Friday, June 12, 2009

First draft tips

Tip of the day: Clear mailing labels make excellent book plates. When someone e-mails me wondering if she can send one of my books in the mail for me to sign, I offer to send a signed book plate instead. It saves on postage and when you peel it off and stick it in the book, you can hardly tell it’s a label and not an actual signature in the book.

Okay. Raise your hands. How many of you have been working on a first draft of a book? Please, tell me! I want to know I’m not alone!!

I’m working on the book I started, got to 20,000 words, and started over. And guess what? I’m back up to 20,000 words again. Yay! It feels great. And I’m really liking this book now, much more than I liked the first version. Here are some things I try to remember when I’m writing a first draft:

1) Don’t get too caught up in details. Details are easy to add in later. If they come easily to you while you’re writing, great. But if they don’t, it’s okay to put something like [need to describe the house better] and then keep going and come back to it later. I promise, it’s not cheating!

2) Make sure your characters sound different from each other. If they all sound the same, it’s not good! A boy should talk differently than a girl. And two girls should have something about them that differentiates one from the other. Maybe one is a talker and goes on and on while the other is more succinct with her language. Whatever it is, figure it out and try to be consistent throughout the book.

3) Try to end your chapters at a place where your reader will want to keep reading AND where you will want to keep writing (at this point). I really try to NOT leave off for the day at the end of the chapter. I’ve learned over the years it’s much easier to reenter a manuscript in the middle of a scene than coming in to a new one.

4) The first draft is not the time to worry much about theme or any of that heavy stuff. That comes later. For now, just try to tell an interesting story. Every chapter, ask yourself, am I keeping the story moving? Am I throwing enough conflict at my character? Conflict is what makes a story compelling. Remember, you have to put your character in a tree and throw rocks at her. I know it’s hard, but that’s our job!

5) Finally, trust your instincts with the first draft. Listen to your heart. And your main character! I believe thinking too much during the first draft might cause us problems. Don’t think, just go with it. Yes, it needs to make sense and yes you need to make sure you’re heading in a general direction. But don’t think too hard about it all at this stage. Just write. Have fun with it. And know that once the first draft is done, that’s when you can dig in and do the real work, to make the manuscript really shine.

I’m excited to do some writing this weekend. What about you!?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career


Summer said...

I'm writing a first draft. high five! It's hard not to think about everything you should change while you're writing. Sometimes I just wanna quit like, how is this ever gonna work out? But I keep going... I'd like to be done one day. Then I'll feel really accomplished. I can't wait until the day I can print it all out. After I'm done I plan on literally putting it in a drawer for a month.

DeenaML said...

Summer -- the drawer idea is a good one! I'm right now completely rewriting my first ever novel after not looking at it in over 2 years and I can so see the flaws of that last draft.

Anonymous said...

Good tips. I'm revising and can't wait to work on a first draft again someday!

Kate Fall said...

These are great tips Lisa, especially about stopping for the day in a middle of a scene. I'm revising now, but I think I'll try stopping rewrites in the middle of scenes too. As opposed to stopping when it gets hard!

Chelsea said...

First draft here, too! These tips are really helpful.

Anonymous said...

Great tips, Lisa!

I'm working on a new rough draft right now and it's so hard to not get caught up in trying to make it absolutely perfect.

Christina Farley said...

These are great tips! I don't expect to start a new story until after the summer, but it these are some hints I'll keep in mind.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Hooray to all of you working on first drafts. You can do it!!!