Sunday, 20 January 2013

First Drafts

In response to the lovely awards from Rosemary and Wendy a while ago, for which I am very grateful, thank you, I thought I'd post my seven things about writing a first draft. I am interested in the different ways writers approach this.

1. I type the first draft on my laptop. It can take a week or so for a longish short story.

2. I don't read through it each morning. I just look at the last hundred or so words to check the sense and spot any errors, then carry on.

3. I can't leave spelling or grammar mistakes for the second draft. I have to correct as I go. 
    I always give it a title, but this will probably change, maybe several times, before submitting the story.
    I might also change the names of the characters if they don't feel right once I've become better acquainted.
    The only thing that never changes is the theme.

4. I break off to carry out any research required. I can't go on unless I know I've incorporated all the facts.

5. I don't read it until it's essentially finished. I print it out and take it somewhere I can read it out loud and make corrections in the margin in red and green pen. By the end, the sheets of paper are smothered in notes and crossings-out and asterisks and footnotes. It can take ages and at the end there is more pen than print.
    I have difficulty reading my scrawl, especially if I don't start the revisions straightaway. Sometimes it's a very simple word or two, but it can take an age to work out what it says. Yet when I have written myself a very cryptic message, hoping I'll understand myself when the time comes, I nearly always remember what I meant.

6. I transcribe all the changes onto the laptop, including further, spontaneous ones I might add to the ones already scribbled on the print-out.

7. The chances are high that by this stage, I've begun the first draft of another story. 

How do other writers approach the first draft?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Brazening It Out

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and that all you hope for this year will happen.

I don't make any special resolutions at this time of year, but that might be because I seem to make them every day. It's like a fast-flowing river of good intentions. The trouble is, the current sometimes rushes along while I'm gripping to a tree on the bank, listening to the roar of the water.
I've tried to avoid the despair that can result from my own plans leaving me stranded, with a greater degree of success in recent months.
I'm taking one project at a time and letting it reach a good point before turning to others. I'm learning to listen to my own stories and wait for them to be really finished before submitting them. I'm thinking about them hard before I let them go and have developed a warier eye for errors or dull sentences or lack of actual story. I've been reading more than ever and analysing sentences to find out why they are there and how they work. Mostly, I've been working out how to improve. And most important of all, I've remembered that it's all about loving the words.
My novel is with an agent now, after reaching the top ten of an independent publisher's competition. I was so relieved someone liked it and offered encouragement that I thought I'd give it a try.
Writing the covering letter and synopsis was harder than fiction, but in the end, I decided to just keep it brief and honest. Submitting it felt toe-curling, like dreams where everyone in the butcher's shop turns to look at you and you realise you're just wearing a vest. I felt exposed and silly, imagining that first chapter being glanced at with derision or, worse, boredom. But I should probably consign my over-excited imagination to writing, rather then manipulating real-life to suit the flagging ego.
And actually, I don't think we feel that much embarrassment in our dreams. There's a lot more brazening it out.