory comes to you first. Or an argument that happens 2/3 of the way through the story. Or maybe you know exactly how you want it to end, but you aren’t sure how to get there. No worries! Begin by writing the ending! It’s like trying to remember the lyrics to a song. Have you ever wanted to remember a song and you came up with just one snippet of the chorus? Usually, if you sing that snippet a couple of times, the rest of the song just seems to scroll out from that starting point, in both directions, and soon you remember the whole thing. If you begin writing one scene, regardless of where it is in the plot, the rest will begin to reveal itself right before your very fingers.

The first draft is just a suggestion. Once again, when I was young, I thought you wrote and wrote and at the end of writing you had a novel. The End. But writing isn’t like that! Artists begin with sketches, musicians begin with sight-reading, athletes begin with crummy runs and authors begin with first drafts. Once that first draft has been banged out, though (hopefully by about Nov. 30…) you go back and paint over it. You may move things, eliminate characters, even change important pillars of the story like the setting or the antagonist! Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just telling yourself the story,” but I think it’s even more fluid than that. The first draft is asking yourself what the story is about. You answer in the second draft. So don’t let that first draft scare you! It’s more of a pussycat than a dragon, really, anyway.

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