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No Such Thing as a Bad First Draft

So how does it happen?

You’ve always wanted to write a book, right?

You have a dozen ideas for novels that vary from a bullet point to several semi-legible scenes you scrawled on the the last booze-tube home.

You might even have a few characters defined in greater detail, an actor or two in mind for the inevitable casting when book turns to film.

So how do you make the next miraculous step to possessing that most wonderful of things, a first draft?

A little inspiration is required or, as Elvis might say with a shimmy of the hips, “A little less conversation, a lot more action.”

For me, the inspiration came from my favourite author, Jacqueline Carey.  Jacqueline publicised a local challenge to Write a Novel in a Month.  Requirements for success were merely a story that has a beginning, middle and an end, weighs in at 50,000 words or more and, you’ve guessed it, is written in a month.

Now I’m decent at maths, or math if you’re from the States.  So that equates to roughly 1,700 words a day.  That’s not far off four sides of A4.

Hey, I though, that is totally doable!

And it is.

It’s probably best to give yourself a writing hiatus for a week, where you jot down ideas and bullet points for your chosen idea – some sweeping strokes to shape your first first draft.  I don’t believe you can learn to plan a project of this magnitude in the required detail until you’ve had a bash at it first.  Planning helps of course, but this is all about action.

By the time Day 1 of 30 arrives you have several things in place.  A broad plan.  Writing equipment – I used a Netbook, with the advantage of extreme portability married to an ability to type at great speed, plus wordcount and editing facility for later – though a pad and pen will suffice.  A time(s) of day allocated as Writing Time with high priority, with minimal distractions – ensure you are well fed and watered, have used the bathroom and are not too tired – NOTHING gets in the way of Writing Time!  A graph of daily wordcount – keep it simple, but make sure you can see when you are “above the line” on your 1,700 words-per-day target.  Two hours a day is ample – a minute simply cannot be allowed to pass without adding to your wordcount!

Then Go Go Go!!!

Several days in, you will realise that you are going to do it.  You are above target and you have momentum.  Quality is not just secondary, it is irrelevant.  Only the wordcount matters.   You have irrepressible freedom in storyline as a result.  And you don’t even need drugs or alcohol to achieve it.

You will succeed – it is a self-fulfilling premise.

From that point you may re-read at your leisure – I would wait at least a week to bask in your own personal glory.  Sure, the content will be rough, storylines throwing up dozens more questions than they answer – but that’s the point!  Have fun with it!

If, like me, you find that, having written what is undeniably THE FIRST DRAFT OF A NOVEL, you are awash with invincibility, this process will have brought its own reward.

So I doff my cap to Jacqueline Carey once more – I hope more of you do too in a month’s time so that I can congratulate you on your FIRST first draft.