Okay, I’m still trying to get caught up on things after a whirlwind of publicity stuff for The Fold. And to be honest, the storm flags are still blowing a bit. So I just wanted to offer some quick advice on drafts. Specifically, how to approach my first draft.
As I’ve mentioned here a few times before, I tend to treat my first draft as the "just finish it" part of writing. I just want to get it done with a beginning, an end, and the majority of points in between. I also don't hold back. I let dialogue, descriptions, and action scenes run on a bit longer than they probably should. A lot of it’s not perfect, but I know I'll start cutting in the next draft or two, so there's no reason to worry about length now. The most important thing is to get the overall framework done. Personally, I find it's a lot easier to deal with the small things when the big things aren't looming over me.
A lot of folks I’ve talked to try to do this, but they get caught in early-editing mode. Ten pages in and they’re going back to edit, or rethink a character, or to tweak the structure. Forward motion crashes to a halt because the writer’s spending all their time looking back.
Now, in all fairness, a few people can do this and it works fine for them. It’s how Kevin Smith writes. He goes in blocks of ten or twelve pages, writing, rewriting, and polishing until they’re done. Then he moves on to the next ten.
If you’re one of the folks who can do this, power to you. But in my experience, with all the writers I’ve talked to over the years, those folks are a rarity. Most of us, alas, have to go through the whole thing, then go through it again. And again.
So, if you’re one of us, too, here’s my quick piece of advice.
Don’t look back.
When working on a first draft, I can read the page I left off on. That’s it. If I stop halfway through the page, I can look at the top half before I start writing again. That’s it. If I ended at the top of a page, too bad.
If I close the document, I’ll make a note somewhere else of what page I was on. When I reopen it, I go right to the page I left off on. No slow paging through the document. Get back to where I left off and start writing again.
Under no circumstances while writing will I hit the up arrow or page up or push the scroll bar. None of that. Not even to go up to the last paragraph. No corrections, no re-reading, no going back to adjust. I don’t go back to fix typos or formatting or anything. This draft moves in one direction and it doesn’t stop moving in that direction.
I do not stop. Ever. Until it is done.
This is an adjustment, yes. And a very tough one. It might not work for everyone. But I’ve tried it twice now and found it helps. There’s a lot of stuff to clean up, yeah, but I’m getting to the clean up stage a lot faster than I would normally.
Y’see, Timmy, forcing myself to only go forward means I’m forcing myself to write. I don’t get to rethink yesterday’s work or tweak that first encounter or even double check if I usedthe right spelling of prophesy (I didn’t, but it doesn’t matter in a first draft). I just write until the first draft is done.
So try going forward. Only forward. Never back. Not one line.
Next time, by popular demand from my fan page, we’re going to talk a bit about screenwriting, clan wars, and hunting.
Until then, go write.