First draft. Writing process. Here we go again! I hear you thinking already, and we haven’t even begun! Hang in there and don’t leave me yet. Wisdom and encouragement lie just ahead!
There’s no question, really. When you think about a writing project of any kind, you always have to face and overcome that initial voice (loud or soft) that tells you to stop before you ever start. I don’t know a writer who has never fallen prey to what I call the writer stall.
Even if you are the most creative person God ever placed on the planet, there’s something inside that questions your ability, your creativity, maybe even your sanity when it comes time to start writing. But sooner or later, if you’re going to be a writer, you have to pick up a pen, a voice-recorder, a keyboard, or a crayon, and start to write.
First Draft – Center of the Writing Process
If you have followed along in this series about the writing process, you know that we have discussed the planning and the organizing stages in some detail. Check out Stage 1 Planning, Stage 2 Organizing Part 1, and Stage 2 Organizing Part 2 if you just joined the series.
In the first two stages of the writing process you spend a lot of effort planning out both your writing project as a whole and the specifics of your actual content. Then you organize, again on two levels. How you organize your research materials is just as important as how you organize your content in preparation for writing.
Once Stage 2 is completed to your satisfaction, you are ready to enter the drafting stage. Yes, it’s time to actually write something–your first draft.
As necessary and essential as planning and organizing are to your success, this next statement should be painfully obvious, but isn’t always. That statement is this: If you never write and complete the first draft, you will never ever go any further. For this reason, I say it is the most critical step in the writing process.
First Draft Readiness – When to Start Writing
You may frequently catch me saying that no two writers do things exactly the same way, and that, in many areas, there is not one “right way” to do something. And that is still true, to a point, in the writing process. I highly recommend learning the basic hows and whys, then taking that knowledge into use in your writing project to create a workable, efficient, and effective system for yourself.
But this painfully obvious truth still stands at attention regardless of your plan or system: you have to write that first draft. That’s where everything else in the writing process takes place. It’s where editing and revision happen, where grammar and all its rules and exceptions come into play. Proofing takes place as a result of a first draft. None of this is meant to happen in your head!
Therefore, it used to surprise me to listen to someone tell me all about their writing project, forever almost, without ever producing a chapter or a paragraph. It doesn’t shock me anymore. Instead, I recognize it as the big roadblock to success that it is.
So, How Do I know When I’m Ready to Write?
This is one of those places where there is probably a different answer for each and every writer. Still, the basics are the basics. Therefore, bring your project to that level where you have the basics down well. That’s the first place to start.
The basics that need to be in place are these. (The details supporting this list are all easily found within the previous posts mentioned above.)
- Project planning (writing process, stage 1) is complete.
- Format (eBook, print, blog, etc.)
- Topic narrowed to one sentence
- Audience targeted
- Writing schedule in place
- Writing location set up
- Organization of files and research (writing process, stage 2) is in order.
- Hard-copy files sorted into easy-access system
- Online/electronic files accounted for in system
- Organization of content (also stage 2) is in good shape. This includes
- Topic thoroughly explored
- Working outline well-detailed and ordered correctly
It’s not difficult to realize this list represents a lot of work on your part. But, if you have done your due diligence along the way, by this point you have a well-ordered and ready-to-be-written project. That’s the writing process at work!
Good writers know the writing process. Great writers master it. ~ Jane Rucker
Three Key Elements to Writing-Readiness
When thinking about starting to write your first draft, you have to take a good hard look at your content–what you plan on writing. Now, it is true that many times a writer starts out in a pre-determined direction, but later changes to go a different way or add an additional twist.
However, it is most beneficial to you to start writing with as much content–plot, information, development, etc., in place as you can. In short, there are 3 key elements to help you decide if your content is ready to become a first draft.
That’s about as simple as you can make it! (Check through my posts to learn more about these.)
This element contains the exposition (pertinent facts and information, character background, settings, locations, plot elements, etc.) and the rising action (either the events leading up to the main conflict, if applicable to your project or the points that lead up to the main point in pieces that do not necessarily tell a story.) The type of writing project and topic you are working with determine what your beginning looks like.
The middle is made up of one element–the main point or the climax, depending again on the type of project you are writing. The middle holds the main action, event, or core of your piece. This is the most significant part of the project in that it holds the heartbeat of your topic. Without this, your goal for writing it will never be accomplished.
The ending, again depending on the nature of your project, holds the falling action. This can express what takes place when the main crisis is over, as in a story. Or it can reveal what follows the revelation of the core message found in the middle. And this leads to resolution which either ties up the loose ends in some cases or explains what takes place as a result of that main point.
Evaluate your project in terms of this stage of the writing process to determine if your material and research are ready for you to start writing that first draft. If the answer is no, go back and fill in the gaps you see. If the answer is yes, it’s time to start writing!
First Draft: Ready, Set, Go!
When you decide you are ready to start writing, it’s really as simple as setting your schedule and showing up on time to each writing session. Don’t think so? It’s true. When you strip away all the fears, uncertainties, distractions, and excuses, it really is just that simple.
Notice I use the word simple, not easy. There is a big difference and I get that. Beyond the technical preparations discussed through all three stages of the writing process so far, there is another part to readiness to write. That other part just might surprise you, though.
It’s time to dispel–no, I prefer the word annihilate, two myths that are often held as true. Take care of this area and it all comes down to your personal discipline and desire to accomplish your dream.
Myth #1: Great writers are born that way.
If you think that or have ever suspected that, let’s set the record straight right now. It’s not true. I always say, If you can talk, you can write. Writing is simply talking on paper. It’s not about being gifted with a writing talent as a child. That’s great, but not mandatory for being a great writer.
Writers write. Period. The more you write and learn about it, the better your writing becomes. The truth here is that writing is learned, not gifted through some magical process.
Trust the writer within you. Follow your heart and some good teaching and coaching where needed, and write! Don’t deny yourself that wonderful experience.
Myth #2: You have to be in the mood to write.
I admit; there is nothing more fun than sitting down to write when the planets are aligned just right and every thought comes in the right order and the keyboard cooperates and the flow of words pours forth mightily. It’s a great experience to write during those times.
The truth is, most of the times I sit down to write, the planets are who knows where and my thoughts hang out in the hallway just outside my writing studio! My keyboard strikes keys of its own choosing, and flow…well, you get the idea.
However, planets aligned or not, once I honor myself and my writing by showing up on time at my writing session and putting my undivided attention to it, I always walk out of the room at the end with some decent writing finished.
What’s the point? The point is, by showing up regardless of your feelings or mood, you set yourself up to lay aside all the mental and emotional clutter in order to strike pay dirt in your writing project. This is where all that planning, research, and organizing come into play.
As you sit there and give it a bit of time, words will begin to come. Write them down! That’s writing! It doesn’t matter whether you write a sentence, a paragraph, or a chapter. What matters is that you are writing. Remember, writers write.
First Draft: Finish Writing It!
“Do not pass Go! Do not collect $200.00!” Turn off your internal editor, the grammar police, and all the other unhelpful and annoying voices that start ranting inside your head whenever you sit down to write. Your draft is still not fully valuable until it is completed.
Go for it! Take this information about the writing process and get your first draft finished. There is a whole world ready to open for you at the other side of it. Editing, revision, proofing–all those aside. Ultimately, your writing success is waiting on the other side of your first draft!
If you’re writing a book, that published title is waiting out there for you to get that draft under your belt. Whether yours is a book, eBook, blog, website, whatever–the first draft is a huge deal. You can do it! Come on; let’s go!
So, there you have it. Thanks for reading this post. I trust you find the information here helpful and inspiring in your own writing. Knowing how to make the writing process work for you is beneficial many times over!
If you want help with your writing project, contact me so we can discuss how my writing services and coaching can help bring your writing dreams into reality. I’m ready to help you!
Thank you & God Bless!