3 Steps to Writing your Best First Draft

Building your Writing Practice – Workout Wednesday

Step 1. Get your first draft down.

Just sit down and type until you think you are done.  Take a deep breath, maybe a sip of coffee or tea – or gin.  Then write more.  Don’t go back to what you already wrote.  Keep writing.  Don’t think about skipped commas or a misspelled word; that comes later.  For now, just write until you can’t write anymore.  Then stop and walk away.  Take a walk.  Pet the dog.  Eat a sandwich.  Anything to reset your mind.  You may even want to sleep on this draft, not literally, of course.

Step 2. Read your First Draft.

Edited page of my writing.  (Photo: Theresa Duncan)

Go back to all that stream-of-consciousness writing, and this is important: print it out.  There is something about the printed page that aids the process of editing.  You are now ready to start editing.

Begin with a read-through and a pen.  If something like capitalization or punctuation sticks out (and as a perfectionist, it usually does to me), use a colored pen to make a mark over it or add the punctuation.  This is only a pause, mind you, not a full-on edit.   Keep reading. 

Once read, you have ideas about

what your main idea and secondary ideas are.  You have ideas about how the story unfolds and you know what important details you left out.  You know what you should possibly cut because it takes away from the flow.  Jot these ideas down in the margin.  Remember, you are still not at your keyboard. 

Take a break when you are done reading.  This resets your mind.  It may even allow your mind to think of more things to add for clarification or to cut.  You may get ideas on how to rearrange parts of the story to help with flow.

Step 3. Edit.

Armed with your printed and marked up copy, you are ready to return to your keyboard and start editing:  correcting for mechanics, rearranging, cutting and pasting, etc. (I recommend you keep a separate document of the things you cut out.  These things may need to be added back in as your draft evolves.  They may also lead to another story.) 

Once you think you have all your edits done, print out this new draft.  Place it neatly on your desk and walk away.  Pet the cat; get the mail; eat an apple.  Let your subconscious work on it.

Continue this process (steps 2 and 3) until you think you have your best first draft. 

The only thing left to do now is share it with a writer/editor/friend.  (Yes, that’s one person or group of people; me, the Stacking Stones Writers group)  Allow them to workshop your draft.  Take whatever advice resonates with you and leave the rest.  Then start at step two again. Great job!  You are now on your second draft. Or third. Or….. But you have some great writing going on.  Keep up the fantastic work!

Happy writing… ~T

At Stacking Stones Writers, I seek to create a community of writers, a place you can go to find encouragement for your passion – writing.  Please follow the Stacking Stones Writers blog to have easy access to all the tips, tools, and ideas shared here.  Thank you!

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