Writers’ Tips: Writing Your First Draft
For a while, let’s discuss writers’ tips in general. We won’t focus on a particular genre, but we’ll discuss the ins and outs of good writing, which will lead to a published work in your hands.
Okay, you have a fantastic idea, you’ve mulled it over in your head for weeks, months, maybe years! Now, you’re finally ready to launch your creativity into the writing/publishing world and “put your idea on paper.”
First, you need to decide for what genre you will write. Genre, pronounced jaun’-rah, is the classification in which your manuscript will be categorized. There are dozens of genres and subgenres, all which branch from several very broad ones: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, screenwriting, and music composition, to name the most popular.
No matter which genre you choose, there’s a HUGE important step you need to take while you’re writing your first draft. Go to the library and/or bookstore (music store) and read or study as many published works in your chosen genre as you can. If you want to be a good writer, a published writer, then study those who’ve already achieved that goal.
Now, I’m not saying that everything out there on the bookshelves is “classic” and worthy of being studied, but the majority of the published works are. Analyze your genre of choice, take notes, and see what enabled those works to be worthy of publication.
I have pages of notes and samples from tween fiction and Amish fiction novels that show good character description, excellent use of dialogue, and “showing” not “telling” narration. I have several volumes of poetry by famous poets. I have a dozen or so Bible studies, which I’ve analyzed. From time to time, I open my files on my computer and just read through the notes to refresh my memory as to what “good” writing is. Or I’ll get one of those poetry books or Bible study guides and read them. These genres are all ones in which I’ve been published, but there’s always more to learn!
As you read and study, begin writing your first draft. There are two ways you can work on your first draft:
1.You can write your entire manuscript on paper or on a blank document in the computer without worrying about the PUGS (punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling) until you’ve finished.
2.You can edit yourself as you go, review your manuscript often and revise, revise, revise.
No method is the “best” one. It’s your decision how you want to finish that first draft.
I have several friends who write like crazy and don’t worry about a missing comma or a misspelled word. Me? That would drive me crazy. As a former high school English teacher, I can’t stand a comma out of place. It’s almost like an abscessed tooth. I have to get it fixed immediately! Therefore, I revise and edit as I write so that when I’ve finished the manuscript, I have very little revising to do.
The last and vital step for you to take is to join a local writers’ critique group. If you have none in your area, post some notices on community bulletin boards at mini-marts, grocery stores, libraries, etc. and advertise that you’d like to start one. You only need four to six writers (of any genre) to have a great critique group. Decide if you want to meet weekly or monthly and get started. (Our local group meets at a Starbucks coffee nook in a Target store. ) This writing aid will be the most value to you. To have other writers give you an honest critique (which will be quite painful to you) will make you a better writer. So don’t shy away from this important step in the beginning writing process.
Now, when you have all these facets of your beginning writing career in place, you can officially call yourself a writer. So stop talking about it and get started!
Next time we’ll discuss preparing your final draft for submission to an agent or editor.
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