Sunday, October 31, 2010

Step One: First Draft

"...let it marinate...like a roast on an autumn day..."

When I first write something, it is into my word processor. I admit that I do edit as I go. It's not from some deep philosophical writing process that I do this. It's mostly because I can't stand to leave something unclear or gramamatically incorrect. That said, I do not stop to analyze or even reread everything I write. I simply fix what I notice during this first draft and move on. Each day, I add to the manuscript. I don't reread what I wrote the day before unless I can't remember where I am. Even then, I just read the preceding paragraph or two.

When I reach the end, I have found that the piece needs to marinate. Seriously. It needs to sit there in it's juices like a roast on an autumn day. But in this case, the days may turn into weeks, months or occasionally years. But if I've waited years, I just figure it wasn't the manuscripts "time." More often it is 10 to 14 days. I force (yes I mean force) myself NOT to look at it. Not even a peek. In fact, I start on something else. I start something that is the polar opposite in some way. I might switch from adult novel to children's picture book. I might change from book to article. Whatever the case, I do something that will take my attention away entirely from the piece.

Upon returning to it, one of two things happens. I'll tell you which one is more often the case, at the end of this post. So, say two-weeks has passed. I now open the manuscript begin reading it from the title page. When I reach the page that has the proverbial "the end" typed at the bottom, I either think;

1. "Wow! This is great! Did I really write this? This is far better than I was thinking it was. I am a good writer afterall. I was born to write. Why wasn't I discovered years ago? Why am I not famous and popular and a guest on Oprah every other week?"

-or-

2. I read it and think, "Why in the world did I write this? Did I really spend that much time on this. This stinks to high heaven. No, I stink to high heaven. I've wasted my time and I can never get it back. I could have been learning to sky-dive or running for president of the United States. Where's the nearest bonfire?

So, did you guess which one happens more often than not? Oh, I want to hold you in suspense...but I won't. More often than not, it's #1 that happens. Really! Well, except for the famous and Oprah guest thing. Really, having time away from the project helps me to see it with new eyes. And my overall impression is usually (not always) that I'm a darned good writer. I know that we women aren't supposed to say wonderful things like that about ourselves, but what if it's true? So there, I said it.

Of course, the "new eyes" part of it also means that I now see mistakes glaring at me. I see where things don't make sense. I see grammar mistakes that jump out and accost me. And I see that lots and lots of work is in my future. Lots of work.

So, that has been the process for my current book, BREAKING THE CODE, too. There are four or five edits to go. More on those next time. So, what's your first-draft process? Do share!

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