Writing a First Draft

First drafts are terrible. There, I said it.

I’ve gone back and forth over the years with how I wrote my first drafts. The very first novel that I finished took me almost three years to complete. The second took one year, and since then the majority of my other drafts were written in one month- usually during (Camp) NaNoWriMo.

I have written a novel in just seven and three days before, but that’s another story.

No matter when I wrote my novels, I always seemed to stumble over the same issue. I would reach a certain moment within the plot, and get stuck. You know the ones- complicated battle scenes, the ones where emotion reigns supreme, or the ones which are just super boring to write.

I struggled with the final battle scene in my first novel for months. I had no idea where I needed to go after chapter 8 in my second novel and floundered for weeks. I always reached a certain point and never seemed to be able to push further, because I just couldn’t with that scene. It got a little easier when I realised I could just skip what I couldn’t write and go back to it later. But the problem then was, I would have to go back to it later. And the problem just occurred at a different time.

In the end I just accepted that there would be certain parts of my novel which just sucked to write, no matter how interesting I tried to make every chapter. But then something changed.

It started with OSASAOIT, aka Project Mystic. Instead of my usual Save the Cat outline, I tried the Katytastic 3 Act, 9 Block, 27 chapter Method. To make the outlining even easier, I split each chapter into two separate scenes and got to work writing the first scene, which I had had in my head for weeks. I don’t know why, but for some reason I asked one of my friends to pick the scene I should work on next. And then I asked again, and again. And so, my favourite drafting method was born. From that point, every time I finished one scene, I would ask friends in the writing community to pick another.

And I couldn’t say no, or change my mind. If a scene was picked, I had to write it, no matter what. Boring talky scene I wasn’t in the mood for, epic fight scene that I knew would take me all day, that one romance scene I put in, writing deity knows why, that I didn’t want to write ever. It became a sort of challenge at that point to get the scene done. A promise between writing friends that I would complete the scene they so nicely picked for me.

When no one was around, or I was on a roll, I would use my scene box- may the odds be ever in my favour. My writing sessions usually start with me fishing around with as much flair as possible, Effie Trinket style because I can, before I draw out a piece of paper and unfold it to reveal my next scene.

Somehow, the combination of scene by scene, and being unable to choose what I wrote, actually helped me write. Not better, but more easily that I had in the past. I still haven’t quite figured out what about this method helps, but somehow it does. And until it doesn’t, this is how I will write my first drafts going forward.

It results in a plot-hole ridden, confused, chaotic mess once I’m done. But what first draft doesn’t? It’s nothing I can’t rewrite, which I’d be doing anyway. And you wouldn’t believe the amount of sub-plots which just pop up in random scenes because inspiration hit.

I know that outlining in scenes helps to break down the novel into smaller pieces, which in turns makes it easier to manage. Which works out great for me. Yes I have more to write, (35 scenes as opposed to say, 25 chapters,) but they don’t take as long and I only need to focus on one event at a time.

Being unable to pick my scenes means that I’m more conscious about the fact that I need to put something interesting/exciting into each one to keep me from struggling.

And it’s fun. It becomes more than just writing my first draft. It keeps me involved within the writing community, it helps them get excited about what I’m writing, (which is always a plus,) and it helps keep me excited and motivated to write. And the latter is possibly the most important point of all.

Let me know how you draft your novel. Do you have any tricks that help keep you motivated?

Good thoughts and happy writing.

Published by sarahcahillwrites

Procrastination is my super power. I am a fantasy writer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: