My First First Draft

I’ve already documented, to about six people’s amusement, the creatively backward process I used to plot my first novel. I sure hope that my terrible experience can be of some use to people who are taking the same learning path, so at least the skeletons by the side of the road are a grim warning of what not to do.

If plotting was hell, then now I’m in heaven. I’m doing the first draft.

You know when people sit around and dream about being a writer? That is, happily crafting sentences and putting whatever comes into their head onto the page in an ecstasy of creative abandon. Well, that’s what a first draft is for me. The only time you actually get to be that writer that you’ve dreamed of being. For me, doing a first draft is about not looking back, turning off the critical faculties almost completely, or at least on a very low setting, and just getting words down on the page.

I’ve tried writing long things before without planning them first. It doesn’t work for me. I end up getting exhausted at having to think and write at the same time. What happens now? And now? And now?

So now I’m just writing. I’m clocking 2000 words a day. I don’t care if they are good or not, as long as they stick vaguely to the outline that I developed earlier. I think it’s really important to hit word counts on a daily basis to keep you properly on track. For instance, yesterday, I’d managed to do a couple hundred words in the morning before leaving for work. In my lunch hour, I’d managed another 400. After work I did another 300 or so. That still left over a thousand words to do before bedtime. Unfortunately, in the evening, I was at a party, and so I got really drunk and didn’t get home until after midnight. When I got in, I just cranked up the computer and wrote another thousand words in half an hour or so. Are they any good? Probably not. Are they terrible? Maybe, I dunno. I haven’t read them.  I’m not going to reread them until I’ve finished the first draft and the whole thing is down on paper. It would just slow me down if I forced myself to rewrite bad stuff.

Barring problems, such as illness, or inability to find a computer, I’m calculating that it should take about thirty days to finish the first draft. After that, the next stage will be revising and rewriting, which is where I intend to put in most of the work in terms of beefing up descriptions, rewriting clunky sentences, and changing or removing parts which don’t work.

I will then do a further revision to pick up on errors and inconsistencies and whatnot before sending it out to my beta readers who I have already contacted.

All this might sound like NaNoWriMo stuff, bashing out a novel in 30 days, but actually I’m not writing a novel in 30 days. My plot development has taken over a month from conception to finish. The first draft, which is just getting the raw material on the page is a 30 day job. I regard the rewriting and editing as the biggest job, because that is what is going to take the most critical choices. I think that that could take well over a month to do properly. So really, I’m looking at a 3-4 month turnaround for this project, which isn’t slouching much, but it isn’t incredibly fast either.

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