Radio Free Bard

What should I put in my first draft?

Posted in Writing by radiofreebard on November 24, 2008

Everything.

Remember that idea you had for a sex scene that you decided wouldn’t work? Write it anyway.

Remember how the story was going to branch off to deal with the father’s abusive wife but you felt it was too topical? Write it anyway.

Remember the scene that added colour to a character but had very little to do with the plot? Write it anyway.

The idea with a first draft is to build a block of granite from which you will chisel your masterpiece. A larger block of granite will allow for more creativity and more options in your final draft.

Write the scenes that come into your head. Write the characters that you might not need. Don’t start the editing process prematurely; you’re kidding yourself if you think your first draft will have any need for polish. I may have mentioned this in my post about curing writer’s block: your internal editor is only going to stop you from writing what you need to write.

A difference between a first draft and a block of granite that is worth noting is your ability to seamlessly attach parts that you had chiseled away. This may be important when it comes to your third or fourth draft. It’s much easier to rewrite something than it is to write it in the first instance. If you realise that something is missing from later revisions, it helps to know you have raw materials that, with the right type of editing, can be reintroduced to the whole seamlessly.

At least two of my favourite short fictions written by Brisbane authors were sections cropped from earlier novels and subsequently re-worked. If you want to be a writer, write then edit. If you want to be an editor, teacher, critic, proofreader, agent, unemployed, edit then write.

My first attempt at a novel became the blockwork for my first collection of short stories. The ones that were published were the ones that I hated. I still dislike them.

What should you put in your first draft? Everything.

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