Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Art of the First Draft

Word Count. Speed. Trash.

Get it all down on the computer. Drag your characters across a continent or half a world or even the universe.

Pick them up. Dump them down.

Skip the transitions.

Oops! You forgot the horse. Just make a note to stick him in there and keep on traveling.

10,000 words. Doesn’t matter how bad they are.

Moving on to 20,000.

Starting to wonder why your main characters haven’t had a one-on-one conversation yet? Going to have to fix that. Later.


Just typed a battle scene with a long drawn-out dialogue by a captain you’ve decided to kill off even before your main character gets there? No problem. Just poach the captain’s dialogue and hand it over to the lieutenant.


Because here’s the thing. Every time you type a chapter, you figure out what’s wrong with it.

The images start spinning. The characters start talking.

They yell at you, “Hey, this is stupid!” or “I would never say that!” or “When are you going to let me get a word in edgewise?”

And you file away their complaints.


Or scribble them in your notebook or stick them in parenthesis beside the scene you mis-wrote.

And move on. Because . . .

60,000! Yay! Done!

It’s the beauty of the first draft.


  1. Yeah. That sure sounds beautiful.
    At least your books always end up alright. Mine always start off organized and spin out of control.

  2. Hi Lissa,

    You know, it's OK to cut certain characters off when they start doing that (dragging your story off on a spiraling tangent). I had to tell Yvonne to shut up in the middle of the first draft of Academy 7. Am afraid we didn't get along too well after that, but Dane and Aerin were happy.