Completing the first draft: A look back at the writing process – Part 1

Here’s a postmortem of sorts of the first draft of my book, Strain. At first I wanted to do this just on my own, but it occurred to me this might be of help to someone else. So here’s my clean and dirty laundry. In this post, I’ll run through the four critical pieces to the completion of the script.

Original target date: 10.01.2007

Actual completion date: (Ahem) 02.01.2008

Note: A large portion of the time past my personal deadline was eaten up with the holidays. Sure, you can write from anywhere, but avoiding familial alienation and consternation is prudent.

I’d have to check to see when I actually wrote the end of the first draft. I knew I’d be writing a second draft as I wrote the first, so there is an overlap between the two.

What worked:

Separating family time from writing time. We’ve got two kids, 4 and 2. As much as I’d love to, there is no plausible way for me to write while the family is awake and in the house. Awake and out of the house, sure. But in the house, nope. Once I came to this realization, the writing life got MUCH easier. I wasn’t splitting time. I no longer felt guilty about taking time away from my family, nor do I feel guilty about missing time with my wife. I wait till everyone is in bed (or reading) and then I bust out the Twain-like genius I call my writing. Thank you very much. I don’t sleep much (but that’s more for Part 2).

Set a deadline. It was crucial to the process. It knocked the ‘I’m tired’ parent procrastination crutch out of my reach. The slippage would have been ignored. Ignored is not the right word; endured is more accurate.

Found a countdown clock widget. I’ve mentioned this in the comments from a previous post but it bears repeating. The countdown clock was a bit of a double-edged sword. I had a passive aggressive streak, a glibness I knew was going to be counter productive. Which leads to my third good idea-

Initiated a daily word quota. I attached a daily word quota to the countdown clock; skip a day and watch your daily quota increase. For me, it was the tipping point.

So there is a summary of the methods – tricks – I used to plow through the first draft of my manuscript. They worked for me. (Cue Rocky and Bullwinkle narrator) So join me next time for Part 2 – What didn’t work – or How a bottle of wine and a cozy couch can cure the compulsive need to write.


2 Responses to “Completing the first draft: A look back at the writing process – Part 1”

  1. Cliff Burns Says:

    Good on you for finishing that first draft. Most people never get that far. Now…take a deep breath and get ready for the hard part. Editing. The first draft business, that’s the fun aspect of writing, when you feel the work is full of hope and promise. Editing and revising reveals the warts and terrible transitions, the clunkiness that wasn’t apparent as you were caught in the fire of creation. Revising is what separates the adult from the child, the courageous from the weak. I’ve been in the biz a long time and editing hasn’t gotten any easier. But it’s not something to dread and if you do it right, it can be creative and rewarding. It almost makes up for the crippling back pain and arthritic fingers. ALMOST…

  2. peterosborne Says:

    Hi Cliff,

    Thanks for the note of encouragement. It’s always good to hear from individuals that have made it through the process and are still have enough of their marbles to discuss it.

    The only faintly comparable experience to editing a manuscript comes from my day job. But my work there is for an interactive environment/experience.

    (Here’s how I’ve compared the two previously – please pardon the blatant traffic sponging link:

    The manuscript is a linear being – right to left, front to back. It’s just a massive amount of content. It’s going to be interesting.

    Till next time


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