Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rough Drafts Are Ugly

I’ve posted before on basic thoughts of writing rough drafts, and this is meant to enhance and elaborate on the theme. For whatever reason, I’m still working through the notion that rough drafts are ugly.

To stop and ponder the best way of phrasing something is to kill the idea. I’m not suggesting that there is no thought process at all, but there’s a difference between using your imagination and then writing the story as you see it versus using your imagination and then filtering those ideas into what might look the best. Subsequent drafts take care of the clean-up process.

I promised elaborations, so I’ll open up a bit. No, I won’t share text from a working draft. They are hideous, and I refuse to let anyone see them willingly. But I will share a few specifics on what I have purposefully skipped over.

I gloss over a name if I don’t have one readily available in mind and realize that pondering the name will slow me down too much in the moment. In place of the true name, I use a stand-in that I can find/replace later (Control-H for the win). Usually I put in something basic, like Bill, which I know I won’t leave alone in a fantasy story. In fact, bland names are a good motivation to do some extra thinking when I’m away from my writing desk.

One example from my current work in progress is that I had a character who found the first road. Two paragraphs later, this character found the first house. I saw it on a subsequent writing session as I was getting my bearings and was severely tempted to edit. But I refused. I know I’ll fix it later, so there was no need to address it in the moment.

Another point of slowness for me is choosing the right word. Sometimes, it’s that I can’t think of the actual word for something. I was recently trying to think of the device that’s used for holding candles, and for whatever reason, “candlestick” was not coming to mind. In its place, I wrote “hand-held candle” and highlighted it. This isn’t something that happens to me all the time, but when it does, it can drive me up the wall or drive me into Google (which can turn into a long research hunt).

Remember that rough drafts can be ugly. Plan for them to be horrid. Then you’ll be free to create without the confines of polish, grammar, vocabulary or whatever else may get in your way.

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