What is a First Giraffe?
First drafts are an essential part of my process when I write. If anything I do makes it, as a little friend in the first grade said, “a first giraffe,” then I know I will continue with it. He then asked how many giraffes does it take to make a story? I told him as many as want to come along for the ride.
How many giraffes, or drafts, should a writer do?
We have been taught in school, unfortunately, that we need to get things done fast and as instantly as possible by the sheer lack of time many curricula insist on. They do this by saying you get an assignment on Monday and need to have it done before Friday to hand in. Now there is nothing wrong with deadlines, however, to write anything well and complete as possible it takes time. It also takes many more drafts than we often expect.
How many? It takes as many as it takes until the work is done. Seldom does a good work happen in only in three days as is often the case in schools. It is difficult to teach that real-time writing is a mythological kingdom where time holds no bounds, but is a difficult taskmaster when it wants to be.
What is a First Draft?
First drafts are just that, a draft. A draft is an incomplete account or beginning of a work in progress. Drafts are then polished and need constant revision. They demand constant attention. Changes occur so often they will make a new writer want to quit. Why? Because they get stuck in the idea they have written the great novel everyone will read.
Not so. Never so.
The new writer will hopefully, realize that writing is hard work. There have been works of my own that I have re-written so many times I cannot count them. There have also been some that have needed little, not zero, just not 80 or so. A revision is an act of creativity in which the writer will make the work better, until such time, it flows when read.
How do you know when a writing is finished?
How do you know?
How will you know when a piece is finished?
It will tell you.
It will tell you by saying and showing you that no matter how many times you correct a word or rewrite a sentence it was better the other way round.
You put it away for a time. Whatever that time is, is up to the writer. Then go back and re-read it, if it sounds fine, be happy, it is complete, at least for now.
If not, then you have more work to do.
A million pieces
Drafts are and always will be the marble in which a writer sculpts the writing. Chipping and carving away at the medium they use to bring forth a work all the world can like or turn away in disgust. It takes time or as the great Children's Author Roald Dahl wrote in his excellent book Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, "It takes a long time to put a million pieces together."
It is those million pieces that are the puzzle you as the writer need to look after and make sure no parts are missing before, during, and afterward. This is the craft of writing a draft.
Plan, map out, outline, everything you can think of when writing a first draft. The more planning you do the better it will be and the final writing will be better for it.
After a time you may abandon the outlining method, but during the years, and yes it may take years, you need to stick with the planning technique in everything you write.
First and foremost get the words on paper and if the words make no sense that's okay.
You have begun.
This article is an excerpt from: Light & Stone, Essays on writing and the realities of publishing by TE Watson
To learn more about this book please visit its page LINK here.