At the moment I’m working through the first draft of The Lost Mask (follow up to City of Masks – which is due out this year!) and I’m struck again by the gulf that separates a first draft and all the drafts and revisions which follow.
For me, and lot of writers I imagine, a first draft is written with abandon.
No constraints other than how fast I can type. As little questioning as possible – just writing. Questioning my choices (editing basically) that almost all comes later. The first draft is an avalanche. I’ve got an outline, but I bounce off it, rather than let myself be bound by it.
If the story or a character starts to get its own ideas, starts to surprise me, I go with it. After all, it’s a first draft. I’m going to change it. So my rule is, if it’s a first draft – try it.
And so that’s where I am right now, and it’s a lot of fun. For me, an outline often answers the question of ‘what’ and ‘when’ but the process of writing itself is about ‘how’ – and that’s where all the fun is.
Later comes the hard work – the editing and revising. Here I make the hard choices, sub-plots are cut back, world building details are added in, the story might get rearranged, whole characters might disappear. The story’s always better by the end, but at the first draft stage, there’s just the joy of writing.
Here’s some similar advice from the film Finding Forrester. It resonated with me when I first saw the film, so I thought I’d share it now, as Sean Connery’s character says it more succinctly than I.
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Ashley Capes is an Australian writer of fiction, poetry and very occasional non-fiction.
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Whisper of Leaves (sequel) - Outline