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The First Draft

Getting started …

Getting started with a short story or novel is an exciting adventure.  The first draft is liberating because it is the first draft.  It doesn’t matter about grammatical correctness, repetition, too much explaining or anything.  This is where you can let your ideas flow and your imagination take you wherever it wants to go.  It is an explosion of ideas, thoughts, characters, places and plots.

It isn’t necessary to have the entire plot figured out before you start.  All you need is a point to start from.  If this isn’t quite clear, the thing I find successful is to look at a character I really love, imaginary or someone I’ve observed and then imagine them fitting into a theme.  From there a setting starts becoming clear and a plot begins to emerge.  This is where wild writing can help.  With the above points established, just let the ideas tumble out.  If you just keep writing continuously for a period of time it allows spontaneous thought to be scrawled across the page.  I find once the writing is flowing, ideas seem to have a mind of their own and keep on coming.  Before you know it, you have a first draft.  It doesn’t need to be finite.  It doesn’t matter if the full plot isn’t clear yet or how it’s going to end.  Just having that first draft there is the beginning.  Now you can work on it, craft it and mould it into shape.  I find once I have done this, the whole plot and ending materialises pretty quickly.

I do many drafts before I consider a piece final so I have become very free with my first draft.  I used to constantly go back over what I’d written and edit it as I went along but I found this interrupted the flow and inevitably led me to becoming bored with my piece. I just never seemed to be able to finish it.  I’ve changed this point now.  I go for finishing a piece, no matter how silly it might sound.  You can always fix up too much repetition or too much explaining in the editing drafts that follow.

I consciously apply literary techniques like onomatopoeia and personification in subsequent drafts to improve the content.  I love playing around with metaphors and point of view.

Finally, I think it is quite usual to over-explain at the beginning of a piece.  I do it all the time – it helps me to establish the characters and the plot but when I go back I look at it from the reader’s viewpoint and that is where I can see it’s far too much information.  The reader doesn’t need all that blurb to get what’s going on.  So I am prepared to chop out chunks of text now if it is going to improve my intro. It’s not always easy.  I used to hold onto every word I’d written, feeling like I was losing something if I chopped it out.  However, after some tough editing I realised for my writing to improve I had to be prepared to lose some of it.  If I particularly love a line, I save it and maybe slot it in somewhere else or use it in a different story.

Hope this helps anyone who gets stuck beginning a story.