Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mind Games: Three Tricks for Writing a First Draft


Are you one of those people who loves writing first drafts? You just zip right through them, happy and carefree? If you are, congrats! You can stop reading now. I wrote this for the rest of us, the ones who think writing a first draft is the hardest part of being an author. 
I love revising. Taking something and fixing it up, cutting, moving, shaping, deepening… there's nothing better than watching a story improve with each revision pass. But that first draft, for me, is torture. Creating something from nothing? You need magic for that. But not the sparkly kind of magic that comes with wands and fairy dust. (As if I had access to that!) It’s more the magic of, Holy magaga, where did that come from?! The problem is, you have to sit and write and create and hope the magic visits you. Thus, the torture. So I’ve found some mind games that help, and maybe they'll help you, too.

1. Write as a Reader: I pretend I’m reading the book I’m writing. I picture turning the pages, anticipating what might happen next. If I were reading it, what would I think about these characters, this story line? Am I bored? Impatient? Sympathetic? Excited? What scene am I hungry for next? What will I see when I turn the page? That’s what I write.
2. Best Gift Ever: I imagine that someone else has written everything up to this point. Then that generous person gave me the manuscript and said, “Sorry, I can’t finish it. But you can have it. Go to town.” Seriously? You’re just giving me an almost finished first draft? Thanks! I can totally finish this. How fun! (This trick works great when you’re in the middle or near the end of the first draft.)
3. Character Jump: When my main character is stuck in a tough situation and I don’t know how to get her out of it, I’ll ask one of the supporting characters for help. Obviously, this makes me sound a bit crazy because I’m the one writing all these characters. But really, when I write a first draft, I become my viewpoint character and see and think and feel everything she does. Jumping into someone else’s skin can help me figure out a solution that I wasn’t able to see before.

These little mind games have worked for me in the past, and I’m relying on them now, as I get closer to the end of my current work-in-progress. Give them a try, and let me know if they work for you. And if you have any tricks of the trade, please share! 

4 comments:

Lisa said...

Revising is a nightmare for me. Minor tweaks, like grammatical things, replacing a word with a near-synonym, tightening up the rhythm... that's all fine. But yanking out a chunk of story is almost physically painful.

Brenda Ferber said...

We are quite different, you and me!

Elizabeth Fama said...

I will try tip #1 the minute I sit down to write this afternoon.

Brenda Ferber said...

I hope it works for you, Beth!