Sunday, November 1, 2009

First Drafts

All the NaNo talk and excitement has got me thinking about first drafts. There are so many styles of writers. There are probably just as many styles of drafting.

I tend to use the backspace key a lot. I don't think I get through too many paragraphs without backspacing a bit and changing something. It could be word choice, eliminating unnecessary words, rearranging an idea, correcting spelling, or just about anything else. I tend to multi-task. One part of my brain whips along with the story. Another part, the good old internal editor, shrieks at me to change it NOW, while I know what the change should be. I'm afraid if I ignore the shriek, the best wording will disappear into the abyss.

Even in NaNo, I can't stop the backspacing. One cyber friend says she never backspaces more than 2 spaces during NaNo. I think my shrieker would deafen me if I tried that. :)

I also go back and skim, change things up, do re-writing. If I notice any major issues, I go back and fix them. I've tried leaving myself notes to make changes later, but the idea for the change festers, and the shrieker goes a little nutty. So I listen. Better than being deaf!

How about you? Do you draft straight through? Do you love your backspace key? Have you got a shrieker?

(NaNo update: I chose the steampunk, although the cozy is getting louder and louder. I've managed about 2000 words today. Let me know how yours is going!)

47 comments:

  1. Hi Jemi :)
    I have the same internal editor that constantly wants me to fix as I go. I am training myself to ignore it & keep on writing. Write or Die has been good for that. I've got 1700 words done for #NaNo today.
    I'm RKCharron there & on Twitter.
    Thanks for the post!
    All the best,
    RKCharron
    xoxo

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  2. Oh man, my first drafts are really bad. They have to be, really, since I don't outline or know anything more about my story than my opening scene, and my ending. My first drafts are filled with repetitive words, lapses in judgement, and just horrid prose. My first drafts couldn't even get arrested. I always, ALWAYS take comfort in Anne Lamott's view of it: the first draft is the "down" draft. Just.Get.It.Down.

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  3. And this was an AWESOME post btw, Jemi! :-)

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  4. Jemi, You are SO on my wavelength. I do edit (a little) as I go along. I write a few pages, read them them the next day, edit glaring errors and write a few more pages. Rinse and Repeat. For me, reading the previous few pages pulls me back in the story and anchors me to the plot.

    Yeah, yeah, I know I'm supposed to just write, but I can't. I'm a little OCD. I say whatever gets you to the finished line, do it!

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  5. Jemi, I write just as you do. I must fix the mistakes right away or I'm afraid I'll forget them and it'll be lost. I can't just write straight on through either, I have to go back a few pages and see where the story left off and go from there. That's where I see typos and fix them.
    I certainly admire all of you NaNo'ers (is that a word?), too! I haven't done it before. Maybe next year. But I certainly look forward to hearing about your word count updates and progress. Good luck!

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  6. RKCharron - the shrieker is hard to turn off, but sometimes, you just gotta do it! I've got to work on training him :) Thanks for dropping by!

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  7. RKLewis - the Down Draft - I love it, and I'm going to use it! It's amazing the strange things that pop into 1st drafts, isn't it :)

    Thank you!

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  8. Jenny - YES! OCDs of the world unite :)

    I fall into my story so quickly if I read the last little bit back. One trick I sometimes use as well is to stop in the middle of a sentence so that I'll be pulled right back into that thought. Have to be careful with that one though - doesn't always work :)

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  9. I try really hard just to write through... I really try to gag my internal editor.

    Well, actually, I only gag her for the grammatical edits.

    If I think about a major change to a character or to the plot, and I know it's one that I want, I'll make it immediately - otherwise, it could make a LOT more work later on if it changes the way the rest of the story plays out!

    As for nano progress... slow moving today, but am planning a late night :-)

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  10. Thanks TK. NaNo is a lot of fun - at least for the crazy folks :) It is hard because I don't like picking up where I left off without back tracking a bit for mood.

    Someone suggested turning the font white so you can't go back and read it. Makes my heart pound just thinking about it!!!

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  11. Sara - hmmm, just might have to get a gag!

    You're right about the major changes. I just have to do it right away!

    Hope your evening goes well for NaNo. I'm hoping to get back to it too, but supper, more laundry, more report card stuff... just might get in the way :)

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  12. Good job on your start, Jemi!

    I am a blast straight-ahead type. Damn the torpedos, the story is coming through. My last story, I didn't even know what season it was. There are sentences that go, "Char walked down the street [insert seasonal detail] coming closer to the store that started it all."

    I do backspace to fix spelling, or if a sentence ended up going off in the wrong direction, but that's about it.

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  13. Jean, I love it! I can just see you blasting away :)

    Inserting details in that way is a great idea! I'll have to force myself to give it a shot!

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  14. I write and do light editing as I go. If I think of something to edit when I'm not writing, I try to get back to my wip and make the changes ASAP. When I sit down to write, I find reading through the chapter or scene I last finished helps me get back in the rhythm. Not going back and changing something I'm thinking about? Not an option. Good luck w/NaNo!!!

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  15. Jean, I wish I could do it your way, but alas, I have a huge IE that won't let me pass up even a small typo. I'm a constant fixer and a back spacer.

    Oh well, it seems to work...

    Nice post and good luck to all you NaNo-ers!

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  16. Debra - we seem to have a pretty similar style! I like making my fix-ups asap as well :)

    Thanks for the support!

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  17. Cat - I bet your IE shrieks at you too! And yes, it does seem to work for you. Once again, our diversity is so much fun :) It would be so boring if we were all the same!

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  18. rklewis took the words straight out of my mouth. I'm into 'down drafts'. Just get it down!

    I do however, have a nagging whine in the back of my head, telling me to correct along the way. But if I stop for even a second my brilliant idea would trickle into the abyss. Never to be remembered again.

    Good luck with NaNa!

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  19. Quill - I love how we have such similarities to other writers! And yet we are all so different :)

    I wonder if a whiner of an IE is better than a shrieky IE? :)

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  20. I used to go back and edit. Then I stopped. By going back I wasn't going forward :)

    p.s. I'm a fan of Ctrl-Z in Word.

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  21. Carolyn - I can't seem to stop! I tend to fixate on the part I need to fix until I give up and go fix it. I'm going to try during NaNo to do it less, but no promises :)

    I'd forgotten about Cntl-Z! Thanks for reminding me - it should speed me up a bit!

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  22. For one horrible second I thought I was learning new swearing but no a keyboard reference!
    Hope the writing went well today?
    I'm an editor. I just can't see something that I know is wrong and leave it. I find it hard to move forward each time until I'm sure the foundation is good... OK... good enough!

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  23. Several times I scrolled back to insert a forgotten plot point and found myself re-reading parts of what I'd written. Bad VR! I finally opened a separate file where I could type in notes to be inserted in December. It wasn't inserting the text that was the problem, though, it was stopping to re-read. When you're used to editing as you go, fighting the IE is like fighting a reflex!

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  24. Misspellings I immediately correct with the backspace as I'm typing, but the rest of the mistakes are taken care of with the second draft revisions.

    I'm lurking at NaNo. :) I wrote 3000 words Sunday.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  25. I have to backspace, I cannot ignore mistakes. I wish I could as I am sure I would finish much quicker.

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  26. Elaine - no, no new swearing! I wonder if most teachers who write are editors... Hope your day of writing goes well!

    VR - so true! And that reflex is one powerful fighter. A separate file is a great idea. I might give that a try. Thanks :)

    Elizabeth - you're probably ahead of most of the NaNo folks! It's a fun place to hang out - lots of energy and fun! Your system certainly works for you :)

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  27. Hi Glynis - you posted while I was commenting on the other posts! I love my backspace key too. It doesn't matter if I can see the draft or not, I know the changes I need to make :)

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  28. Well done on your 2000 words. i did the same yesterday, which was my target :)

    I just sit and write, I don't even read back, just get the words on the page. It means a lot of editing afterwards but it seems to work for me.

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  29. I'm so with you on this Jemi! In fact, it's similar to my post today: How Eyeshadow is like Writing. I cannot leave a mistake uncorrected. And it definitely slows me down! I think it comes from my editing background in journalism. I'm sure this will drive my kids crazy in years to come. I already teach them how to use lay and lie correctly...And my husband is an avid eye-roller.

    Best of luck on NaNo...Day 2 and we're blogging!

    Michele
    SouthernCityMysteries

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  30. I let the internal editor roam as it will. I have a terrible memory, and if I don't fix something as I notice the problem (aside from minor errors which are easy to spot later), I am almost certain to forget and wonder what I'd worried about later (that's the fear anyway). For me, editing and writing go hand in hand. But I also can't do dishes without first cleaning the sink. I'm a bit OCD/perfectionist.

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  31. Alexa - I think it's so true - whatever works for you is the way you need to go. We're all unique and need to remember that!

    Hi Michele - I'll definitely have to check out your blog post! Sounds like fun. I'm with you on the eye roll from the hubby department. Poor guys :)

    Carolina - me too. I'm so afraid of losing the thought while it's there! My brain is full of kinds of (not always relevant!) information and there are lots of places for ideas to disappear. It's nice to meet another OCD club member!

    Thanks to all of you for dropping by!

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  32. I'm a definite edit as I go person. I use the backspace key a lot. I don't worry about getting the words during NaNo. If I sit down to write, the words are going to be there. Sure, I might have to power through to get the extra ones, but my writing process doesn't change.

    Congrats on your word count!

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  33. Elena - wahoo! another backspace addict :)

    I'm the same - it's mostly a problem of finding the time, not of finding the ideas. Thanks - and thanks for dropping by!

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  34. I would have to say I'm a straight through writer. No outlines, no backspace, no stopping to correct minor errors. Once I've hit the word goal, Ill go back through and de-fluff it. But, thats just my approach. This is my first Nano, and I must say, the pace is insane...but Im loving it. good luck.

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  35. I'm with you on the "no outlines", but I don't think I could ever do "no backspace"!! It's just too hard :)

    Yes, NaNo is insane, not for the timid for sure. Ain't it grand?

    Good luck right back at ya!

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  36. I'm doing the Nanowrimo thing and instead of writing like I should, I still find myself backspacing, editing and doing a little research.

    Stephen Tremp

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  37. Stephen - I know, it's so hard to change up your normal style! I just can't help myself - gotta use that backspace :)

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  38. Just wanted to let you know you inspired a new post on my blog! Quoted you and all!

    Here's the link:
    http://southerncitymysteries.blogspot.com/2009/11/favorite-indie-bookstoredo-you-have-one.html
    Michele
    SouthernCityMysteries

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  39. Thanks for letting me know, Michele! I'll pop it over and check it out :)

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  40. Never more than 2 backspaces!?! How does she do it? I am like you--if I see a problem (be it awkward sentence, misspelling, or content change) I HAVE to change it before I can move on. I guess this makes us NaNo cheaters since there's the whole "no revising" rule, but I've decided that just means MAJOR revisions. :)

    GREAT progress!

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  41. I'm a full-steam ahead drafter too. I first gave it a try when I read about doing it that way in Stephen King's On Writing - he advises you crank out that first draft without rereading anything until the whole thing is done - and I find that the anticipation of rereading my words for the first time ever is quite a big incentive for me. Also, I'm a pretty ruthless editor, and am able to slash away lots of deadwood during edits - I think that's helpful with the no-stopping-until-you're-done approach!

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  42. Natalie - definitely! I've always taken the rule to mean major revisions. I mean, really, no backspace??? I'd jump off a cliff :) It wouldn't be worth the stress!!

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  43. Belle - Stephen King sure has some great ideas, doesn't he? His book has sure influenced a lot of writers :)

    I like the idea of anticipating the re-read. That should help me out a bit. I don't re-read much, just enough to pull me back in, but maybe I'll give it a shot! Thanks :)

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  44. In "Bird By Bird," Anne Lamott does some excellent analysis of first drafts. She basically says that they need to be shitty. Her point is that to get your flow going, you gotta turn off that internal editor (the shrieker, as you put it). Then you come back and do clean up later.
    Makes a lot of sense and I try to follow this myself.
    But yeah, it's easier said than done!

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  45. Bridget - I'll have to check that out! Sounds like a good book. I've been working on gagging my shrieker, but she keeps getting loose :)

    No major revisions though, just ... "oops that sucks, let's try this" kind of stuff

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  46. Hi, I have a little something for you over on my blog. (yep, another Kreativ Blogger Award =))

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  47. Hey TK - Thanks :) I'll check it out!!

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