First Draft – Telling Yourself the Story

First Draft – Telling Yourself the Story

There is a quote attributed to Terry Pratchett that says, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Being a huge fan of Terry Pratchett (and wanting to be Terry Pratchett when I grow up), that gives me hope as a writer. I mean, if you have ever read his work, you will find such a collection or wit, insight and sheer snark, you would wonder how anyone could possibly live up to the example he has set.

I know, I certainly feel inadequate to meet the example he set; that is I did when I assumed his work came onto the page fully formed from his brain.

Now, I’m not so sure I can’t do some of what he achieved.

Letting Yourself Suck

Mur Lafferty, an author I know to a small degree and have a great deal of respect for has always given the advice that authors should allow themselves to suck. What she means by that is, allow your first draft (and even second or third) to be bad. The trick is to get your story down on paper so it can be cleaned up and made amazing.

With those two pieces of advice firmly in mind, I entered NaNoWriMo this year with a story plot ready to go. I typed. I noodled. I even sweated out details from time-to-time. Most importantly, I allowed the story to be less than stellar while I wrote, making sure I was getting the major salient points down while I told it to myself.

There are entire scenes and chapters I know will be pulled from the final product. They are either exposition points that I needed to get down for my own story-telling or simply don’t fit the look and feel I’m working towards. That’s perfectly fine because they allowed me to try different things to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

That being said, I know there are scenes and chapters that perfectly capture what I was going for and will likely remain in the final product largely untouched.

It’s All in the Final Polish

This, I think, is where Terry Pratchett’s work transcended that of his peers. He spent the time to get the dialogue and insights right. He polished the work until it shone mirror bright in the sun. I am going to try to do that too with my new Mik Murdoch book. I know the story now. I know the voices of the characters and I know all the plot and sub-plots that need to be brought out. I also know the feelings I want the audience to experience as they read the story.

It seems, I know a lot, so now I have to execute. First edits will begin next week (after I’ve let it sit a few days). That will be the challenge. Can I massage all of the components into the story and keep it compelling? But that is next week.

This week? This week I celebrate telling myself the entire story.


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