I've blogged before about first drafts, and how I found a way to get through the you-suck moment that inevitably strikes me about halfway through every book. Well, I'm in good old first draft territory right now as, with the edits and copyedits for ACID done, I'm forging ahead with my second book and trying to get it done. And as I've been writing, I've been thinking about the whole process of first drafting, which is very different to writing a second draft, or a third, or a fourth…
It's no secret to my writer friends that I find revising much easier than writing a first draft (I may even have been known to send tweets with the hashtag #firstdrafthell at times…), because with subsequent drafts, you have something to work with. But with first drafts, you have nothing. You're spinning those words, those characters, that plot out of thin air, and inevitably, things end up going in different directions to the ways you planned. Sometimes, I find this exciting. More often, it can throw me into a panic, and I have to frantically return to my notes (some of which I make before I start, some as I go along) to figure out exactly what needs to happen, and why.
One thing I've learnt not to do at these moments is to try to think about the WHOLE BOOK. If I think about the WHOLE BOOK it will loom over me like Everest, and I'll run out of oxygen long before I get to the top. Instead, I think ahead only to the next major plot point. I don't plot rigidly, but I always have a vague idea of the complete story arc before I start, and, as I go along, I work out the plot points so they're laid out in my head like stepping stones across a river. I don't need to look right over to the other side of the water to see where I'm going – only to the next stone, and then the next. Bit by bit, I find my way across, and by keeping my eyes on my feet, there's less chance I'll lose my nerve and stumble. (Besides which, I can't swim very well, so falling into that river would be a bad idea.)
|Photo by J.A. Holland via Flickr. Licensed for use under Creative Commons.|
How about you? What techniques do you use to get through those tricky first drafts?