Thursday, April 19, 2012

What not to do with your first draft

Long ago, I used to say that when writing your first draft, "vomit" everything you can onto the page--meaning, write anything and everything concerning the story, no matter how bizarre.  You can always, in the end, take it out.

Although it may seem logical at the time, you may not want to write whatever comes to mind.  Be constantly asking if this or that fits in the story.  If it does, keep it in.  If it doesn't, strike it.

What else not to do?

Resist the temptation of going back and revising/editing.  I made this mistake in my first novel--a deer hunting horror story that is a pure homage to Stephen King--when I re-wrote my first chapter so many times, there ended up with three flashbacks and was over fifty pages in length.  Yes, I said 50 freaking pages!  In the end, I actually moved that chapter to chapter two, struck all of the flashbacks, and cut the length down to fifteen crisp pages.  Is it perfect?  Far from it.  I haven't re-read that book in probably 4-5 years, and I have a laundry list of changes I need to make to it--and that's even before re-reading it!

If you hit a roadblock and don't know what to write--I've been there, got the T-shirt--just write whatever comes to mind.  You'd be surprised with what you may come up with.  In my thriller Beholder's Eye I hit such a roadblock around the middle of the book.  I just kept writing and writing, then all of a sudden the main character witnessed a terrible car accident, which seemed unrelated to the story.

Or was it?

Another remedy to the old writer's block is to sleep on it.  Roll the problem over and over in your mind as you fall asleep.  This has happened a few times, then in a flash of inspiration the solution comes to me.  Have a notebook handy near where you sleep.  You never know when inspiration will strike.

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