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  • Judy

February 16, 2020: First drafts....

Writing is a process, and like all processes, the order is critical to successful completion. Like many writers, I have multiple projects going at one time, each in a different stage of the process. Whether researching, planning, drafting, revising, or submitting, I truly enjoy each step in the process. They are all critical in helping me uncover and share the story I want to tell. And with each step, I fall more in love with the story.

While each stage also has its own nuances and challenges, I think the first-drafting stage is unique.


Right now I am in the first-draft stage of one project.


Writer Shannon Hale once said that a first draft is simply shoveling sand into the sandbox. It is the later drafts and revisions that allow you to build the sand castle. I love this.


I am currently shoveling like crazy. My sand box is filling up slowly. I write my first drafts in a three ring binder, by hand. This is a conscious choice for several reasons. I like the portability of the project. This is particularly important if I am working on an historical fiction piece because if at all possible, I like to draft the story in the actual setting. For example, I wrote much of the first draft of Saving Home in St. Augustine. I would drive up for the day and spend hours sitting in the Castillo de San Marcos or the town plaza while I wrote. I like to think that this allowed the sense of place to come through the writing.


I also like being able to bring my binder with me and then I can grab those little bits of unexpected time to write. As an elementary school teacher and an adjunct professor, I am often running from one campus to another with maybe a quick stop for coffee. I can easily open my binder and get a few more paragraphs written.

A few sentences here, a paragraph, there- it does add up. I also like having all my notes and outlines and research handy as I draft. They are also in the binder for easy reference.


But first drafts are messy. I do not mean the handwriting, although that may be. But they are just getting story from your head to the page. I know there are areas where the dialogue does not flow. I realize there are plot gaps that will need to be addressed. I understand that, yet I do not stop to rework those at this point. I keep shoveling the sand into the sandbox.


I do like the seclusion of first-drafting though. It is just me and my characters. I am discovering more about them as I manipulate them through the events of the story and build on my plot. I love the privacy of this stage. I know soon enough I will be in the revision stage and will be seeking feedback, which then brings my writing into a very public place, so as I draft, I am reveling in my solitude.


You can always tell a new writer. They are the ones who have just finished their first draft, and are looking for advice on how to start submitting it for publication. Yes- finishing a first draft is definitely a cause for celebration! Toast yourself! Treat yourself! Set it down and let it rest for a bit. Then get ready to dig into the revision stage.

That is when you can turn that sand into the most amazing sandcastles!




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