Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Novel and Short Story First Drafts
Hemingway said (and I’m paraphrasing here too), that all first drafts are shit. And I have to say that’s been my experience with all my first drafts. (And with a good number of second and third drafts as well.)
I think one of the keys to successfully completing a first draft is to try to get it down in as short a time as possible.
Stephen King makes an analogy in his book, On Writing, between a writer penning the first draft of story and a paleontologist excavating a dinosaur skeleton.
He says it’s unlikely the entire beast will be exhumed in tact and in one piece, but once the bones begin to emerge from the earth, the more swiftly and carefully you work, the better the chances.
‘Swiftly’ is pretty straightforward, but ‘carefully’ needs further excavating.
I think in this case ‘carefully’ should read ‘carefree’—because the less inhibited you are when you are writing a draft, the easier it will flow. In other words turn off your editor during this part of the process and just let your ideas pour out onto the page.
Some writers plan scene by scene before they commence a draft, in effect mapping out their story with a series of sentences, each briefly describing each scene of each act (of which there are normally three), from the orientation through to the climax and denouement.
Some also write out detailed character descriptions before they start on the first draft.
As with everything else to do with writing, there’s no one way of doing anything. There’s just the way that works best for you.
And for me I find it works best when I just start to write…a few pages of story with some dialogue and other bits and pieces thrown in as they come.
I try to write the story from start to finish as it occurs to me.
And as I’m writing I add in sections to what I’ve already written, like extra pieces of railway track to a miniature train set.