“The first draft of anything is shit” Ernest Hemingway
And who can argue with the Ern-dawg?
Barrel-chested bear of a man that he was, leaping into rivers, wrestling trout with his bare brutish hands, fingers callused from pounding typewriters into submission.
It’s sage advice. Ignore your mental critic, just get the story down.
Hence, the first draft is a time of milk and honey, of joyous unfettered creativity with every stroke of the pen or keyboard. Ideas pop, dialogue sparkles into spontaneous existence, and spelling and grammar worrie u knot. Just write.
So obviously, the sensible writer draws out this golden summer for as long as humanly possible.
And by golly, I’ve managed that so far.
So here, in handy clickbait form, are 5 enigmatic ways of stringing out that First Draft Feelin’!
Nothing kills a story like a wrong fact, nagging inconsistency, or egregious* anachronism*. (* Scrabble scores of 26 and 31 respectively. Kapow!)
Nothing delights a nitpicking reader more than pointing out a mistake.
I once had a male audience member to one of my plays point out that brassieres weren’t invented in 1852. How and why he knew this, I didn’t ask, but presumed him having significant interest in Victorian era scanties.
Ideally, research is done early, before writing is started, as you immerse in the atmosphere and feel for your setting.
In the case of this play, it was inspired by direct experiences, then subsequent listening to and stealing of friends’ stories on the topic.
However, research invariably leads to the internet, and the internet leads to no good, luring the focus-challenged writer inevitably, inexorably to damnation.
2. Motivational “Craft” Reading
Another avenue of “productive procrastination” is reading up on your craft.
Who can argue against skills development? It can only inspire you to improve the work in progress.
In reality, you’re just deferring actual work with something that feels like affirming action.
I had Alan Ayckbourn’s The Crafty Art of Playmaking lying unread on the bookshelf. What better time to dive into it than when looking to put off writing a play?
I fortunately resisted the urge to review it on Goodreads*, or subsequently dive into reading the plays used as examples.
* For the record: 3 stars – Good content on the writing side, but the directing section largely just makes jokes about stage crew and actors.
Next stop, Tim Ferguson’s The Cheeky Monkey: Writing Narrative Comedy. And so the “craft development” goes on … and on …
3. Displacement Writing
It’s amazing how tempting and welcoming all the other projects you have on or off the boil suddenly become.
Whether cleaning up short stories for submission, prepping a manuscript chapter for assessment, or idly revisiting older plays for publishing, things formerly languishing on the backburner suddenly burst into your attention, demanding priority.
I like to call it “multitasking”. Others call it “unfocused”.
4. Playing with Tools
At long last, a project that allows fiddling away and learning Scrivener.
This is a dedicated word processor application with specific features for writers. Some swear blood fealty and vow to name their firstborn in honour of its beneficence. Others find it a bit over-rated and unnecessarily cumbersome to use.
It lends itself well to writing projects where the structure and ordering of scenes is fluid, allowing “easy” shuffling.
It also has a plethora of useful tools and functions … if you can ever find the %$^&ers.
A play with five character threads is just the ideal project to finally get the grips with this tool, or feel justified in maintaining my Usability Rage.
5. Unexpected Career Change
Hmm, might be time to rename the blog, as I’m suddenly not quite so time-poor for the next few months. “The Tempura Writer” perhaps? Suggesting a slight suddenly-immersed-in-hot-liquid feeling …
Now, some unkindly souls might suggest the above list sounds a lot like a bunch of excuses.
Some equally unkindly souls might suggest The Journey seems to have become a little bogged, and is metaphorically stopping to ask directions from locals of the inbred variety.
Ummm … maybe.
Next Time: The angst of submission (Ooh-er!)