Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Psychology of First Drafts

I have always wanted to be one of those authors who can whip out a first draft in no time. Every time I start a new novel, I say I'm going to do just that. Write without stopping. Get the story down. Don't look back. But my inner critic never lets me speed through this process. I'm slow and careful and analytical. You would think all that slow and careful writing would result in amazing first drafts. But nope! It doesn't work that way. I still end up revising like crazy. I change just about everything. I write many drafts over a couple of years before I even get close to the story I envisioned when I started.

So when I told my sister and husband that I was going to make the most of these last eight days I have with no kids home by writing as fast as possible, maybe even ten pages a day, they were supportive but doubtful. They've heard it all before.

Yesterday, though, I was able to do it! Here's how it worked. Instead of telling myself I have to write something good, something worthwhile, something I'll love and something my critique group won't shred to pieces, I told myself I have to write the worst ten pages ever! Not mediocre... Terrible! No stopping. No showing it to anyone. No feeling good about it. Just 10 pages of story unfolding.

Let me tell you... It was seriously bad. Some pages were only dialogue. Some pages were only thoughts. And I'm sure some pages were plain gobbly gook. But aha! The story unfolded. And that's the whole point!

Do you play tricks with your mind to help you with the writing process? If so, I'd love to hear about them.


Anonymous said...

Good for you, Brenda!

Like you, I'm a slow first-drafter and decided I was going to try something new this time.

So yesterday I made a table with 2 columns and fifteen rows. I numbered the first column from 1-15 and in the boxes to the right of each number, I wrote several paragraphs of what I wanted to happen in each chapter.

I'm still working on it today, changing this or adding that. I've also cut and pasted text into different "chapters," as I see the overall picture of the entire novel changing. And let me tell you, it's much easier to cut and paste now then after the story's written!

We'll see if my first draft plan works out. I know I'll change things as I go along, but it's nice to have a road map along for the ride!

Brenda Ferber said...

That seems like a great way to outline and rough in a first draft! I hope it works for you.