Sunday, January 22, 2012
First Drafts by Tamara Hogan
I hate writing first drafts. There. I said it.
I know, I know. I've heard all the writerly bromides: "First drafts are supposed to be bad." "You can fix anything but a blank page." But the perfectionist who lives in my head isn't listening. She's singing, "Let it suck, let it suck, let it suck!" - to the tune of "Let It Snow" - at the top of her lungs. Being I'm five chapters into my third manuscript, with a good fifteen chapters yet to go, let's just say she's gonna be singing for awhile.
Yeah, I know. La Nora's right. Once the first draft has been written, the words can be fixed - but I've learned that I'm one of those writers who loves revising, and sometimes vapor-locks looking at a blank screen.
Some tricks I've learned to goose myself out of the blocks a little faster:
Step away from the computer. I pick up a notebook and pen, set the timer for 10 minutes, and free-write everything I think I know about the scene I'm working on. This inevitably turns into beats of dialogue, at least some of which are usable, and a good sense of the scene sequence. Who does what? What information is concealed and revealed? How do I connect the dots from the previous scene to the next? Once I go back to the glowing screen, I'm warmed up, and have a much better idea of where I'm going.
Eye games: I sometimes change my word processor settings so it displays white text on a blue background. This looks less "blank" to me.
Just talk it out, a/k/a "First Drafts for Dummies": sometimes I fire up my Dragon voice recognition software and simply talk about the scene instead of writing it down, with no pressure to produce anything usable. Voila! The page is no longer blank! And I can revise, revise, revise.
Hmm. Looks like Nora's right after all. Was there any doubt? ;-)
Writers, how do you get out of your own way and just get the first draft down? Any tips and tricks you can share?