How Do I Tackle My First Draft?

by jeanineoloughlin

Thinking Through My Fingers

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Issac Asimov

So I’ve talked about how to generate a “crap draft.” Now when I have to take that word vomit and turn it into something people can read. This involves a lot of rewriting and red pen marks. Now as I’m going along in writing my crap draft if I think of things I need to change/edit I will usually make a list of “edit notes” at the bottom of the document to remind me later of things I want to change. This keeps me from going back and doing real edits; falling down the rabbit hole that usually keeps me from finishing a piece.

Now getting to what I call a “first draft” takes several edit passes that I do myself, each with it’s own purpose so the review can be focused.

  1. Flow
  2. Language
  3. Grammar & Spelling
  4. Last Touches

First I look at the flow of the piece. I don’t look at my outline, the outline isn’t important here, but the flow of the story. What can I cut? What plot points need to be rewritten? I use a word vomit method to create my rewrites then review the whole thing again to make sure I got the flow the way I want it.

Next is language; does it sound good? I read my story aloud to myself and if I stumble or have trouble getting the phrases at naturally I rework it. Once I can get through reading it aloud without a real stumble I call this phase done.

Grammar and spelling are my weakest link. I know that sounds odd coming from someone who’s passion is words, but it’s true. I do my spellcheck pass then do a read through marking up anything I find. I know if I found it that it’s really bad. As a lot of my friends who help with my edits know I rely heavily on outside eyes for the real copy edits.

Last I do one more read through to look for anything else I may have missed. Then it’s ready to go in front of my alpha readers. This is a small group of friends and family who are willing to put up with me enough to be my first round of feedback and reviews. I trust them a lot and I know that they’ll be honest with me about what they think and know I won’t get upset by it.

The most important thing I have to remember while I’m doing these edits are that this is only meant to generate a first draft. It’s easy to put too much pressure on yourself to create the perfect piece out of the gate, but in reality that’s just not how it works. Any piece has to go through review after review after review. Each piece that you put yourself through this process it gets easier & easier. I’ll be talking about editors and feedback in later posts, but make sure that your work is ready for outside eyes before you send it out to review. If you can catch the problem then a reader probably will too so get the piece in a place where you’re “content” with it before handing it to your editor/alpha readers.

I like to think of my writing process akin to pottery. I plan out my design with the outline, I create my own clay with my “crap draft,” and then start molding it into the basic shape and piece I want it to be. Once I have that I can continue to add details, refine the bumpy spots and work on it until it’s ready to go into the fire… the internet. Whether it survives the fire is to be seen, but I can only learn from it.

Happy Writing!