Saturday, June 30, 2012

Three Things to Keep in Mind While Drafting

Personally, I love drafting. There’s less pressure on a draft than a revision, because your first draft is expected to suck. But I struggle a lot with drafting, especially at the beginning of a new project. It's a leap of faith to commit hours and hours of time to an idea that's nothing more than that--an idea, slowly and vaguely taking shape in your mind. There'll be times when you will furiously, ecstatically pound out words, and then there are simply times when you won't. Here are the three things that I think are vitally important to keep in mind through all of that.

1. Write. Just write. Write anywhere. Write everywhere. Write on a steno pad while your boss is preoccupied. Write during chemistry class while you should be taking notes. Write during lectures, and nod thoughtfully on occasion to show that you’re paying attention. (Okay…don’t do any of that. They tend to have consequences. Rather lasting ones, like a nose-diving chemistry grade). Your first draft doesn't need to be good. At all. First drafts are just a jumbled collection of your thoughts and emotions translated into messy words, and you’ll clean it up during revisions. At this point, the only thing that's important is that you get it down on paper.

Also, get into a habit of pressing CTRL+S after every paragraph. It'll save you a lot of headaches and heartbreaks. There is no muse-killer more effective than losing your work to cyberspace.

2. Don’t wait for inspiration. There will be short bursts of it peppered here and there, of course. There will be scenes that simply flow out like swollen rivers…and then there will also be scenes that flow out like drool. Writing isn’t about waiting for inspiration. Writing is about forcing words out of yourself even when you’re utterly lacking in inspiration.

That said, drafting is also a good time to find things that do inspire you. When I start a new project, one of the first things I do is look for music. Music helps me write (or, I guess it could just be that my noise-resistant headphones block out the rest of my family…), and my tastes can vary widely from story to story. For example, my playlist for my war-torn fantasy features mostly Linkin Park. My WIP set in a land of strict tradition and wandering monsters is set to mostly Celtic, Narnia-esque music.

3. My art teacher once told me that the best advice he ever got on marriage (which, for whatever reason, was his pet analogy for ceramics) was that you should expect to have days on which you wake up and not like the person next to you. At first, I was totally surprised by this, maybe because it was so different from archetypal, ooey-gooey wedding advice. But turns out, this was an invaluable piece of advice when I applied it to writing. There are days, many of them, when I open up my computer, scroll through my draft, and think, “Wow. This is utter crap.”

I constantly doubt my work. I constantly wonder if I’m good enough, and with embarrassing frequency, I don’t believe that I am. I sit there sweating in front of a blank screen and think, “I could be doing something else. I could be studying for SATs. I could be at tennis practice. Screw that, I could be at the beach.” The hardest part of drafting is having faith in yourself, and believing that you're able to pull thousands and thousands of words from corners of yourself that you honestly might rather ignore. Yes, there will be days when you do not want to do this. But deep down, you know you’ll always run back.

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