First draft


writebookI’m writing a first draft at the moment which is always a confusing time. A time full of optimism and doubt, of positive thinking and self-loathing.

You’re creating a whole new world, so it’s never going to be straight-forward.

I think the tyranny of detail is something which weighs heavy. Is this or that bit right? But it’s best to press on.

I remember reading Nabokov saying that if you introduce into your story a character with a limp, or a small dog, then you must take care to produce said dog or limp every time the character reappears otherwise people will think you have forgotten about it. That’s the sort of trivial thing which preys on my mind during first drafts.

You can go back and put dogs in later of course, and sort out much more besides, even quite large, structural, elements can be taken apart and reassembled. So it should be a time of significant freedom, but I’ve never really found it to be so.

I’ve said in the past I’m not one for crashing through first drafts in the least time possible as though it was some kind of athletics competition to get it done quickest. First drafts do matter in my view, however much you change later you are laying your foundations and a house with poor foundations won’t last.

That’s why you can keep your Nanowrimos – not for me thank you. Every month is writing month as far as I’m concerned and, though I progress at the speed of a tortoise, I do get there in the end.

How do you approach your first drafts? Let me know in the comments.
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8 thoughts on “First draft”

  1. I like to get the first few chapters as good as they can be before moving on even if I go back and change the opening part later. I need to feel I’ve got my feet under the table before I feel properly comfy!

    1. It’s funny how everyone’s habits are different isn’t it? I know the front end is something which is almost certain to change, so I don’t worry too much about it. Though I do like to have a feel for the tone of voice.

  2. Funny that you should mention Nanowrimo. We’re doing a writing fest in a few weeks as sort of inspiration for those who want to do it. It’s not for me either, but I agree with Nikki about trying to get the beginning as settled as possible before I move on. On the end I always rewrite it, but at least I know the basis from which to move forward. My work in progress is taking a ridiculous amount of time…probably doesn’t help that I’m writing a memoir in between it too!

  3. When I start getting too fussy and rereading and revising too much, I force myself to keep moving forward, even if it’s the worst crap ever written. Mostly, though, I like to let the story and characters guide me, so that I can be surprised, too.

    1. I think it’s very true what you say about keep going. I find that too and I remember reading John Updike saying something similar – that some days it’s easy and others it’s hard work but when you look back later you can’t tell which was which.

  4. I have finished my first novel and I’m redrafting. I find that each chapter has to be the best I can get (at that time) before I can move on. Yes, I want my ms to be ready yesterday like everyone else, but I will not rush it. I cannot willfully brush over things and come back to it later. For me, working this way reduces the amount of redrafting, giving me more time to focus on polishing. Great post. Thanks.

    1. There seem to be as many methods as their are authors – we all have our own way of going about the writing process I think. The good thing is that you have found a system which works for you. 🙂

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