How to Write Your First Draft Without Giving Up
Julian Gough, an Irish writer, memoirist, poet and playwright, provides detailed advice in his essay ” How to Edit Your Lousy Writing . “ He explains the “work” that the first, second and third drafts do, editing a hypothetical scene as a concrete example.
Gough provides some tips to hang on a poster above your computer, especially if you’re just starting National Novel Writing Month . My favorite is “Don’t fix commas when the plot is broken.” Eleven years into my writing career, I still indulge this bad habit on every long project, spending hours setting up witty dialogues that will all be removed when I completely replace Act III.
Of course, correcting commas is inevitable; sometimes you have to hone a passage for several days before you realize that you are trying to save what cannot be saved. But too much of this can be demoralizing and prevent you from ever completing your work. At the very least, try not to edit your first draft until you’ve got a rough idea of everything from start to finish.
Likewise, says Gough, don’t underline character names or factoids in early sketches. Don’t stop and hack Baby Name Voyager or Wikipedia. This is not research, this is procrastination. Add a placeholder and keep gaining traction:
I write first drafts full of typos and holes. And when I say “holes” I mean real gaps where I could mark “fix this problem later” or “blah blah blah” for a conversation that I don’t want to imagine yet. Also, I usually start writing now without knowing what someone’s name is, so I just type &&&&&& where the names should appear. (I create these characters – it’s easier to name them later when I know who they are.)
By the way, you can start anywhere. For example, I’m having trouble writing splash screens for blog posts. I’ve learned to start with whatever obvious information an article should include. This leads to the second part and so on. Once the post is written, it is much easier to present it. Half the time I realize I don’t need to clear my throat – this is a blog post, not a book.
I am still not good at conclusions.
How to Edit Your Own Lousy Text | Sting fly