Friday, December 12, 2008

How We Get a First Draft Started

I tend to have writer's block around 364 days out of the year. On my one good day, I'll get a decent idea for a picture book. It doesn't just pop into my head. It comes from a brainstorming session with whoever is my current writing partner. Right now, that's Becky. We throw out ideas until one resonates with both of us. This can take forever because Becky and I are very different. (Becky voted for McCain-Palin... enough said?)

But even after we have a solid idea, we often have trouble getting the first few lines down. This is where JOPs come in handy. JOP stands for "junk on paper'. Becky and I set a timer for ten minutes and each just free write. We write whatever comes into our head without censoring. This is super hard for me, but I just tell myself that I am not going to show it to her when I am done. When time's up, we compare notes. One of us almost always ends up with something that we can use as a jumping board.

There is something about having a short time limit that forces me to ignore that annoying critical voice in my head and just get words down. I am often amazed at what comes out. I'd share one so you can see a real-life example, but Becky won't let me (See, I told you we were different!)

What about you? How do you get a first draft started?

5 comments:

J.L. Finnell said...

This is like the 10-minute version of NanoWriMo. I love it. Maybe I'll subject my critique group to your speed-drafting idea on a slow day...just to see what happens. It sounds much more painless and efficient than my method--endless hours spent staring at a blank page.

taralazar said...

The timer is a great idea.

I don't necessarily worry about the beginning. I just get an opening down, keep going and then worry about revising it later.

You didn't see the first clunky beginning to "The Zippy Slippers." Terrible. Then I spent two days revising it over and over until the version you saw. I agonized over it for hours! It's amazing how you can spend so much time on three little sentences!

Rachel Writes 4 Kids said...

For me, first drafts can sometimes seem impossible and other times easy. I ask myself, "How do I want to tell this story?" And then I get stuck staring into space for 2 hours. Yikes! I often find myself thinking "simplify, simplify", since I'm writing PB stories.

Rebecca said...

Corey, I could not help but laugh out loud at the McCain-Palin comment!

We write great stuff together BECAUSE we are so different. :-)

Yat-Yee said...

I sputter and stop, start again. Go to the fridge. Eat dark chocolate. Sit back down. Tell myself I'm a fake. Fold some laundry. Surf the web. Sit back down to write. End up with a blog post. Check out the pantry. Berate myself. Put some words down. Delete all. Repeat. Look through some catalogs. Berate myself again. Decide to write long hand. put lines through all sentences. Start new page.

Order and sequence vary from day to day, but content basically the same. Occasionally I manage to sit on my inner critic and editor and naysayer long enough to put many words down. Then it gets easier from there.