Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Let's Start at the very Beginning...*

It's time. New project time. It might be a short story, a novella or a novel, but you're about to dive into the pool. How do you approach that first draft?

Write now, fix later: This is what I call the approach of just throwing it down on the page. The main goal is to get to the end as quickly as possible. Sure, you'll have to add details; perhaps a great many details, but you've got a completed first draft, lean as it may be.

Watch the movie, write it down: This is a method used by many writers; they see their story being acted out in front of them and they simply write down what they see. If you're incredibly visual then this may be the method that works best for you.

Hop, skip and a jump: This is my name for the method of writing what appeals to you today. Maybe it's the ending. Maybe it's a climatic fight or a hair-raising escape. Perhaps it's a love scene. This method will give you a first draft but you'll need some time to put the puzzle together. If you're of the school of 'going with your feelings' then this may be the method for you.

Every word is golden: This is my name for the method of starting at the beginning and moving slowly to the end. Word choices are seriously considered. Consistency is prized. The advantage of this method is far less editing will probably be required. The disadvantage of this method is its speed. There isn't any.

Of course, every writer has their own method of battling that first (or subsequent) draft to the ground. Some stick to what has worked in the past, others are constantly adjusting their approach. When it comes to the finish line and you've a completed manuscript ready for your agent, no one is going to care how you got there. You're there and that's what counts.

*Did today's post title give you the urge to re-watch "The Sound of Music"? I thought it might...


  1. Nano helped me to write now and fix later. My problem is I try to do too much research in the beginning rather than focus on the larger picture and capture that first. The details will follow.

    Stephen Tremp

  2. Elspeth - Now I have that song in my mind! : ). It's funny that you would focus on beginnings today. I've recently had to start all over with my WIP. A disheartening feeling, as I'd thought I was well underway, but in the end, the book will be better for my having started over. My approach to this draft (and to other drafts I've written) is a write-now-fix-later strategy. I don't wait to finish the whole work, though, I generally write a chapter or two, and then go back and fix. Then, when the whole draft is finished, I rely on my sent-from-heaven beta readers to tell me the ugly, wicked truth about the WIP, so that I can revise before sending it in.

  3. I'm a write now, fix later proponent.

    What does it say about me that I've never seen The Sound of Music?

  4. I'm always singing in my head anyway, so why not another song to add to the mix. Just watched it again recently, though, so won't see it any time soon. I'm a write now, fix it later kinda gal. My process changes as I change, so I have to stay vigilant.

  5. Stephen; I admire anyone who attempts NaNo. What a herculean task.

    Margot; You've shown great determination in choosing to start over. The very thought makes me want to sit and scream. Kudos to you for wanting it to be the very best it can be.

    Alan; You've never seen The Sound of Music????? How is this possible? I, on the other hand, have never seen It's a Wonderful Life. I now consider this a badge of honour.

    Karen; What ever works for you, my dear. Vigilance is always necessary. I wish you nothing but joy.

  6. You know, up until about three weeks ago, I'd never seen It's A Wonderful Life either. And I saw it then only because my son was in the play. I'm not very good with "classic" movies. Never saw: Citizen Kane, On The Waterfront, Mary Poppins, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and a million others. The only reason I saw Gone With The Wind was because it was a school field trip, and the entire movie I was waiting for the "I don't give a damn" line. I think I was in 9th grade.

  7. I'm "Watch the movie, fix it later" writer. I love all the processes we use. It amazes me that we all write in different ways, edit in different ways, yet come up with the same result - a good book.

  8. I tend to "write now, fix later". My writing partner and I, however, employed more of a "hop, skip, and a jump" for our ms. It just seemed to work for us.

  9. Alan; GWTW does not stand up well. I don't recommend a second viewing.

    Carol; isn't it interesting how many different ways there are?

    Elisa; Whatever works, baby, whatever works.

  10. Interesting that most commenters are Write Now, Fix Later types. LOL.

    This is good example of why I love blogging...I gain so much insight into what makes writers tick and how you go about putting a book together.

  11. I might be mad. Right now I feel as if I'm employing all the above tactics...

  12. I am a 'pitter patter fly right atter' which I think is the same as the first one. Now I am sort of rueing it as I did it all in the heat of the nano crazies but TODAY I got a breakthrough. I'm writing down every beat on index cards and I'm nearly done to the end of my writing so far (3/4 of manuscript done). Feels good. I'm putting in ***** wherever I need more scenes and I'm skating right along not trying to get it perfect just trying to figure out what the hey is going on.

  13. Okay - hop, skip and jump terrifies me to the tips of my toes!!

    I'm mostly write first, fix later, with a healthy does of every word is golden thrown in. *sigh* Never did fit most normal patterns :)

  14. I think I've used every one of those methods, and all within the same WiP. I'm still trying to revise and shore up a weak plotline so I'd have to say that next time: I will begin with a proper outline. I have made that promise before though, and failed to follow through...

    Love The Sound of Music!

  15. Crystal; I'm glad you enjoyed it. We are strange beasties.

    Elizabeth; Welcome to the club. We're getting jackets made.

    Jan; I use *** all the time. Sanity saver!

    Jemi; It terrifies me too, which is why I've never used it!

    Deb; Outlines really help. I know many think it stifles their creativity, but I need a map. I waste less time figuring out what comes next. Who doesn't love that movie? Christopher Plummer....yummy.

  16. I watch the movie and write it down. I've tried to plan out the story ahead of time, but it doesn't work for me. I often recommend others get the story down on paper and fix stuff later, however, especially if they're agonizing over every word.

  17. We're going to have to make Alan go to film class. :)

    I'm the throw-it-on-the-page,fix-it-later girl.

    Mystery Writing is Murder
    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

  18. I like to rush through my first draft like a demon, though along the way I do have a rolling movie going on in my head.


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