Saturday, 13 April 2013

Leave In Everything

As you write the first draft of your story, you may come to a point where you wonder if you need to add more stuff, take stuff away, go into depth about this or that.

My advice is go deep. Add as much detail as possible, all the explanations and explore as many tangents as occur to you.

The reason I say this is twofold. First, there should be no editing in the first draft, just an emptying of your brain onto the page. Once you’ve got it down, you can mess around all you want, but having too much description or exposition in an early draft is never a problem. You can always cut it out.

Secondly, and more importantly,  there’s this thing that happens when you write a long-form piece. At some point you will get stuck. Something will be missing or not working or in need of a moment you hadn’t realised you needed.

The thing to do when this happens is to ignore it and keep going. Leave a note for yourself, a place marker, reminding yourself there’s a hole that needs filling but don’t bother filling it.

Then, when you have a more or less complete story, go over it from the beginning to get a sense of what you have on your hands (it won’t be pretty, but it never is).

As you go over it, reading it aloud if you can bear it, keep in mind that there was that hole that needs filling. A reason for Tony to have left England, a secret that Mary never told her daughters, or whatever. And a strange thing will happen.

There will be something in the early part of the story that fits the bill perfectly, giving you just what you need.

It often isn’t easy to spot.  The subconscious is a sneaky bastard. It won’t be in plain sight. It will be tucked away somewhere. And the thing is, if you really empty your brain onto the page it will be there in a much more obvious way.

If you found this post useful, please give it a retweet. Cheers

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28 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

For me, there is a lot of missing detail. I spend more time adding than I ever do taking out.

mooderino said...

@Alex - that of course is another problem (gets out notebook and starts planning next post)

Al Diaz said...

Everybody says "no edit, just keep writing" but I can't do that. I've tried hard but I can't keep writing because I am obsessed with the part that is not working. So obsessed that I get writer's block if I don't go back.

Jadie Jones said...

Fantastic post! And something I need to remind myself of constantly, especially today. Having come off of the intense rounds of pre-publishing edits, it's hard to shift gears and write a SFD again. RTing for sure. :)

Shawn Yankey said...

I always tend to nitpick my first draft way too much. You make a great point though.

mooderino said...

@Al Diaz - I respect you're right to go your own way.

@Jadie - cheers.

@Shawn - It can be hard to resist.

Kellie @ Delightfully Ludicrous said...

I always get caught up in the editing while writing. It's just so tempting to try and craft the perfect sentences, even though I know I should be ploughing through and editing later.

Kate Larkindale said...

Very true. Put in everything while you're drafting so you know everything there is to know. Then you can strip out the stuff that's not necessary in revision.

Emily L. Moir-Genther said...

Great advice. "The subconscious is a sneaky bastard" Haha, love it!

mooderino said...

@Kellie - the problem comes when you spend all that time getting a line right and then end up cutting the whole scene. Frustrating.

@Kate - not going to work for everyone, but most people will find this a useful approach, I think.

@Emily - thanks.

Susan Roebuck said...

Good point, although I have a tendency to over-write and make my beta-readers yawn on the first draft. But, at the same time, I don't want to miss anything out *sigh* Who said writing's easy?

Botanist said...

I think everyone ends up with a unique writing process. I'm a compulsive editor, but I don't see it as a problem. Reviewing what I've got helps me get my mind into what's coming next.

At the same time, I think it makes sense to dump out whatever's in your mind. I don't not write something just because I think I might remove it later. Having said that, I had to trim stuff from my last novel and it was murder. I'm much more comfortable with starting lean and adding stuff in.

I also believe in not getting stuck, but leaving myself notes to come back and fill in later. In fact, when I grind to a complete halt, I like to leap ahead to whatever point in the story I have a vision for and carry on from there. The rest will get filled in eventually.

mooderino said...

@Susan - I tend not to show the first draft to anyone, pretty obvious what needs to be done before I do that.

@Botanist - I think part of the process of writing is to work out what works for you.

Sarah Foster said...

A great strategy. Getting every single thought down first can give you a better understanding of your story and your characters, then you can decide what's actually necessary for the reader.

mooderino said...

@sarah - I think if you have the thought in a first draft: is it worth including this? The answer is yes.

Dawn M. Hamsher said...

Mood, Yes, good idea. You can always cut stuff later.

Melissa Sugar said...

Very true and excellent advice. It's freaky, reading through a long draft and finding that missing piece. I know exactly what you're talking about. It is usually buried, deep in a pile of crap, but I love it, when I discover it. I do so much better when I write my draft on paper with pen. I seem to be much more creative, but it becomes a problem when I have to transfer every written word to the computer.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I always write my backstory in one big hunk in first drafts, but then chop it and drip little bit through in the rewrites.

Lynda R Young said...

This is very much how I work. I love a fast first draft.

mooderino said...

@Dawn - and maybe even find something you can use elsewhere.

@Melissa - i find transferring from page to screen can help spot things I missed, assuming I can work out what I wrote.

@Charmaine - a lot of writing advice makes it seem like backstory is a bad thing, but it's important as long as you put it in all the right places.

@Lynda - Me too.

Jay Noel said...

I've become an over-writer in my old age. I'm cutting and hacking in the editing process. But you're right, I leave everything in my 1st draft just in case.

Kelley Lynn said...

I find I usually have to add a lot of stuff in my edits. It's important just to plow through those first drafts. Great post!

Sylvia van Bruggen said...

Ever since I started to write in Scrivener, I just let myself rabble on. I can always move things I write to notes or to ideas.

I am considering moving one of my first novel writing attempts in there, it's filled with all sorts of side notes and rambly things :D

Elise Fallson said...

One of the hardest things for me to do is ignore the hole and keep going. I think I create my own writers blocks that way. If only I could just let go, move forward and come back to the problem area later. I'm sure I'd get a lot more done that way. Trouble with me I guess is I try to fix everything right away.

Elise Fallson said...

Oh and one more thing, just wanted to say I think you and your posts are full of awesome.

nutschell said...

I completely agree! Whenever I write my first draft I try to put as many details as possible. It's easier to weed out things during the revision/ editing process, than put things in :)

Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

sassyspeaks said...

I agree. When I did my NaNo this year I ended up with 2 files called Misc and leftovers. Scenes written but not fit into the story line I wrote. I know they fit in somewhere just not sure where. And the sub conscious works When i let my fingers do the walking over the key board I usually end up with something I didn't know

mooderino said...

@Jay - People with great memories may be able to manage, me, not so much.

@Kelley - nothing can't be fixed from the first draft.

@Sylvia - I like to use Scrivener too.

@Elise - I keep a bag of awesome next to my computer and sprinkle liberally.

@nutschell - some people need to edit as they go, but I think it saves a lot of time just to get it down and sort it out later.

@sassy - one day I'm going to delete all those files and get back a lot of space on my HD.

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