Saturday, August 10, 2013

6 Things to Think About While Writing a First Draft

It's now time to start writing the first draft of your WIP (Work In Progress).  You have your Outline and Character Sheets for each of your main characters. You have prepared for this moment, and now it's time to get to the fun stuff.  This is a list of things I think about while I am writing my first draft.

1. What does my outline say? 

Your outline should have already broken the story down into manageable bites.  This makes things quite a bit easier.  You should have a starting point, an ending point, and a short description of what happens in between all written out for you.  Now all you have to do is expand on the description and fill in the blanks. This gives you a straight line of action to follow.

2. Point of View

I have caught myself on several occaisions switching the point of view in the middle of writing a scene.  If you are writing in 3rd person then you can continue to switch back and forth.  The problem being that if you switch too much then you can confuse the reader as to whose head they are peeking into.  Be explicit.  Leave no doubt who the reader is following at any given moment.  If you leave it up to interpretation then you give your readers a chance to get it wrong.  That can cause confusion later in the book if what takes place in that scene is significant to the story.  I have a whole chapter that I am currently working on rewriting because the point of view it was originally written in made it too confusing. 

3. Tense

Inconsistencies with tense can cause all kinds of problems within the story.  It's easy to slip into writing in the past tense when you are trying to write in the present.  When you're telling a story to friends, it's usually about a past experience.  Naturally you tell it in the past tense.  It's hard to break that habit unless you continue to think about it while you are writing.  You also want to write about actions as if they are taking place as the words are being read.  In the mind of your readers those events are just now taking place.  Their imagination is creating the image in their minds as they read.  Reading a story in the past tense makes me think of reading some kind of news article.  You don't want your story to sound like the news do you? 

4. Narrator/Character Voices

How does your writing sound to you?  Stay true to the voice you set for your characters. If you just write what's going on in your head then the character will sound like you.  Don't work from your head.  Get inside your character's head and role play the scene from their point of view.  If you have a narrator watching from the outside then make them entertaining.  Unless they are trying to fall asleep, no one wants to read a monotone character.  Give them depth and make them unique!

5. It doesn't have to be perfect! 

What?! Did I really just type that?  Yes I did.  Some people like to edit and rewrite as they go.  Really it is your personal preference.  I can't do it.  I have to move on.  If I continue to edit and rewrite it will take months just to finish 1 chapter.  There's no guarantee that the early chapters won't have to be rewritten or heavily modified anyway to accommodate events in subsequent chapters.  Remember this is just your first draft.  Writing is rewriting.   The first draft for me is about playing with the characters and getting ideas down on paper.  You can always make it better in the next draft.

6. Have FUN!

Writing can be a soul crushing experience.  Sometimes you just want to give up.  When you are lacking inspiration, you just have to suck it up and force yourself to get words down.  That's the most important time to remember that this is supposed to be FUN!  If you enjoy writing it then others will enjoy reading it.  If you're not having fun then maybe you need to rework what you are doing, and figure out what will make it fun. Sometimes I will just type random craziness just to get things going.  If you notice lines in a story written by me that say "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?" or "Dandroid, the motorized Lego Mech, is fighting Godzilla near Guam." then I need to fire my editor for letting those get through more than 3 drafts!

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