September 17, 2021

First Drafts and Other Feats

Writing is both the easiest and hardest thing I've ever done. I've mentioned my box of unfinished stories before... it sits on the floor of my office, gathering dust, while I wonder what to do with it. (Don't tell my husband.) I've come a long way, or at least I think I have, since then. Although, the "Writing" folder on my laptop also contains a few unfinished manuscripts.

Completing the first draft is a feat. The process feels a bit like climbing a mountain... and rolling back down a few times before you reach the top, if you reach the top. Lots of obstacles come between you and your goal. Self-doubt is a major one. Every story I write, I have to get over the "what was I thinking" hurdle before I can finish.

The First Draft is a Rough Draft

It's challenging to not edit while writing. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and constantly have to remind myself that the first draft is a rough draft, telling me the story. I use a few tools to keep me on track - a Save the Cat beat sheet, a plot worksheet (of a roller coaster ride), an editorial style sheet, a novel outline in Excel where I also track word counts (by chapter, act, and novel), and the Evernote app.


Plus scribblings in the physical notebook I use when I need a break from my computer. All in all, I'm still learning as I go. What works, what doesn't. Like everything else, practice makes perfect or, at least, better. I see improvement in my writing. Exhibit A: I can finish writing a book. Exhibit B: I've published five books. Exhibit C: my work gets positive reviews (now).

Reviews

My first published book was novella length. And, quite honestly, it gave me practical experience in processing negative reviews. Readers have invaluable insight to offer. Reviews—all reviews—can help an author improve their writing. So, I analyze all of them.

The End

"The End" of a story really marks the beginning for the author. My first draft rarely matches my published book. What I submit for publication also differs as it gets polished during the editing process.

I let my first draft sit for a few days to a week before I begin my self-edit which provides a more objective perspective. Otherwise, every word you want to change feels too personal. And, I hope, with every step of the process, my story (and my writing) evolves and improves.