Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Having trouble dragging the first draft of your novel to the finish line?

Here's a tip from Stephen King: the first draft is always just for you. No one else will (or should) ever see it. This is how you tell yourself the story.

I don't know when, or where King ever said this. It's just one of those tiny infobites that occasionally pops up in the Random Shuffle that is my brain. But even though I've forgotten where I heard or read this nugget, the idea itself is so savvy and reassuring, it's stayed with me.

It's especially pertinent now that I'm working on the first draft of my next book. (The one coming out after Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge.) This is the first time I'm working from a detailed proposal that includes the beginning, the (dreaded) middle, and the end of the story.

My previous book-writing method was to just plunge into an idea and flail around for the next couple of years, but I'm beginning to see the wisdom of actually making a plan first.

Things are, in fact, going more smoothly than usual. But here's the thing: at this stage, when you're still telling yourself the story, you haven't thought of every detail yet. There will be plenty of "aha!" moments in the course of the writing (and rewriting) — but now is not the time to sit around waiting for them!

The job now is to get a complete story onto the page, by fair means or foul, even if it means writing something stupid to connect scene A to scene B. Don't agonize over every word choice, and don't get hung up on details.

And whatever you do, don't stop!

There'll be plenty of time later to throw out the stupid stuff. (And a lot of stuff you think is great now; that's what editors are for.) Everything is going to change, anyway, but until you have something that at least vaguely looks and quacks like a duck on the page, you won't be able to proceed to the next step — revising. And believe me, that's where the real work begins!

That's when you get to those "aha!" moments too. But you have to get there first!

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