Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Grab A Story Idea and Write A First Draft

Two simple sentences. The first one is inspiring. The second is deflating. Let's take a look at both.

First drafts don't have to be perfect.  Sometimes a story starts swirling in your head while you're doing those mundane tasks we all must accomplish. The story keeps nagging at you until you finally must get it written somewhere, somehow. You might be at home where you can dash off a first draft. Or you could be in a restaurant, on a plane, or pushing a card down a grocery aisle. Grab the nearest item you can write on and get the gist of the story down, stuff it in your pocket and get to work when you are back home. Get the bones of the story written and flesh it out later. It's a rare first draft that is ready to be submitted for publication. If you write a first draft that you think is perfection itself, put it away for a few days and read it again. You'll see it in an entirely different perspective and that 'so perfect' draft may no longer look so wonderful. It doesn't matter a bit because you've done the big part. You've written that first draft and are ready to move on to step 2--the ediitng and revision. It could be the first of several revisions.

They just have to be written. In looking at this sentence and the preceding one, I can see reversing the order. Let's face it. Those first drafts do have to be written, not left dancing around in your head. I might change the quote above to read  First drafts have to be written but they don't need to be perfect. How many stories or articles have you thought about while cleaning up the dinner dishes? Or while folding the laundry? Or while idly picking out which cereal to buy at the grocery store? Or sitting in a doctor's waiting area? Or riding on a commuter train or bus? There are so many situations where our minds are left free, and writers' minds seem to wander into storyland on a regular basis. What about those story ideas that come to you after you've gone to bed but find you can't sleep? Do you get up and start writing or decide that you'll do it tomorrow? When tomorrow comes, life steps in and the story is lost. Even if you only write the most basic parts of the story, write it! Don't let it wander through your head like a lost child. Rescue it and put it safely into actual words on a screen or piece of paper. It's a first draft. It won't be perfect but it will be written!

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