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I’ve been writing at this point for almost ten years so it’s safe to say I’ve produced a fair bit of ‘content’. Not all of it was good, but all of it was beneficial for my own personal learning and development as a writer.
During my years of exploration and learning, I figured out a couple of important facts about myself.
No matter how clean I want my first draft to be it will always be messy. I also realised that a messy first draft doesn’t mean that it’s a bad first draft.
Know your theme
The easiest way to level up your first draft is to know what you’re about to write going in.
The reason that editing works is because you’re manipulating words that are already on the page.
Knowing your theme before writing helps you stay focused on the task at hand and allows you to pre-edit by making sure that you stay on topic. In editing, you cut out useless words and sentences, so staying on topic while drafting is equivalent to giving your manuscript the first pass.
Having a theme in mind when writing and thinking about your goals for a piece before writing it will help you stay on track. Then you can begin to build something that achieves what your goals for the piece are.
Writers are great at going off on tangents so giving yourself a specific direction means you’re less likely to take a wrong turn and have to rewrite chunks of your topic.
Even discovery writers can follow this advice. I think that writers, even without a written down plan often have exciting ideas about what could come up next.
Following those ideas as closely as you can makes the drafting process easier to edit on the other side.
Explore on the page
That being said don’t be afraid to explore on the page.
You can do this while still staying on topic, it makes for an interesting first draft. Instead of going off on tangents exploration begins to look a little bit more literary.
Don’t be afraid to dive deeply into someone’s perspective if it interests you, chances are if you are curious about it, your reader might be too.
I went down a rabbit hole for a deaf character I am writing and learnt some BSL to accurately portray the signing motions I wanted the character to make.
I wouldn’t have done that if I’d stuck to my goal because without these intricate specific movements my character is still on the page serving her plot purpose.
Now that I’ve added in signs, other signing people could recognise it. This adds a level of detail to the character that I, my signing friends, and potential readers could really appreciate.
Don’t be afraid to follow your interests, just make sure they align with the theme and enhance the book.
Exploring on the page is vital when making a unique first draft.
Play with your words
Words are fun. Punctuation is fun.
The sooner we realise that writing is synonymous with playtime the easier it will be for us to begin writing in ways that tickle our brains.
Playing with words has given me iconic lines such as ‘elephant in the womb’ on a topic about the menstrual cycle that I wrote. As well as some fun lines about throwing a metaphorical bath bomb into a lake.
Out of context, these lines are strange but in the piece, they shine like beautiful, visual little nuggets that are entertaining, enticing and enhance the writing.
Take your time
I’ve made a lot of mistakes when it comes to drafting.
I used to race the clock to try to get the most out of my writing time.
While that’s great for productivity it doesn’t produce clean drafts.
I find that I not only make more spelling and grammar errors but I also tend to drop chunks of the story because I didn’t give myself time to check my outline.
Basic errors like this can be avoided by not putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.
Don’t be afraid to put on a timer (I still do), but don’t race the clock or strive for a word count.
Instead, I write slowly and mindfully, trying to pick the most correct words for my piece. To me, it’s now more important that I write consistently well than that I write consistently quickly.
As always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf.