Writing a First Draft

June 12, 2009 at 1:53 PM 3 comments

I’d like to share with you an article I wrote for isnare.com (which is a great marketing tool):

When I first sat down to write my debut novel, I had none of these ideas that I’m about to give you. I was twelve years old at the time–I had a movie idea that I was going to make with some friends, but unfortunately (in retrospect, it was actually fortunate for my writing career) they backed out on me. But this story was just burning in my bones, and I had to let it out before either a) I lost the story, or b) I lost interest in the story. So in a moment of reckless decision, I decided to pen a novel.

I had no clue what I was getting into. And being a nerdy nose-in-a-book twelve-year-old, I scoured the writing section in the library. All I found was a lot of abstract stuff about what you should do in the MIDDLE of writing your book and I found almost nothing about how to start off, especially being as young as I was.

My search ended with a book that totally changed my perspective on writing, forever. It’s called No Plot? No Problem! and it’s written by one of the funniest men on the planet (of course he’s funny…he’s a writer), Chris Baty. What I learned from that book was invaluable, and that’s what I’m going to share with you today.

What I learned was that you don’t have to have a perfect, heck, even a GOOD first draft. All my first drafts can testify to that (except my most recent one–I think that one was better than the others). What you need to do for your first draft for your first novel is to explore what your story could be, to take the brush and make broad, experimental strokes. And if you want to keep it within a framework, you can do that.

The point is that you use the first draft as a place to vomit a story that’s been burning your stomach with its altogether wonderful acids that just don’t work very well inside of you. Once you have the story out, you can use months of practice and work to form it into something astounding and engaging, but that’s for later.

What I like to do is I get my first draft down as ONLY the main plot and nothing else and just pound it out in a month or less, writing thousands of words a day and not caring that that last page was the worst piece of fiction I’ve ever written. I do this by setting a goal, both timewise and wordwise. My usual word goal is anywhere between 40k-60k words (for National Novel Writing Month in November, I aim for 50k), and my usual time goal is a month or less. I find these goals to be feasible and actually quite easy since you’re only doing a first draft.

“But Dawson,” you say, “what about prewriting?”

I usually just wing it, which is perfectly viable, as is prewriting. I don’t have a lot of advice to give on that because the book I did the most prewriting on is the worst book of my 4 and will probably never see the light of day. But usually, if you’re going to have to vomit a story, you already have had the story in your mind, so all the details will probably come to you as you go.

I wish you the best of luck, teen writers, and I encourage you to check out No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty. Have a great day.

Well, I hope that that was insightful to you. It’s what got my first draft written for all of my books.

A little about Isnare.com: it’s a free place where you can write articles and have them up in about a week. The one you just saw isn’t yet up (I just submitted it today) but I wanted to share it with you anyway.





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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Becky  |  June 12, 2009 at 2:55 PM

    Heh, sychronicity!

    I wrote a post about “No Plot? No Problem!” just yesterday. 😀

    • 2. The Masked Author  |  June 12, 2009 at 3:07 PM

      Wow, I had no idea! That was the book that got me started writing, you know. I loved it…it’s absolutely hilarious.


      • 3. Becky  |  June 12, 2009 at 5:06 PM

        It is very funny. 🙂

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