Writing Tips/Insights #10: The Dreaded First Draft


First drafts… Well, where do I start?

And that, coincidentally and rather ironically, is often the thought that I have when I first set out on the adventure of writing my first draft.

Once you’ve outlined your plot and developed some character ideas and motives, it is usually about time to put pen to paper (or in most cases, fingers to keyboard) and get to work on the first draft. There are many guides, tips and tricks out there on the world-wide web (or WWW for short – which by the way I didn’t actually know stood for that until about a year ago… oops) on how to perfect the first draft. Tips on how to plan one, what to plan, how much to write per day, how to outline your plot – pretty much everything that one might consider when crafting the foundations of their masterpiece.

But to be entirely blunt, I think that anything that goes into that much detail is an absolute load of horse shit. Just saying.

Though I may be being biased. You see, when it comes to writing, I’m not that much of a planner. I may have a basic plot-outline (and by basic I mean a beginning, middle and end) and a few characters with a little background info to them – but from there, I’m pretty much good to go. I’ve never been one to sap the absolute life out of writing with a 48 step plot-outline, which is colour-coded and spread across an abundance of post-it notes which give a chapter-by-chapter run through. That for me just takes all of the creativity out of it and makes it one long, mundane, despicable task.

Like I said, I come up with my basic plot and character developments and just go from there. I’ll have an idea of where the story is heading and I know my protagonist’s motives, but from there on out it’s no holds barred! I prefer it that way. It gives me the creative freedom that I believe is all about. What’s the point in turning a piece of creative writing into something that isn’t fun and creative?

My best ideas come when I’m right in the middle of an important part of the story, writing a paragraph. The next thing I know BAM! I’m off on a tangent and my protagonist’s best friend just got shot in the face by a corrupt police official. I enjoy that freedom. I feel as though coming up with events as you go really steers the story in the direction that feels right. Because you’ll only know if it feels right when writing it, you can never truly know if it feels right when plotting. And if it feels right when writing it, chances are it feels right when reading it too!

Damn, there were a lot of variations of the word write/right used in that last part, just let me check I’ve used each of them in the correct context… Okay, I’m good. Moving on!

Now that’s just an example of how I like to set out on my own first drafts. I like to get as creative as I possibly can and write, a lot of the time, whilst totally winging it. It has helped me to come up with some great plot ideas and directions in the past and I feel as though it really steers the story in the right direction. As for all of the boring, nitty-gritty, I like to save that for the editing process – which by the way I will be writing a post on in the next few days, so keep an eye open for that.

The Bottom Line

What I’m trying to say is don’t listen to everything you read on the internet. And not just on first drafts, on literally everything. Including what you’re reading this very second!

What really matters is that you write your first draft how you want to write it. It is YOUR first draft after all, so your opinions and preferences are the only ones that really count. If you are someone who does believe in planning and thinks that those who don’t meticulously plan are absolute cretin-like fools – then that’s totally fine. I’m not trying to say that anyone who does plan every minor detail is in any way wrong to do so. If that’s how they prefer to write a first draft and that is the way in which their first drafts tend to prosper, then to that I say: congratulations! You have found what works for you and have stuck by it.

Because when it all comes down to it, whether it be writing, hockey or any sort of hobby or profession, it’s all about finding what works best for you and sticking by your game-plan. Even if it goes against the grain and you get called out for it. If it works for you, then fuck what anyone else thinks. And fucking what anyone else thinks, that certainly makes for some:

Happy writing!

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