My Writing Process: The Painful First Draft

For the next collection of random tips I’ve learned from about creating a book, let’s transition from outlining to writing. It is always a small step that for which you never feel ready to take. But it is the most necessary one to go from having an idea to being a writer.

Whatever push you need to make that shift, find it and do it. Just write.

The ‘perfect plan’ is always to simply start and figure out how to continue along the way. For how specifically, simple is usually best.

For me it was as simple as making a small promise to myself. That promise was that no one, not one soul would ever read my first draft. It could be as Godawful as imaginable, but it didn’t matter since no one else would read it.

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

– Terry Pratchett

This little change in mentality makes the process just that tiny bit more manageable. Just enough to be workable.

Without vulnerability, one cannot create.

This is from a talk Brené Brown gave about vulnerability and handling critics. These two quotes hang out at the bottom of each page I write to help silence that small voice that says it isn’t good enough.

The first draft doesn’t have to be great or even good. It just has to be written on the page. It doesn’t have to be a work of art on the first try. In fact that isn’t even the goal. It can be a work of garbage. A work of garbage on paper is still better than a work of art that never leaves your head. After all, garbage on paper can be edited and improved, but it’s useless to be a creative genius if you never create. 

The promised random collection of tips:

  • When stuck in one section, leave a bunch of white space and a bold marker with a couple of sentences for what needs to happen in that scene or chapter. Then move on. 
  • For writers block or when you have a great idea for a scene, open a new document and write out that scene or chapter. Many a scenes can be written with an exciting idea and then worked into the story as planned or as needed. Or not at all. There are chapters that never made it back into my book and still remain in lost files on my computer. But writing a little something that is exciting to you is better than stagnating in writers block.
  • Keep a separate document just for that story to write out short snippets, paragraphs and use them as needed throughout the story. I personally find it exciting when I reach a point in my story and realize I already have a piece written for it or the perfect quote for a character to say about a situation.

Find one odd thing that makes everything else easier

Finding whatever works for you is the best way to get the work done. 

For me, I write best when I’m standing. This works for me in two ways. One, I pace when I think and standing while I’m writing is one less inhibition for actively thinking, having to stand up and sit down multiple times during a writing session gets tiring without contributing to my work. Secondly, I have a rule about surfing the web, don’t go online whenever I’m standing. It’s enough of a difference from sitting at my dest to check email or watch YouTube videos. just standing up is enough of a cue that it’s time to write rather than any other work activity.

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