The first draft is when you get your ideas down

I’d heard this many times.

Due to lack of a private space to write during Covid, I have one completed first draft and one still being written. I usually have three works at various stages of progress. One at first draft, one at third and one almost ready to submit.

But this week I finally realised the power of “your first draft is where you put all your ideas down”.

My first drafts are usually short on word count.

Later drafts are fleshed out. New scenes are added. New motivations are added to scenes already written. Then careful rewrites occur to make sure new plot points work within the timeline, conversations, or anything else already written. It’s a long and detailed process.

But I’ve put my perfectionist hat aside while writing the first draft of the book set during the 90s dance party days. While I’m still sticking to the outline, I allow myself to tell instead of show if my creative juices aren’t flowing, knowing I’ll amend all sins in the next draft.

I’ve been jotting and voice recording notes.

And this is how I know this is the draft where I’m just getting the story down instead of trying to write the best first draft I can. In the past, these notes are realised when I read through a draft three months after writing it. Now I’m planning the rewrites before I’ve completed the story.

Here’s a list of my notes so far.

  • One of my characters is on Prozac. His scenes need more development.
  • Two characters are going to regularly share jokes. One of them is not good at telling them. (I realised we don’t tell jokes any more. Back in the 90s, we did)
  • Many house music tracks are referenced but for copyright reasons, I can’t use lyrics. I will put on headphones and play them while dictating the feel of these tracks so I can add these descriptions to the manuscript next time around.
  • Rave party drugs are part of this story, so we need a character who is a drug dealer.
  • There is a scene set during the taping of a TV show. The production assistant character has to be chatted up by a former-gay-turned-born-again-Christian vision switcher. Why? Because that used to happen to me in that role. First hand experience.
  • When I finally read the first draft, I have to find ways to further complicate scenes heightening levels of awkward for my characters. Either for comedy or dramatic reasons.
  • I have to add more experiences from my own life. Like dressing a random guy in leather at a club, who from that night, became a good friend. Two characters could engage in a brand new fad – a colonic. And I should add funny sexual encounters like the time I fell asleep during a one night stand. The following morning I joined him and his lesbian flatmates for breakfast. His flatmates were much more interesting as they tried to work out if I’d be more than a one-nighter.

I allow myself years to complete a novel before I submit it to my publisher. Now, I’m finding ways to further develop characters and story earlier than usual.

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