Monday, January 24, 2011

Writing a First Draft

For years I read advice from novelists who said you should sit down and write your story straight to the end without pausing to look back. If you were unsure about something, keep plowing on and take care of it later. Finish the first draft, they said, then go back to check out questionable details, fine tune the language, and add all those exciting moments that would delight readers.

My mind never worked that way. Each time I sit down at the computer to continue a story, I read what I wrote last to set the mood. In the process, I'll spot some word or phrase I feel could sound better and make the change. Once in a while I'll go back all the way to the first page and read through to where I stopped. tweaking here and there. My chapters also get raked over the coals of my critique group, so that gets added into the mix. By the time I finish my first draft, it's actually a comprehensive revision.

After I started on my new WIP (work in progress, for the uninitiated), I thought about this method that others consider the best way to write. It was time to do some research I wasn't particularly interested in doing at the moment, so I decided to forget it for the present and keep on writing.

What happened? The next time I resumed work on the manuscript, I went back to the last chapter, read through it and...started making changes.

Old habits are hard to break. I've set a deadline of April 1 to finish the first draft, though, meaning I can't piddle around any longer. When I get through, I'll decide if it was worth the aggravation. Meanwhile, I'm plowing ahead like I knew what I was doing.


Gregory House said...

I've heard the same advice as well, I'm afraid it didn't work for me either. I also check over the last chapter before the next. It seems so sensible.

Chester Campbell said...

I can see where it might help in getting the story out quicker, but you'd spend as much time tweaking it afterward as you would before.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I always read my previous chapter before writing. With my absent-minded-professor memory, I'd never know where to start otherwise. Those who continue to write without looking back must have photographic memories.