Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Taking the First Draft Plunge

How do you know when you're ready to start your first draft? That's a question currently running through my mind.

Tonight, I am meeting with my writer's group to discuss my revised outline for my WIP. People in the group submit material once a month to be critiqued. Last month, I brought in the first draft of my outline. I received excellent feedback and realized that it needed work before I could begin the first draft. I believe this new draft is much stronger, and I'm hoping the group feels the same way. My goal is to begin writing the first draft of the manuscript beginning this weekend, fingers crossed that I get a thumbs up from the group.

I am a hardcore plotter. I like to get my outline as tight as possible before writing. It's easier to fix structural and character problems in a 10-page outline than a 300-page book. But I also want to start writing the first draft NOW. I'm excited about my book, excited to begin writing, and I don't want to lose this momentum. And no matter how strong my outline is, there will always be problems that need to be addressed. Right now, I'm not sure if it's better to keep preparing or to let this excitement carry me into the first draft. Thus, my question remains: how do you know when you're ready to begin your first draft?

Plotters and pantsers face this quandry. For the former group, we need to get to that point where we're secure with our outline before plunging into writing. For me, starting the first draft is the point of no return. I can't rush it. Two years ago, I tried participating in Nanowrimo, but I couldn't make it past the first page. I wasn't ready yet. Pantsers, you guys also deal with this issue. You have to reach a point where you're ready to put the idea swirling around in your head onto paper. How do you know when you're ready?

I need to feel that mixture of excitement, confidence, and impatience in order to start my first draft. And I'm feeling it! I've prepped all I can. I am confident in my outline. This story needs to come out of me now. Ultimately, I can only prep and outline so much. After that, I just have to take the plunge.

My insane goal: To have a first draft completed by Labor Day. I'm calling it Augowrimo.
My sensible goal: To have a first draft completed by Halloween. You know, in case that thing called life gets in the way.

I'm usually wary of talking publicly about my writing goals in case I can't live up to expectations. But I am taking a stand of solidarity with my blogging buddies who have been open about their progress. Maybe if I hold myself accountable to you, that *may* help motivate me.

So how do you know when you're ready to being your first draft?


  1. I don't know about this. My advice would be to just write. When it is time to start your draft? Now.

    If you've got an idea, if you're inspired, the time to start is now.

  2. I know of this debate really well. I was a full pantser before, but now I want to pace myself better by having a rough outline before I begin, and I think that having an outline is a great idea. As long as it doesn't keep you from writing.

    I think, at least from this post, that it sounds like you're more than ready to begin. It looks like you're looking for a green light maybe? But as a former pantser, I want to scream from the rooftops that momentum (ha I used this song in my post today) is something you can't afford to lose with a first draft.

    I'd say start. You could always stop. Starting is the hard part.

  3. I usually already have a rough (and I mean 'rough') outline by the time I'm ready to start a project, because I wrote it while I was working on the last one.

    The hardest line is the first one. After that, just go for it :)

  4. I'm a panster, (turning into a plotter...slowly) and when I feel like I know the voice in my head enough, I sit down and start typing. Being a pantser has advantages, since you just type whatever comes to you and keep the creative juices flowing, but it also has drawbacks. I seem to lose my focus around 20k and have to really dig deep and figure out where my story will go after that. Hence, the turning into a plotter. :) I do set goals, but if I can't quite reach them, it's okay. Life does get in the way. But if you really try to write at least something every day and stick with it, you'll be surprised how much you can accomplish in that amount of time. GOOD LUCK!! :)

  5. Heh. Sorry about the novel I just wrote... :)

  6. I think that feeling inside you that tells you to just get started already is what you're looking for. You seem to have that feeling. You should get started. You don't need to work through everything up front. You'll just burn yourself out.

  7. I wish I could be a hardcore plotter because I'm waaaay too much of a panster. I agree with Nancy that you have to feel like you're ready. If you do then go with it despite what others say!