Writing A First Draft

When I sit down to write the first draft of a book, I like to create a document for each chapter. So in whatever wordprocessor you choose, start by creating a new document and save it as ‘Chapter 1’.  Then using the the outline you created earlier, copy the outline for chapter 1 and paste it into your new ‘Chapter 1’ document.

Lots of people have their own ideas and techniques on writing. I just like to write using the outline as my guide. The key word there being ‘guide’. While you are writing chapter 1 your thoughts and writing may go in a whole other direction. Some aspect of the story may grow out of your typing organically. That is perfectly fine and I encourage you to follow that flow. I find that a lot of my writing is till very organic and spawns lots of ideas. But by the end of it, I have touched on all of my outlined points. If something I have written was not a specified in my outlined point and it turns out to be really good I will add it to my outline should I ever need to reference the chapter I put it in.

Remember that your first draft should just be used to get your ideas out. To write the story. The first draft for me is more of a brain dump. Ernest Hemingway said “The first draft of anything is shit”, and that is how I treat it. Not until the second draft do I scrutinize over everything letter, word, and comma.

As far as words are concerned and how they should be used, I will not waste your time. The truth is that far greater writers than I have written wonderful books on how words should be used. I encourage you to seek out at least one of these books and read it before you start writing your first book. My personal favorit is ‘On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft’ by Steven King.


Creating An Outline

Before I ever start writing a book, one of the first things I do is write an outline. Having an outline makes writing a book so much easier. Having the roots of your story established so that when you write everything can grow and branch out.

When I write my outlines I do my best to keep everything simple and clear. It keeps you from suffering the derided blank page that seems to haunt many writers. It also ensures that you know where your story is going. It does this by making you think out all the major events that are going to take place before you start writing it.  Nothing is worse than getting halfway (or more) through writing a book, only to find yourself stuck not knowing what to do next.

Some people may argue that having a detailed outline of your book before you start writing takes away all the creative freedom one has from free from writing. My experience has found that to be a completely false statement. The way I write my outlines allows for plenty of room for one to be creative and come up with story ideas and events on a whim.

When I create an outline I date it with the date I started working on it. I will then title it ‘Outline’ with a subtitle of the book’s working title if I have one. I will than indicate the chapter followed by the month and year of when the even in the chapter is taking place. So for example:

Chapter # – (Month/Year)

  • Even number one
  • Event number two
  • Event number three

So If I took the template above and added actual content to it, it might look something like this:

Chapter 1 – (December/1980)

  • Birth of Joseph White at McCady Hospital
  • Joesph’s parents notice the new baby is not like other babies
  • Joesph’s parents struggle to keep their babies special abilities a secret from friends and family.

That is how I outline my books. Chapter 1 through however many till I am done.

Once my outline is done then I begin writing it all out. I do this by opening up a new blank page in my word processor application and copying my outline for chapter one and pasting it in that new blank page and use that outline as my guideline.

As you can see by my outline it leaves plenty open for the creative process to take over. My writing can take me off in many different tangents. Some are good and help the story along, while others do nothing but bloat out the story with needless details. I don’t normally worry about that during the first draft of my writings. I just let myself write and get it all out of my system. Its normally the second draft of my writing where I will go over everything line by line eliminating the needless tangents or the excess descriptions.

I found a really cool youtube video called ‘How To Write A 1000 Words‘ not to long ago. It’s was pretty neat for me to see a visual representation of how I pretty much write.

I hope you found this information useful. I am interested to read what you might do when creating an outline, or any writing tips for that matter. Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

Create A Cheat Sheet

The Simpsons Family Picture
The Simpsons Family Picture

Before I ever start writing a book there are a couple of things I do that help me with my writing process. One thing I do is create a ‘Cheat Sheet’ of characters I am going to use in my book.

My ‘Cheat Sheet’ helps me keep track of people, there names, there personalities, there ages, and anything else I might need for future reference. A character I keep on a cheat sheet rarely takes up more than one line on text. So the whole thing is clean and simple and is an easy to use reference.

So here is an example of a cheat sheet I would create using characters from the Simpsons. It contains the important information I might need to know about a character in one line of text.

Bart Simpson • 10 (Dennis The Menace) Trouble maker – Fat – Prank Caller
Homer Simpson • 36 (Ralph Kramden) Loud – Get Rich Quick ideas – Lazy
Lisa Simpson • 8 (Marcie from Charlie Brown) Smart – Voice of reason – Musical

So the idea behind it is pretty simple and generally includes.

  • Character Name
  • Age
  • Who they remind me of
  • Personality traits to remember

This is actually the template I use when creating a cheat sheet.

Character Name • Age (who they remind me of) Traits – Personality – Quarks

Thats how I do it. My cheat sheet has been such a valuable tool for me when writing. It makes the whole process of writing so much easier. I really hope anyone getting into writing will find this tip useful. Let me know if you have any tips on how you track characters. I am always interested to learn how others write.