How to Build a Solid Foundation So You Can Edit As You Write the First Draft

How to Build a Solid Foundation So You Can Edit As You Write the First Draft

How to Build a Solid Foundation So You Can Edit As You Write the First Draft
Image by Geralt / via Pixabay

How to Build a Solid Foundation So You Can Edit As You Write the First Draft

One big question writers have is, how can they write a solid first draft?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could write a solid draft on the first try? It would save us countless hours on revisions and we wouldn’t have to spend so much time going over our work again and again and again and…

Writing a novel is work. And sometimes the story needs to sit for a while and other times we need to rewrite the whole thing. It can get frustrating and even boring, especially when we’ve read it countless times. We’re basically reading the same novel over and over with no reward in sight of starting a new story. It gets old.

If there was a way to shorten the process, writers would be all over it. Well, the skeptics wouldn’t be – they’d be too busy picking apart the process and telling everyone and their brother why it was so wrong.

But here’s what I’ve discovered…

If you have a solid foundation, you can do it. You can write a solid first draft if you have the proper tools and experience.

There’s a certain amount of learning we need to do so that we can get really good at writing (or anything we set out to do, for that matter). There’s also a certain amount of practice we need. Unfortunately, no one can tell you how much learning and practice you need because everyone is different.

To build your solid foundation for writing so you can edit as you write the first draft, you must meet a few milestones.

1. Get Serious About Writing

Learn as much as you can about the writing craft. And put into practice the things you’ve learned.

If you want to run in a 10k race, you need to train for it. If you want to compete in the Olympics, you have to train for it. Similarly, if you want to write a solid first draft, you have to…train for it. It doesn’t come easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Learning and practicing regularly and treating the process like a college degree will help you get on the right track.

2. Know Your Limits

Understanding what your limits are will help you figure out how to fix them. As you write your novel, you’ll be constantly thinking about how you can make it better – how you can describe something more clearly or avoid a cliché or heighten the suspense or add foreshadowing. You’ll write something and then think, “Wait a minute. I can do better.”

If you’re studying the craft, giving it the time and attention it deserves, and you’re also getting feedback on your writing work, you’re going to know what your limits and weaknesses are. This is an important step in the writing process.

3. Know Your Story

One of the most common reasons for getting stuck is not knowing the story. And if we wing it at that point, there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to use anything we’ve written. Some parts of the story might be okay but there will likely be other areas that need to be cut or significantly modified. If we don’t know at least the basic plot structure for a story, there’s a good chance we’ll need to work on major revisions later.

I have found it’s helpful to write a list of scenes or elements that need to occur in order to make the story work. If we know the ending, we can work backwards and place the elements where they need to go. By doing this, we’re setting up each integral part of the story. An antagonistic force cannot come out of the blue. There has to be set up for it. For instance, if a thunderstorm is a big part of the story’s ending, there needs to be a thunderstorm earlier in the story. If we were to write by the seat of our pants without knowing the ending, we wouldn’t know to include the set up.

Building a solid foundation is a must if you want to edit as you write the first draft. That doesn’t necessarily mean the first draft is going to be perfect, but you’ll have a firm grasp on the story and how to improve the writing along the way.

Jody Calkins
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