A Rough Draft: Five Ways to Blast through Draft #1

Thursday, December 06, 2018
I’ll admit it. When I saw Renee’s post “Take An Annual Inventory of Your Writing Accomplishments and Goals,” I cringed.  

My WOW accountability group knows that I set one goal for myself in 2018. Finish a draft of my cozy mystery. Sure, I have 13,200 words but I’m nowhere near a completed draft. I haven’t even bumped off the victim yet.

But then I read Janice Hardy’s post, "A Faster Way to Write a First Draft."  She made me think about how I can do it faster, because I’ve been developing secondary characters, detailing my setting, and everything else all in this draft. How can I blast through it instead?

#1 Focus on the mystery plot. As I started to work on my cozy, I realized that there are several plot lines going on in this type of mystery. There’s the Murder Plot. There’s the Main Character’s Personal Life Plot. There’s the What’s Going on in the Neighborhood Plot. And, last but not least, there’s the What’s Going on Where My Character Works Plot, be it a bookstore, knitting shop or café. I’ve been developing all four plot lines simultaneously. To get from the beginning to the end fast, I need to focus on the mystery.

#2 Flesh out the setting in a later draft. Yes, I need to know where things are and how things look because I need to eventually build a life-like setting for my audience. But the key is eventually. It doesn’t all have to be magazine spread perfect in the first draft.

#3 Secondary characters can also come later. I’m used to writing for kids. My first fiction sale had three characters. Most fiction for adults takes a larger cast than I’m used to directing and I’ve realized that they don’t all need to be wonderfully unique in draft #1. Once I figure out how many people I absolutely have to have present, I can give each of these characters goals, backstory and personality.

#4 If I don’t know it already, research can wait. I’m a nonfiction writer. On a bad day, I can get mired down in research as I try to find just the right detail. On a good day? It is a delightful rabbit hole down which I willingly leap. Research can come later.

#5 Do not rewrite. As things come up in my story, I’m tempted to go back and set things up. “If this character is going to be a suspect, I need a conflict!” I’ve done it a time or two but I need to let that wait until later too.

If I follow these guidelines, I may still make it through draft #1. It won’t be pretty. In fact it’s going to be spare and more than a little barebones. But it will also be a first draft. The best part of a first draft is that once you get it down, you have something available to flesh out and improve, but first you need to get it done.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins January 14th, 2019.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--Your # 4 realization made me chuckle.

Good luck getting a down-and-dirty first draft down. Who said that all first drafts are shi**y? Anne Lamott? Natalie Goldberg? Whoever it was, they're right.

(And so what if your goal--almost a year ago--was a bit overly ambitious. So was mine. However, we are supposed to dream big. So keep reaching for the stars.)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Sue ~ You've written and turned in how many books to your publisher this year? Some crazy number like 3 or 4 if I remember correctly. You have no reason to get down on yourself--you've accomplished so much this year! Okay, wait... I went and checked your page in the accountability group and it's 8. 8 completed books!!!! Um, yeah...that's an unbelievable number. You are a machine.

I used a similar method during NaNo. I inserted brackets in place of {research}, {places}, {dates}, {facts}, etc. to fill in later because research slows me down so much. I got the idea from Michelle Rene's article on WOW about writing your draft in 4 weeks. I did not rewrite anything but if I did insert notes or a freewrite where I wanted to add a scene to write later.

Good luck with your first draft! I think you'e doing great!

Sioux ~ Yes, it's Anne Lamott. :)

Renee Roberson said...

I will also chime in that you've produced an insane amount of books this year. I mean, people are already paying you to write books for your day job--I'm green with envy! I'm also impressed that you already have 13,200 words of your mystery! All those plot lines necessary for a mystery sound intimidating to a pantser like myself. I love the way this is broken down, especially #1. I have an idea for mystery/suspense in the future based on that Monster in the Woods short story I wrote this year and this is helpful! You are doing great!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

This draft will definitely be a fixer upper. And thank you for the words of encouragement, ladies. I am super goal oriented to the point that I see what didn't get done and completely ignore what did.

I am really fortunate that writing is my job. Wrote almost another 700 words today and then had to stop to go to choir rehearsal which was perfect since the detective and her two sidekicks are in the soprano section of the church choir.

Thank you again for helping keep me going all year!

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