I don't think I am alone in finding the first draft the most challenging part of writing. Perhaps this is because it is the smallest part of a finished work in terms of time spent, so it gets the least practice. Once there is something in front of me to work on there is the clear and obvious job of polishing and honing it, looking for weaknesses, pulling it to pieces, applying the keen scrutiny of the copy-smith. And, more exciting than that, working through the copy can open my eyes to new ideas. It can show up inconsistencies in the characters and force me to think them afresh. The characters themselves can lead me in directions not thought of. The work can become exhilarating.
But first those initial ideas, fluid and jumbled together inside the head, need putting down on paper, - or to be more precise these days, on a computer screen.
The sound instructions given in school about writing an outline - noting down headings for each topic and then deciding on the best order for them before starting to write – used to work well for me when I wrote with a pen or a typewriter. But with a word processor I rarely seem to discipline myself to follow that route. I close my eyes and type.
That leads to plenty of work later, cutting and pasting to get everything into a logical order, but it gets me out of a rut that is all too easy to get stuck in – thinking too much and writing too little.
I work best early in the morning, getting up at about four o'clock and writing in the stillness before anyone else is awake. For me it is definitely the best time for first drafts. I wake up and grope my way to consciousness while mulling over the plot. Ideas start to jostle each other, I smile at a new revelation, or a clever remark that one of my characters comes out with, and suddenly I'm wide awake and heading for the study to get it down before it fades.
One thing that needs disciplining against is editing too early. As soon as there is a paragraph in front of me the temptation is to start tweaking it. Cutting out the verbiage, looking for more interesting vocabulary – getting into the main part of the writer's craft in fact. But when I do this too soon the ideas I wanted to get down tend to get lost before they ever make it to the page. So I like to just close my eyes and type. I end up with a mess to sort out, but that is relatively easy. Making sense of half-baked ideas is a major part of writing and I have plenty of practice. It can be done piecemeal at any time of the day, whenever there is free time and new ideas are not flowing.
Philip Stott was born in England in 1943. He studied at Manchester University, where he obtained B.S. (with honours) and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering. He lectured at universities in Nigeria and South Africa and carried out research in the analysis of geometrically nonlinear structures. He shared the Henry Adams Award for outstanding research in 1969. While lecturing at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, he studied biology.
After leaving Wits he joined an engineering consulting firm. His ongoing interest in all aspects of science led to studies in mathematics and astronomy with the University of South Africa and, later, to four years of part-time research with the Applied Mathematics Department of the University of the Orange Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
After many years as a firm atheist, he was converted to Christianity in 1976. Following several years of studying the conflicting claims of secular science and Scripture, he actively entered the Creation/Evolution debate in 1989.
In 1992, he was invited to address a conference in Russia and since then has lectured, addressed conferences, and taken part in debates in eastern and western Europe, America, Canada, and southern Africa. Venues have included the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN), a UNESCO International Conference on the Teaching of Physics, and the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Philip Stott is married to Margaret (born Lloyd). They have two children, Robert and Angela; and two grandchildren, Sean and Julie. They live in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
You can read more about Philip and his novel, Another World at http://nordskogpublishing.com/book-another-world.shtml