Writing a first draft can be a bit scary, a relief, or a grueling task needing to be done. Sometimes the hardest part is simply getting started, in doing it. Once the actual writing starts whether it’s on paper or a computer screen, it can be like breaking a log-jam releasing a flood of words. It’s one thing if there is an idea welling up inside that must get out, and quite another if you have been asked (or required) to write something without that wonderful inspiration driving you to start. What to do lacking that compulsion or to get past that intimidating unmarked page?
There are probably as many ways to get over that “blank page/screen” syndrome as there are writers. Basically it is just to write something – anything will do. The process of writing seems to unlock more words. Describe the room you are in, the view from a window or the wall in front of you, some person you know, what you think about this assignment, or what you know about the subject. As the words come easier and your ideas begin to take shape, you will find you can cross out or delete large amounts that you have written as non-essentials. Ideas will take on a meaningful form and you will be getting into what you want to write or must write.
Once your mind latches onto the subject(s) at hand, just let the words come as they will, writing as quickly as possible. Leave underlined spaces for gaps you may need to fill in later. At this point it isn’t important to finish a paragraph or have all the details. This is only a draft. Get as many of your ideas as possible on paper or on the screen (be sure to save your work every little while so you don’t loose it accidentally).
When the “creative heat” dissipates, go back and improve what you have written, changing words, making one word do the work of a phrase, cutting out what does not contribute to what you want to say. Generally, if I am writing an article or short story with a given wordage and I must cut a third, I am in good shape. The process of cutting out excess verbiage, using more descriptive words that reduce the need for several others all sharpens and improves the end result.
Then let it rest at least a day, if possible, and work on something else. Go back to your first draft later and begin the real work developing it into the best you can make it. This is where all the skills you have learned about your craft come into play about shaping and pacing, avoiding redundancy (unless it is to make a point), adding more ideas to your original draft, perhaps cutting some old ones, and so forth.
Truly, good writing is a learned skill, a craft which can always be improved and expanded.
Leonora Pruner was born in Dubuque, Iowa, but has lived most of her life in California. Writing has been an important activity since junior high. She graduated from Westmont College in 1953 and earned an MBA from Pepperdine University in 1981.
Fascination with a possible eighteenth-century English character led to five years of extensive research, which resulted in the 1981 and 1987 publication of two period novels. That time remains of great interest to the author, and she continues to use eighteenth-century England as a setting for her work.
Leonora married in 1953, and her family has expanded from two children to thirteen grandchildren and five great-grand-children.
She lived in the Republic of Maldives from 1987 to 1997, where she collected folklore and taught economics and computer science. While there she wrote the first drafts of this book.
Books by Leonora Pruner include Close to His Heart, Love’s Secret Storm and Love’s Silent Gift. The title of her next novel is The Aerie of the Wolf.
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