It's Week Three of First Drafts Month here at Writer Musings! What does a first draft mean to you? How do you write yours? Does it change for each project, or is it the same each time? For the entire month of June, we will be hearing from various writers in various stages. And each of them will share what a first draft means to them.
Today, we'll be hearing from PJ Hoover, author of The Forgotten Worlds trilogy: The Emerald Tablet, The Navel of the World, and forthcoming The Necropolis.
FIRST DRAFTS: Be the Hare. And the Tortoise.
I live my life like the tortoise. I strive for consistency. I don’t like to start anything I don’t plan to finish. And as the years go by, I’ve come to understand the best way to do this is to live like the tortoise. Want a black belt? Go to Kung Fu three hours a week for two years and you’ll have one. Trying to memorize a poem? Learn a single line each day. By using this tortoise methodology, almost anything can get accomplished from painting the house to—you guessed it—writing a novel. Yes, you can write a novel by writing a single page each day. And this is a great plan!
But then the hare reminds you he’s in the race too. And he demands attention.
I give the hare proper attention in my first draft stage, because though he doesn’t always use the best judgment, he does have one great thing going for him. Forward momentum. The faster he runs, the less likely it is he’ll slow down. (The secret for the hare is to not let him get distracted.) And so, when I’m writing my first drafts, I write them as quickly as possible. The words start flowing, and I never want them to stop. I want to take that forward momentum and run with it.
Why? Because, for me, there’s nothing quite so motivating as seeing the pretty words fill up page after page quickly. And the more motivated I feel, the more I write. And the more I write, the more motivated I feel. Yes, you get it, I know. It’s a perfect circle.
So I have this process. I plan for a bit. I get through that first draft as fast as I can. And then what? What have I really accomplished?
For me, the first draft represents the skeleton of my story that will come in revisions. I’m willing to take the time to fill in all those sinewy details as I revise, but knowing I have those bare bones grants me that huge feeling of accomplishment. If someone asks if I’ve written another book, I answer with a resounding “Yes!”
But, you might say, what happens when my story idea changes in the middle of the first draft? What if I decide on page 75 that the main character really needs a dog? Do I go back and add in the dog from page 1 onward? Not a chance. That’s why Microsoft Word has the comment feature. I insert a comment wherever I am that I need to add in a dog, and then I move onward. I don’t give in to those distractions like the hare.
So be the tortoise. And be the hare. Be consistent but move forward quickly.
Take Newton’s First Law of Motion:
Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.
And modify it for writing:
Words flowing toward the completion of a first draft tend to continue flowing unless an external force is applied to them.
Resist the force and finish that first draft!