I’ve been hesitant about writing a post about first drafts because I don’t want to just reiterate what’s been said a million times. It’s an important topic though, so I don’t want to neglect it either.
So I guess I’ll tell you the way I get my firsts drafts on paper, which isn’t exactly the norm.
Most have heard the Just-Get-It-Down rule, but as I’m aware not EVERYONE is able to slap words on the page without looking back, I’d like to add to the rule. But first a disclaimer: this works for ME. If you have no problem just slapping down a first draft then excellent. Please continue to do so. Truly, this method is for those like me who feel the need to edit SOMETHING along the way. People like me.
Ok. That being said, my philosophy when writing a first draft is to just get it down…but if you HAVE to edit, edit yesterday’s writing.
Now, now, before you all burn me at the stake for being a heretic, let me explain.
When I say edit, I don’t mean spending hours looking over what you wrote and moving major plot arcs around or anything like that. Please, PLEASE don’t do that. It’ll make finishing that first draft very near impossible.
In this case when I say edit, I mean review. See, every morning before I jump into writing I like to look over what I wrote the day before. This can take me anywhere from five to thirty minutes depending on how much I wrote. Why you ask? This is why:
1. GET IN THE ZONE. The first few words of the day tend to be the hardest (for me at least) to write. Reading what I wrote yesterday puts me back in the zone. I fall into the story again and rather than trying to pick up based off the last paragraph, I remember everything that happened the day before, including those little nuances I completely forgot about so I can include it in today’s writing.
2. OH WAIT BUT I GOT AN IDEA. Sometimes when I’m reading what I wrote the day before I get an idea. Sometimes it’s a big deal, sometimes it’s a minor adjustment. Either way I’ll incorporate it before I start today’s writing goal UNLESS it’s a major OH CRAP THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING event in which case I’ll start today’s writing like it already happened and make a note to change it later.
3. IT PLEASES ME. The perfectionist in me in satiated when I read over what I wrote and make minor adjustments. After I do so I can shut off the editor and write freely for the day. Some part of me is just happier knowing that yesterday’s work wasn’t COMPLETE crap and that whatever I put down today will be tweaked tomorrow. Maybe it’s just me. Either way, in some weird, twisted way, editing yesterday’s work shuts off that part of me that wants today’s work to be perfect.
NOW. There is ONE rule to re-reading. ONE UNBREAKABLE RULE THAT MUST BE ADHERED TO AT ALL COSTS OR I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND SMOTHER YOU IN SHINY CONFETTI.
The rule is simple:
READ ONLY YESTERDAY’S WRITING.
See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?
The reason this rule is so insanely important is because if you read anything more than that, you will fall into the editing everything trap. This is fatal. Ok, maybe not FATAL but very difficult to recover from and you really don’t want to have to deal with that, do you? Let me answer that for you: no. No you don’t.
So! Moral of the story is DON’T EDIT EVERYTHING PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! Get that first draft down. Don’t stop to look back, but if you MUST then glance a little at yesterday’s work. Then move on. MOVE ON AND GET THAT DRAFT FINISHED.
Because shiny confetti is pretty until you’re being smothered in it.
What is your philosophy on first drafts? Do you tend to edit or just slap it down?