Welcome back for Part 2 of writing first drafts. If you remember from last week - link - I compared first drafts to scooping sand into a sandbox. I can make sand castles later, but first I need to gather the sand. Here are a few tips I’ve learned that help me keep my hands moving and the word count rising as I pile sand into my sandbox – and complete my first draft as quickly as possible.
I set in Bold Face Red any word or phrase where I’m tempted to check for spelling, if I already used it in the story, or if further research is required. I am forbidden to check it while writing. That could lead me down twisted, time-suck paths such as other chapters, the Internet, email, and Facebook. (See # 5)
I know to use the following words sparingly in a final copy, because they are frowned upon in the writing industry: just, very, that, really, felt, thought, up, down, adverbs and too many adjectives. (Instead of using adverbs and too many adjectives, use stronger verbs and nouns.) HOWEVER, in my first draft, I don’t worry about any of these words. I just write. I just let it flow. Later I will do a find/search for just, very, that, felt, thought, really, up, and down and decide if they are absolutely necessary or can be deleted. I check the adjectives and adverbs in subsequent drafts and see if I can’t find stronger nouns and verbs.
I don’t worry about my personal Overused Words. Mine are: eyes, breath, smile, laugh, oh, just, and a whole slew of cuss words. (I write about sailors.) I spend several days at the end doing a find/search for these words and change/switch them out, so that smile, laugh, grin, chuckle, a smile lit her face, humor glinted in his eyes, etc. are spaced out and used appropriately. (I keep a list to work from so I can cross them off as I use them.) I’d rather spend a day tweaking these words than lose my train of creative thought while drafting. The Millennium Phrase Book by Rebecca Andrews is an invaluable resource for word substitutes. She gives you over 3,500 samples to inspire you to write your own. (The lastest version is for all fiction genres, not just romance.)
I do the same for Viscerals. I know exactly where I need to have a character experience a physical reaction to something (fear, joy, shock, surprise, lust, etc.) But if that reaction doesn’t flow from my fingertips, I type VISCERAL and keep going. When I’m done the draft, I do a find/search for the word, VISCERAL and replace it with the right words. Andrews book is also an excellent source for visceral reactions. The Emotion Thesaurus – A Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is another outstanding resource.
I set my phone’s timer for a certain number of writing hours every day and start typing. If I take a break for anything besides writing (see #2), I have to hit PAUSE. I can check my email or do research—or eat lunch or go to work or take a nap—but I still have to write for a set number of hours that day. And the time doesn’t count until I hit RESUME. This keeps me focused on the prize—finishing the book.
Thanks for inviting me, Kim. I have a question for your readers: Please let me know what you learned in these two lessons or any writing tips you have for completing first drafts quickly. One lucky commenter will win a copy of FORGET ME NOT, Book #2 in Love in the Fleet.
NEVER FORGET – Book #3 in “Love in the Fleet”
With 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel melted into her bow, what if there are more souls aboard the USS New York than the sailors and Marines stationed there? And what if those souls can help the troops defeat al-Qaeda this time?
When Gwyn Pritchard reports aboard the USS New York, she’s the only person who sees 9/11 spirits roaming the decks. As the sole survivor of an IED blast, Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor is wrestling with his own haunted past, but when he learns Gwyn is seeing ghosts aboard their ship, he becomes her confidant . . . and her lover.
Passions rise to fever pitch when the New York rushes to liberate hostages in North Africa. Can the spirits provide the right intelligence for the Marines to save the prisoners? Can Gwyn help the ghosts move on to the light? And can Adam and Gwyn find the love they’ve searched the world over for?
Twitter: @HAshbyAuthor (link)
Facebook: Heather Ashby Author (link)
Forgive and Forget link
Forget Me Not link
Never Forget link
Mahalo, Heather, for your advice to beginning writers! To enter Heather's giveaway of FORGET ME NOT, Book 2 of the Love in the Fleet series:
1. Leave a comment - Please let me know what you learned in these two lessons or any writing tips you have for completing first drafts quickly.
2. Comments are open through Saturday, October 18, 10 pm in Baltimore.
3. I'll post the winner on Sunday, October 19.
Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City
Thanks for inviting me, Kim. It's always fun to chat with your readers. Write On!ReplyDelete
I learned a few things. Maybe the best thing is that maybe I could write if I put my mind to it.ReplyDelete
Yup, it's true. It is not as hard as one thinks. You just . . . start writing.Delete
I think what I learned most was the fact that I'm glad I'm a reader & not a writer.ReplyDelete
Hahaha, Mary! Don't forget, today's lesson was for intermediate and veteran writers. Last week's was for beginners. BTW, we writers are so thankful for READERS :-) Thanks for stopping by.Delete
I am a reader, so cannot give any tips, but learned the importance of a rough draft - to write whatever comes into your head because it is only a draft and can be changed.ReplyDelete
I'm SO glad you learned that! That is SUCH a valuable lesson. So many people are so stuck on their beginning draft being perfect that they rarely finish it. Essentially I'm - and all the authors I quoted - giving writers permission to JUST WRITE - and fix things later.Delete
Great advice. And you're right about those two books you recommended above - I've found them very useful. For writing advice, mine is setting myself a word count minimum per day. No sleeping till I reach it. This forces me to write past walls/blocks. I know I can always edit it later :-)ReplyDelete
Catherine Rull, Australia :-)
I'm glad a word count plan works for you, Catherine. (We'll work that into our workshop :-) Sometimes, I do move things around so word count is sometimes too intimidating for me, but as long as I put in the hours I'd planned to write in a certain day, then I'm good to go. You are terrific with achieving your word count too - and you're right…just get it down and you can fix it later.Delete
Heather, thank you so much for these beautifully detailed posts.ReplyDelete
I love the timer on the phone idea! One of those, "duh, why didn't I think of that" moments.
I'm going to pass these posts to a few writer friends, especially since Nanowrimo is coming up.
Shannon in San Diego
Yay, Shannon, I'm glad the tips helped. Write on!!!Delete
I liked your comparison of writing to an oil painting - never thought of it that way but it's a perfect analogy.ReplyDelete
Funny, cats lady, I just shared that with an author last night at a book signing. Actually, she was the ARTIST who illustrated a cook book. When I told her about this analogy, her eyes lit up. She really GOT It because she knows about the various layers in oil painting.Delete
Good advice about overused words; notice as a reader when authors use the same words over and over againReplyDelete
And we know you astute readers DO notice that! That's why we have beta readers read our manuscripts over and over again before they go to the editor or to press. We often don't notice them. Thanks for reminding us!ReplyDelete
Love this post, just like I loved the first post on first drafts. I like the resource guides that are suggested here. They sound like they will be very helpful when going back and making the first draft shine.ReplyDelete
You are exactly right, Linda. I like the way you put it, "Going back and making the first draft shine." This is especially true for those of us who plot as we write. Our focus the first time through is to find out what happens in the story :-)ReplyDelete
Great suggestions for writers, Heather! Not much of a writer here, but excellent advice to any of us who have to put words on a page ;)ReplyDelete
Glad it helped, Fedora. Thanks for stopping by.ReplyDelete