#firstdraft – Three R’s to keep in mind while you word-vomit

In this post of mine, I’ve stressed that we shouldn’t edit while writing first draft and the reasons why it’s such a bad idea. It seems simple to say never look back while writing the first draft and most of the time it’s great advice. But at times you have to go back.

Now this isn’t contradicting what i sais before. Let’s see why. When you start your novel, you have ideas sprouting left, right and centre and words pouring on the page. But what when you run out of steam and get stuck? What when the story becomes ‘hard work’? If you are too busy looking at the present scenario in your story, you often run the danger of losing the sight of the original premise with which you began. And that’s when looking back becomes necessary.

I’ve been facing this problem the whole of the last month. Every sentence seemed painfully dragged out to the page. Finally I came to the conclusion that this first draft had to be fixed now or the mess I had would only become bigger. So I went back on my own favourite saying and began to look back para by para where things went wrong.
After a lot of head banging and painful editing I found the problem was in the hero’s background. I hadn’t fully understood my character. Since character is revealed page by page and scene after scene as you write, this is the easiest mistake to make. So the further I wrote the more erroneous was the sketching but I hadn’t been listening to him. Finally I got it fixed and now after deleting thousands of words, I’m back on track. However, still happier and wiser because I’ve found a way to fix as I go along. And I call it ‘The three R’s of first draft.’

As soon as you’re done with a scene – be it of any length or number of paragraphs, think about it. Not actively ponder but just immerse in it as you attend to other mundane activities. That’s the first R – reflect.

If you’re not clear about what it’s there for or if it serves the story, go back and reread. The second R.
Then the third R – reason, if that particular scene really should end here? And if this is sufficient set up for next bit? Speed is good but this is more important. By doing this, I found that I needed more building up towards the next scene simmering in my mind. So hoisting up some patience I sat down to work at it. As you reason, you might do the fourth R – rewrite. And then, you might find that the brilliant scene you planned didn’t even belong in the story or you might find that now it packs even more punch. But either way you have worked¬† reason into your story and it makes more sense now.

So remember the three R’s while first drafting.
Reflect reread and reason.

Then write.

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Writing first draft? Never look back!

Hello there! Some time back I started on a new writing project. I had a new story brimming in my mind. I talked to my editor and what we discussed really set the charting of the characters’ journey in my mind. I wrote out the synopsis and my editor really liked it. I named the characters and they began to ‘talk’ in my mind – which is how a new story always starts for me. Btw what is your process, if/when you write? Do share!

Anyway, I wrote the first scene and then the second. There were a few hitches because when I write, my left brain, the supposed sentinel of logic, walks off whistling blithely. So naturally there were holes. I made the fatal mistake. I went back and reread and began to edit. Uncertainties began to bee-swarm me… maybe the scene shouldn’t start with conversation? Maybe this part of internal pov should be shifted to the next section? Maybe I don’t need this scene AT ALL?

And it went downhill from there.

I wrote more. Then again the internal editor came out and began to thrash my wip. How could this scene fit here? I made changes which led to changes in the previous scene. Which led to doubt in the PREMISE. And toppled the PLOT itself.

Now it wasn’t downhill. It was rock bottom, no, it was in a pit that I had dug it. And then by going over it again and again I kept shovelling dirt till the story just became buried in my own criticism.

I couldn’t go back to the manuscript. I had the least desire to even open the folder now. The story was submerged in the millions of possibilities I had opened to it, instead of the single minded focus with which it began. The fun was gone. And when you aren’t having fun, it shows in your writing.

That is, if you can get yourself to write. I couldn’t. I put that on hold and worked on something else.

What did I get out of it? Two weeks wasted and a flat line on my enthusiasm monitor. But I did get an important lesson out of it. A lesson I knew but for the nth time forgot.

While writing don’t edit. You can’t do both.

John Steinbeck said it best,
“Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper.¬†Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.”

However *sigh* people like me can’t make use of advice till it’s passed through the filter of their own painful experience.

If you can stop yourself, do. That’s why Nanowrimo is good for first drafts. Do look back and take stock of the story, do alter your plot if it suits the characters but not while writing the first version. Make notes in colour to remind you what you wanted to edit but DON’T EDIT right now. Second draft is for left brain polishing. For the first, let it go whistling. Trashing scenes is much more fruitful when you have it all down there.

So don’t look back. Don’t attempt to fix it.

Just write.