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A Rough Draft: Five Ways to Blast through Draft #1

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I’ll admit it. When I saw Renee’s post “Take An Annual Inventory of Your Writing Accomplishments and Goals,” I cringed.  

My WOW accountability group knows that I set one goal for myself in 2018. Finish a draft of my cozy mystery. Sure, I have 13,200 words but I’m nowhere near a completed draft. I haven’t even bumped off the victim yet.

But then I read Janice Hardy’s post, “A Faster Way to Write a First Draft.”  She made me think about how I can do it faster, because I’ve been developing secondary characters, detailing my setting, and everything else all in this draft. How can I blast through it instead?

#1 Focus on the mystery plot. As I started to work on my cozy, I realized that there are several plot lines going on in this type of mystery. There’s the Murder Plot. There’s the Main Character’s Personal Life Plot. There’s the What’s Going on in the Neighborhood Plot. And, last but not least, there’s the What’s Going on Where My Character Works Plot, be it a bookstore, knitting shop or café. I’ve been developing all four plot lines simultaneously. To get from the beginning to the end fast, I need to focus on the mystery.

#2 Flesh out the setting in a later draft. Yes, I need to know where things are and how things look because I need to eventually build a life-like setting for my audience. But the key is eventually. It doesn’t all have to be magazine spread perfect in the first draft.

#3 Secondary characters can also come later. I’m used to writing for kids. My first fiction sale had three characters. Most fiction for adults takes a larger cast than I’m used to directing and I’ve realized that they don’t all need to be wonderfully unique in draft #1. Once I figure out how many people I absolutely have to have present, I can give each of these characters goals, backstory and personality.

#4 If I don’t know it already, research can wait. I’m a nonfiction writer. On a bad day, I can get mired down in research as I try to find just the right detail. On a good day? It is a delightful rabbit hole down which I willingly leap. Research can come later.

#5 Do not rewrite. As things come up in my story, I’m tempted to go back and set things up. “If this character is going to be a suspect, I need a conflict!” I’ve done it a time or two but I need to let that wait until later too.

If I follow these guidelines, I may still make it through draft #1. It won’t be pretty. In fact it’s going to be spare and more than a little barebones. But it will also be a first draft. The best part of a first draft is that once you get it down, you have something available to flesh out and improve, but first you need to get it done.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards’ writing, visit her blog, One Writer’s Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins January 14th, 2019.

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