Posts Tagged ‘ first drafts ’

The First Draft

  After too much time and about fifty recommendations, I’m finally reading the quintessential book for writers, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I’ll probably post more on the book as I read sections I find particularly relevant, but today is all about the first draft. In her book, Lamott writes about how the first draft is always shitty. Even professional, successful writers write bad first drafts. Here’s a quote from her book that I thought summed it up perfectly:

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft – you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”

One of the traps I fell into frequently when I first began writing, and which ties into Lamott’s subsequent chapter on Perfectionism, is that I would spend hours writing and rewriting the same five pages until I became so frustrated that I wouldn’t want to make the time to write. It’s not as bad now, but I still find myself getting caught up in my own thoughts before I even sit down at my computer trying to work out every detail. Chasing windmills. Just sit down and type. What you end up with will be bad. If you’re lucky, you’ll even realize it’s bad and begin crafting your second draft before you subject your close friends and family to the horrors of having to read it.

Happy writing! 🙂


To Outline or To Not Outline That is the Question

  I don’t know which side I’m on when it comes to novel outlining. I’ve heard and read compelling arguments for both sides as well as read interviews with authors who go into a novel with an idea, figuring out the pieces as they move forward, or create detailed outlines that help to guide their stories. There are many different ways to outline as well – index cards, brainstorm diagrams, traditional A-B-C outlines, or even a linear chart of events.

In the past I’ve started my novels with general character descriptions and an idea of what I want the story to be about, but no specific sequence of events. It worked well for my second novel, not so much the first. Now that I’m working on my third novel I’m torn between having a plan and just running with an idea. When I first started writing I didn’t have an outline and about 10,000 words later I realized that a lot of action I want to show is part of the back story. That’s no fun! In order to pull my readers into the action and suspense of what’s happening in the novel I need to rewind and start telling the story at a different time. Could this have been avoided by writing an outline beforehand? Maybe. It’s really hard to tell what ideas could have been planned and what comes about just as a natural part of the writing process. If there’s one thing that writers are in agreement on it’s that it’s very rare to get your story right the first time around. Rewrites are just as integral as the first draft, if not more so!

I’ve come to the conclusion that while I want to have a better idea of the main sequence of events that I want to happen in my novel, I also need to trust the writing process. After all the practice of writing helps to make one a better writer so if I’m hung up on following an outline, or deliberating whether to write on or not, and I’m not actually doing any writing that’s counter-productive too.

Outline or not, have a great week of writing! 🙂