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Saturday, October 10, 2015

 

Rough Draft: The Down and Dirty Draft from Hell

Are you thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November? I have a deadline so I’m going to miss NaNoWriMo, but I often have to write and polish a book draft in 6 weeks. To succeed, I had to adjust my attitude about that first draft.

Start with an outline. I’ve heard a lot of writers say that an outline kills spontaneity. I keep my outline spare, but it gives me something to follow so I know more or less what needs to be in each chapter. I can always change my mind if something doesn’t work or if a better idea comes along, but it gets me started.

Leave gaps. When I have to pound through a chapter (roughly 1650 words) a day, I don’t have time to do the research needed to fill in every gap I’ve somehow left the first time I did the research. I’ll do a quick search, but if the answer doesn’t present itself, I leave a gap. They’re easy to spot because I always include a note (WHEN DID THIS ACTUALLY HAPPEN?) and highlight it in yellow.

Don’t worry about the best possible word. Sometimes I get hung up trying to find a more specific word for something. When I catch myself opening the thesaurus on my computer, I close it again, highlight the word, and move forward. This is the sort of thing I can fix in the rewrite, assuming the paragraph survives that process.

Some things just won’t come together. I finished a draft of a new nonfiction book last night. My last chapter contains more gaps than text, because chapters 1 through 8 aren’t solid enough yet for me to wrap the whole thing up. I simply highlighted the section headings where I couldn’t provide text. I’ll fill it in when everything else has taken shape. And that’s okay.

Writing a down and dirty rough draft is liberating. It isn’t going to be perfect and I know it. When I get caught up angst-ing about something, I give myself a few moments and then push on. This isn’t meant to be particularly good. And neither is a NaNoWriMo draft. The point is to get it down so that you can make it better.

You can only do that, once you’ve finished that down and dirty draft.

--SueBE

Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on November 9, 2015.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Sioux said...

Sue--I've been highlighting some "sketchy" parts as well. And as I've been revising what I have so far, I note the page number (right next to the title) I am up to so far, so the next time I begin a revising session, I know where I left off.

I leave blanks as well--literal blanks. If I know there is a missing detail or I'm struggling with the perfect word, I will create a blank line and also highlight it, so I'm sure not to miss it when I go back later to revise.

Good luck with your book.

3:32 AM  
Blogger Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Thank you, Sioux. One more chapter and I'm just beyond the half way point.

2:18 PM  

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