Early drafts figure out ideas, later drafts figure out the language.
It all starts with the Pre-Draft. Likely handwritten, likely unreadable. The pre-draft makes perfect sense to you and, that’s it. This isn’t the blueprint you will build your writing from; this is the scribble on the back of a cocktail napkin of what the end result might be. Let it be bad and messy and soggy.
The Pre-Draft/ Raw Draft is the kind of stuff that might come up in your freewriting or journaling. This is the stuff of the ramble. Let your ideas wander, get all the pieces down on the table to see what you have to work with and what you still need to figure out. Very little of what is in your first few drafts will make it to your final draft.
Early on, get the ideas straight. Sketch up where you think your ideas and stories need to go. It’s not necessarily a map or an outline, but you have some sense of a direction to go in.
Write your first draft to the end, ideally in one sitting. Whatever it takes to get to the end, get there. Skip the weighty details that slow you down or the precise details of what you can’t remember at the moment. What street did he grow up on? Was her hair brown or blonde? Doesn’t matter. Leave yourself a note to do some digging later. If you don’t know how the story should end, make something up. If you don’t know the conclusion, find a solid place to stop. Your first draft is not a final draft, but it does need to feel finished so you can get on to your
Your second draft is not a rewrite of your first draft.
Again. Your second draft is not a rewrite of your first draft. Nor is your second draft an edited version of your first draft. When I have the time, I’ll wait a few days or even weeks between finishing the first draft and starting the second.
Start your second draft on a new, blank document. Read your first draft all the way through, get the idea of the thing in your head, and get to work on the second draft.
Yes, start over. Yes, this pisses everyone off when I make them do this. The bridge between the first and second drafts is what might define how the rest of the story looks, take a lot of time with it.
In the second draft, the main idea you really want to hit on rises to the top, and the fluff falls away. You have a direction on what you want to say and how you want to say it.
Maybe you do the same thing with the third and fourth drafts. Maybe you edit and cut and paste from one draft to the next. The more work you take through your drafting process, the more you’ll learn about how your brain wants to develop an idea. I always advise having separate documents for each draft; every draft should be able to stand on its own. Carry the idea to completion and see how it looks, and take the best stuff to the next draft.
There is no right or wrong way to do this, but you owe it to yourself to get it done.
As your work grows and becomes a thing of its own, you may find a bit of self-editing going on. Drafting develops your ideas to a point where you’re happy with them; editing makes the idea pretty so your audience can enjoy it. Each takes a different mindset and approach.
Wait until your final draft before you fret over the editing. Worrying about grammar or spelling or word choice too early can kill the momentum. Too much self-editing is a sure-fire way to kill just about any project.
I’ll dive more into editing in Module 4. Sometimes it is best to dive right into editing after you’ve finished the final draft. Other times, fresh eyes will bring problems to the top. 100% of the time, someone else will find more editing errors in your work than you ever will.