Got two minutes? Then check out this week’s quick tip ~ Freeing yourself to truly write a horrendous first draft.
Hello and welcome…I am a freelance editor and an editor for The Wild Rose Press, as well as an author. I often struggle with my own writing, and I have found that sometimes, a little reminder of ways to improve the process can be helpful, so, I like to share these moments of brilliance with others :). But, in this busy world of ours, who has time for pages and pages of writing tips? That’s why I’ve condensed mine down to quick flashes you can read in (approximately) two minutes. Enjoy…
Disclaimer: All of my tips are suggestions, and are only my opinion. And, for the most part, there are exceptions when going against my advice will make your story read better. Take what works, leave the rest.
We’ve all heard the advice about giving yourself permission to write badly, but I’m not sure we really understand the concept. In your first draft, in order to get the story down quickly, you have permission to write atrociously, so atrociously you might begin to wonder if you’ve ever read before, let alone written before. I know, some of you are perfectionists and can’t move forward until you have a scene just the way you want it. You like to edit as you go, and I won’t hold that against you. 🙂 But, for those of you who are like me and need to just get the story down as quickly as possible, knowing you will have to make extensive revisions, this method is for you.
The story that I just finished was a struggle. As I am wont to do, I procrastinated and it got down to the wire, then I fell ill and lost a week of writing time. Even knowing I HAD to get the story done, I would sit down to write and freeze up and my brain would say, “You can’t do this. You don’t have a good handle on the story and you CANNOT do this.”
I told myself to write badly and just power through, and I thought I was doing that, then I realized, I wasn’t writing badly enough. So, I buckled down and used all the talent I could muster to write shit. (Pardon my language). I closed my eyes and did this…
(Forgive me, this post is a little longer than two minutes if you suffer through reading my scene examples)
She’ll see the ghost again while she’s out watching for the light but doesn’t believe it’s the ghost. Add a bit of setting
Scene draft (this is just a partial scene, I won’t bore you with the entire scene):
Tree limbs hung in the air heavy with ice. A howl rose in the distance. I looked around but saw nothing. But then, coyotes were creatures of the night they wouldn’t just be roaming around in sight. I walked until I reached the spot I’d read online was the best place to see it.
Snow started falling more heavily in a blink of an eye and I pulled my coat up around my neck.
A three quarter moon hung in the sky surrounded by a spattering of stars. It was so quiet out here. I didn’t see stars like that in Miami. From the corner of my eye I saw a glow. IT was translucent and not fully formed figure hovered above the ditch on the side of the road. I gasped. My legs shook. It’s not real, whatever I’m seeing it’s not real.
The figure floated toward me I stepped back keeping my gaze on the glow.
What was it?
Not the light. It wasn’t in the right spot nor was it the right shape.
I parked on the shoulder and snuggled into my coat. Above me, ice-coated tree limbs drooped heavily. A howl rose in the distance. I looked around but saw nothing. Of course, coyotes and mountain lions were sneaky. They wouldn’t be parading around in plain view. From what I’d read, they kept mostly away from civilization. Even though this area was hardly what I’d call civilized, it wasn’t the wilderness either. I was certain whatever had made that sound was a safe distance away.
A three quarter moon hung in the sky surrounded by a spattering of stars. Beautiful. I didn’t see stars like that in Miami. I focused my attention back to the end of the road. From my understanding, the best spot to see the light was just to the left of a cell tower. I could see the red lights of the tower. I studied the area left of it.
In my peripheral, a brief glow appeared. I whipped my head around. A translucent, but not quite human form, wafted above the ditch on the side of the road.
I gasped, and a tremble shot up my legs. It’s not real, whatever I’m seeing, it’s not real.
The figure floated toward me. I lifted the plastic, keeping my gaze on the glow.
What was it?
Not the light. It wasn’t in the right spot nor was it the right shape.
EXAMPLE 2: (an even shittier draft)
First dinner/meeting Declan.
Scene draft (partial):
There will be convo about Oklahoma weather and how this isn’t typical, but they usually get maybe one or two blizzards a year, and this one happened to fall during their visits. Also, it should be mentioned about how ice can cause problems with power lines, etc.
Also, there should be something mentioned about the lack of cell service. Maybe Cami has tried to call editor and it didn’t work. Declan says if you’re one of those who is tethered to technology, you’ll not have a pleasant stay. No wifi, sporadic phone reception, depending on carrier. We do have phones in all the rooms, or maybe a guest phone. (I later decided Loretta would be the one to relay this info to Cami)
They will have more conversation.
They should talk about the Spooklight. Wife in couple believes it and husband makes fun of her. Declan and Loretta maybe can tell a few stories about the legend. No, he wouldn’t do that because of sis. Or, maybe Cami hears about sis and it’s nothing to do with Spooklight but she hopes it might be. Or, perhaps just wonders. What do they have for dinner and who serves it?
After dinner, dessert.
“I’m so glad you could brave this weather to join us,” Declan said, favoring us all with a glance. Whether he meant it or not, I wasn’t sure, but it was a polite and hospitable thing to say. “Have you been to this part of the country before?”
“We haven’t,” Roxanne said. “We live in Arizona. We heard about this place and were fascinated.”
“I was concerned when I saw the blizzard warnings,” Jin put in. He placed a hand over his wife’s. “But this is where my sweetheart wanted to celebrate our first anniversary, and I wasn’t going to let weather ruin that for her.”
Her face glowed with happiness as she leaned over and kissed him.
I forced a smile while my gut churned with nausea. Seriously? Was anyone really that happy? You thought you and Lance were, a little voice inside my head irritatingly reminded me. Yeah, well, you see how that turned out.
I jerked my head up in a moment of panic as I wondered if I’d said the words aloud. All eyes were on me. Had I?
“Ms. Burditt?” Declan stared at me curiously, making me think it wasn’t the first time he’d spoken to me. “Have you been to Oklahoma before now?”
My face heated at the same moment relief swept through me. I hadn’t spoken aloud. “No, no I haven’t. I’m from Miami.” Then I remembered the nearby town of the same name. “Miami, Florida, not Oklahoma,” I added hastily, and unnecessarily, since I’d just told them I had never been to Oklahoma.
“Miam-a,” Declan said.
“I beg your pardon?”
“The Miami in Oklahoma is pronounced with an ‘a’ sound at the end.”
I frowned. “Oh, well, that makes no sense.”
A small grin appeared on his full mouth. “Yes, well, what are you going to do?”
I smiled back. “Right?”
Conversation rose around the table about Oklahoma weather and how this wasn’t typical, but they usually experienced maybe one or two blizzards a year. This one just happened to fall during our visits. “The worst thing for us about this kind of weather is the ice.” Declan pushed his plate back and picked up his champagne. “It can often cause problems with power lines and roof cave-ins. If we happen to lose power, we do have a backup generator.”
“What’s the deal with the spook light?” Roxanne asked. “Do you think we’ll be able to see it while we’re here?”
Jin laughed. “Now, sweetheart, I told you, that’s just a bunch of nonsense.”
“I don’t know.” Declan’s voice lowered into an almost hypnotic tone. “There have been many sightings and many unexplained happenings over the years. Who are we to say whether or not it’s real?”
“Exactly.” Loretta took up the cause, which I was certain was just a ruse to stir up interest in the spook light. “I’ve seen it many times. And, I’ve heard the legends all my life. So far, no one has come up with a logical, scientific reason for the spook light’s appearance. So…”
Silence fell. Roxanne’s eyes were round, her face animated. Jin still looked skeptical, but said nothing further, perhaps out of politeness, which is the same reason I kept my mouth shut. Supernatural spook light indeed…strange occurrences. Did they think we were children? Or gullible, like Roxanne?
After a delicious dinner of prime rib and truffle mashed potatoes, with apple crisp and homemade ice cream for dessert, Declan stood. “Would anyone like coffee or a cocktail in the library?”
So…there you have it. I went from a brief thought about the scene to a shitty draft to a less shitty (I hope) polished scene. I did that over and over until I had an entire novella. Laugh, if you must, but I wrote a 35,000 word novella in approximately two weeks, including revisions. And that was while I was working full-time, editing for The Wild Rose Press, coordinating a contest, watching television (a girl has to have some down time), freelance editing, promo, etc. (although my amazing friend and co-moderator for my AHA group, M.J. Schiller, took over most of those duties for me during that time).
It helps to tell yourself, “No one has to see this until I’m ready for them to.” (Unless you’re like me and foolish enough to blog about it and share your embarrassment.) I also tell myself, “Each pass will improve.” And, it did. Although I can now see how I would tweak my ‘final’ scenes a bit further. Such is the way with writers. We will always want to revise, but at some point, we just have to be finished. And breathe a huge sigh of relief….then start on the next shitty draft.
Until next time…Happy Writing!
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*** If you would like to send me a few sample pages (around 7500 words or so, even though I will not edit that many on the blog. It just gives me more to choose from) for me to edit and share on an upcoming blog post, please do so in the body of an email to AliciaMDean@aol.com. Please use the subject line: “Blog Submission” This is for published or unpublished authors. In the email, please include whether you would like me to use your name or keep it anonymous, and whether or not you would like me to include any contact info or buy info for your books. Also, you can let me know if you would like for me to run my edits by you before posting on the blog. Please keep in mind, this is for samples to use for blog posts. I will not edit or use samples from all the submissions I receive, but I will use as many as possible.
How to write a novel? That is the question. There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people who ask it.
Wanting to write and actually doing it are two very different things. I am well acquainted with the sometimes grueling process of churning out a story. Over the years, I have tried many methods for creating and completing manuscripts, and have tweaked and honed it down to a workable (for me) process.
Using specific examples from one of my own novels, Without Mercy, I share my method in this mini how to book. The first eight steps actually deal with plotting while the last two are designed to help expand your outline into a well-developed draft. There is no one, perfect way to create a story, but there will be a method, or methods that work for you. I’m not sure if this is the one, but it works for me. Only you can decide if it also works for you. Fingers crossed that it does!
*** Warning – Please do not purchase without reading a sample. (This is solid advice for any book, fiction or non. If you are not intrigued in the sample, you will likely not enjoy the book)
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