Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quantity vs. Quality - structuring your first draft

Simon Sinek, on a recent post, wrote: "The hardest part is starting.  Once you get that out of the way, you'll find the rest of the journey much easier."

Over the years, I've met people who have a great idea--be it a novel or an invention--and when I asked them what they did with it, they said, "Oh, nothing."  Why is this?  Because it is hard to start.  Especially if you're not used to doing something on your own, something that will further not only your life but the lives of others.  Starting is a lot like jumping off the diving board for the first time when you were a kid, and your parents urged you again and again to do it.

Well here I am, urging you to do it.  Because you can.

When I start the first draft, I go for quantity.  I set a goal of X amount of pages each day.  Some people use words.  Whatever works for you, use it.  But set out each day to complete those pages/words.  To start off with, I'd go slow.  Set the bar a little low, especially if you've never written before.  In college, with juggling a job and school and tae kwon do classes, I set the goal of one page a day.  I had a calendar, where I slashed a hash mark for every page I wrote.  What I wanted to see was the number of pages increase steadily over time.  One week I did seven pages, the next I'd do ten, then fifteen . . . you get the picture.  Go for quantity, and don't worry about what it looks like.  That's what the second and beyond drafts are for.

Once the book is complete and you've celebrated, the second and beyond drafts are slower.  Here, you're looking for quality.  This is where you use the macro-level and micro-level editing techniques I laid out before.  You're looking to improve the writing, because Lord knows your first dtaft isn't very good.  And don't think you're a horrible writer just based on the first draft.  No writer gets it right the first time.  Over time, your first draft will improve and the less editing you'll have to do, but that's years down the road, once you've written several thousand pages.

Do it.  Today.  Start.  Jump off the diving board . . . GO!

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