Sunday, May 8, 2016

First Draft

 The first draft is meant to turn you on to the limitless possibilities orbiting around your concept for a story, much in the manner of a planet with several moons. You become the metaphorical Sorcerer's Apprentice, so eager to get the keys to the car, as driven by authors you admire to the point of idolatry.

The first draft is the metaphorical equivalent of the new bride's first at home dinner, where one ingredient has the power to intrigue a guest and, thus, several ingredients, used in the spirit of generosity, will have the power to impress three or four guests with your culinary abilities.

You are supposed not to think when writing a first draft, but like the old trick you learned in school, trying not to think of an elephant is more difficult than it seems. And if elephant is too easy, try not thinking of a Reuben sandwich or the type of young salamander called an eft. 

You're pretty good at not thinking while writing a first draft, but pretty good is a long way from effective.  Even so, you can get a few pages at a time until you become aware of making a decision to use one word for another or pointedly not using an adverb when you were well on your way to writing one.

Much as you tell yourself and numerous students not to think while in the act of composing something fresh, you rate the task as near impossible, even when some of the thoughts don't interfere with the flow of words and ideas but instead are the warning signs you've put in place to avoid certain words or usage. Dont need an and here, you tell yourself. Watch the tendency to start so many consecutive paragraphs with the same word. There's another time you've begun a sentence with it.

Okay, so every once in a while, you let some thought rise up to the surface and call itself to your attention, whereupon you stop to think, which is not too bad if you're focused on what you're going and can barely get the word down in legible form if you're using a pen or avoiding one of your most flagrant typos, inserting unnecessary g's within words. 

The ultimate goal is the messy kind of treasure maps you used to draw to amuse yourself when you were bored in class and could not resort to the overt act of reading when you should be listening. You could read the maps. Maybe they weren't neat, but so long as it was your map and your treasure, and the authenticity was clearly not an issue, you were free to add details that added to your pleasure.

You want as much information a you'll need in the construction of a specific story, but you won't want it all at once because you'd already found books and essays written in that manner, and found themso boring you were unable to force yourelf to continue. You get information into the draft that you know cannot possibly last, but somehow, writing it down, allowing one or more of your characters to speak it or challenge it, emphaizes its authenticity and,thus, the entire atmosphere of authenticity.

Sometimes, you'll be larding in so much information that you're shunted off onto another track of logic by your own mind. Aware of the logic, you try to find ways to make it a part of the story, but when the first draft times are over and you begin to wonder what you will do with the work you have at hand, you recognize you've probably reached the point where you have to make significant judgments about your manuscript, questioning whether it is a short story, a novella, or the skeleton of what could be a novel.

When your curiosity reaches the stage of asking yourself if the draft is of a short story, something in-between short and a longish novel, or something crying out to send you off in search of more material, you understand you've finished a significant stage. The first draft is over.

Now, you need to see what you have as opposed to what you thought you had, where the material is wanting to take you, as opposed to wondering where you wish to take it.

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