(Transcript) – Five best practices when writing your first draft

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Morgan MacDonald : Today we are talking about the five best practices when you are writing your first draft. This week is all [specifically] about writing your first draft. So if you’re into that go ahead and hit the “follow me” button, and you can catch all of this week’s [content]…

 

Megan Flatt ( https://twitter.com/megan_flatt ) : Hello!

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Hey Megan! I was just on your Scope. Nice. I loved your Scope this morning. I’m excited for you and all of the cool stuff you’re going to be doing this fall… So welcome as you’re joining. Pop in the chat [and] say hi, tell me where you’re from.  Tell me what you write. Do you write blogs, or books, or something in between? I feel like I really get to know you when you let me know what you write. Then I can tailor my Scopes to YOU. And if you have questions, feel free to pop those questions in the chat. I will either get to them at the END, or maybe I’ll do a WHOLE Scope all about your questions. And as we’re going through this stuff today you guys know I take notes for you…

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Hey Morgan!

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Ron just joined the room. Hey Ron… If you’re like me, I Scope when I’m making food, or driving, or something where I can’t take notes. So if you want to catch notes and replays and transcripts go to http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope . I’m trying to get a decent looking sign up, but for right now let me just show you. Right up there… Ron, let me know. Is that the right direction? Last time I had a mirror image. Is that right? [laughter]…. Here you can catch all of the notes, replays and transcripts.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Yup.

 

Morgan MacDonald : Okay. Good. So, five best practices when you’re writing your first draft, So if you were with us yesterday we talked about how to PREPARE for the first draft. So the PLANNING stuff. How to free write to clarify your topic, how to pick a topic, how to write a rough organization – [that’s] what I call it. It’s more like a linear, flexible list. It’s not an OUTLINE. It’s not a MIND-MAP. It’s something that’s a LITTLE more structured, but flexible enough that you can move things around in your book before you start writing. So catch that over at http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope . That will give you a really good review.

 

So now we’re starting from the assumption that you HAVE some sort of plan. You have a rough organization [that] has the chapter titles, and little snippets : short sentences, fragments, and phrases that just describe the points you want to make. So obviously this method works best for nonfiction writers.

 

Oh! Hold on. Pause. You don’t know who I am [laughter]. I’m Morgan Gist MacDonald. I’m a writing coach, an editor, and author. I run my business out of http://www.paperravenbooks.com , and that’s also where I blog. So I help YOU write your BOOK, from vague idea, to first draft, to manuscript.  And this week is all about the writing process.

 

So we assume you have your rough organization, like we talked about yesterday, and it, kind of, has a linear progression that covers all of the different ideas you want to talk about. It’s not all flushed out yet, but you have at least the ideas written out.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : http://www.paperravenbooks.com

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Thanks Ron. I appreciate you putting that link down there…If you guys WANT to share this is a good time to share. And if, as we’re talking, there’s something you like, and want to hear more of, “heart it up”. Thanks guys. Thanks Ron…

 

All right, best practice number one : write from beginning to end, but skip the introduction. So you’re looking at your rough organization, [and] it has all the topics listed out. You’re going to SKIP the introduction and just start at chapter one, because the introduction is going introduce what the book’s about. But if you haven’t written the book, you don’t exactly know what it’s about yet [laughter]. It will change, shift, [and] take shape in ways that you can’t really anticipate. And that’s a GREAT thing. That’s the FUN thing about writing, [is that] it’s very creative in process. But that means you might as well skip the intro because it’s going to change. Start with chapter one…

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Same with the prologue.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Same with the prologue. Exactly Ron. You’ve got it. [I] totally agree…. I don’t write fiction, but I READ a lot of fiction, obviously, and [I] totally agree that sometimes we can tell that with the author, in the prologue, it’s like “I don’t think you knew in the prologue that this character was going to do this other thing.” [laughter]  It’s always funny when this happens.

 

So don’t DO that.. Write the intro last. I actually recommend that you write from chapter one all the way through down to the end. I know a lot of people skip around, and things like that. But I think [that] when you WRITE from beginning to end the reader experiences the whole book as a more complete, coherent, whole. So if you HAVE to skip something, fine. It’s not the end of the world. But go ahead and just TRY to write from beginning to end, because then everything will TRANSITION a little bit better, it will flow a little more smoothly, and you won’t have to do as much in the editing process. It just makes everything a bit easier. So that was number one; write from beginning to end, but skip the intro.

 

Number two, don’t edit as you write!  If you are writing, ONLY WRITE. Don’t go back and reread those sentences. Don’t try to fix subject-verb agreement. Don’t try to make sure you hit this other point. Just write, and let it flow out.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Fast draft!

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Yeah. Exactly Ron. “Fast draft”…I’m not saying to write, necessarily, as FAST as you can, but PUSH yourself to keep going. It’s not going to be comfortable. It’s going to feel like you’re leaving loose ends behind you, and that’s TOTALLY okay. That is HOW writing happens. You’ve got to KEEP GOING with the momentum. If you make the mistake that we all do at some point, and go BACK and edit, you’re going to get stuck in the mud. You’re going to start feeling like, “Oh! This isn’t making SENSE!… I’m terrible at grammar!… I can’t spell anything!”…

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : It’s going to suck, and that’s okay.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … [laughter] Ron says, “It’s going to suck, and that’s okay”…You just have to not let yourself get bogged down in the imperfect draft. Because that’s what happens when you edit, you go back and realize, “Oh my gosh, This is not perfect.” Then you feel cruddy about the whole thing, and you just want to quit. So don’t even look back. Just keep, everyday, [moving] forward, forward – always got to go forward – until you finish the first draft.  Alrighty, so number two was : don’t edit as you write.

 

Number three : write EXPANSIVELY. Okay. So what do I mean by this? If you’re trying to make a point, or describe a concept, or walk someone through a process, use AS MUCH detail as you possibly can the first time around. Even if you find yourself repeating yourself a little bit, write as MUCH about it as you can. Write MORE than you need, because it is SO much easier to cut later than to add later. You’ll forget what it is you were trying to say, and you just won’t REMEMBER the important little things. So write TOO MUCH basically [laughter] is, kind of, the point of all of this. If you have the choice between writing too much [or] just writing little bits, write too much, so that later you can come back and edit.

 

Which, sort of, dovetails with number four. This is one of the most COMMON and DEBILITATING mistakes I see writers make all of the time : don’t use bullet points. Okay. Now let me explain what I mean. A lot of times when people are writing their first draft they’ll get to a chapter that’s really intimidating. It’s big and messy, and they just really aren’t sure exactly how they’re going to talk about this big, messy concept. So they’ll start bullet-pointing things. They’ll say, “Bullet point : I’m going to talk about THIS concept”, “Bullet point : I need to address these three issues”, “Bullet point : I should include some research on this”, “Bullet point…” So it just becomes like five to ten bullet points…

 

Miguel Rubbio ( https://twitter.com/migg300 ) : Hey Morgan.

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Hey Miguel. Welcome…So in their mind they’re, kind of, “checking off” that chapter. They’re like, “Ah, yeah. I DID enough.” But guess what? In a month – or in a WEEK – you’ll come back, and you won’t remember what it is you were trying to say in those bullet points. Then you’ve got this half-done, half thought out, half-baked chapter, and it’s really tough to go back in and try to remember what it is you were trying to say there.

 

So I can’t tell you – and I know it’s so tempting – but writers send me first drafts, and one of the chapters was really difficult for them, and so they just put bullet points. [Then] they’re like, “Well, I sort of explained in the bullet points. Can you just fill it in for me?”  And I’m like, “Okay. But bullet points are not explanations. They just aren’t. I WISH I could read your mind, and I WISh I could fill it in for you, but bullet points are often used as a shortcut for explaining things.” So don’t do that. If you find yourself wanting to just stick bullet points with short phrases, that’s FINE for the rough organization, but that is NOT okay for a first draft, because you will SO regret it later. When you come back to revise – think about it – when you’re revising and editing you don’t want to be creating a whole bunch of new content. You want to just be adjusting the flow and style of the content. So all of the fresh, creative STUFF needs to happen in the first draft.

 

Okay. [Here’s a] quick recap for those of you who have been joining – five best practices for writing your first draft. Number one, write from beginning to end, but skip the introduction. We’ll talk more about introduction tomorrow. Number two, do not edit as you write – resist, resist, resist. Number three, write expansively. Like OVER-explain everything if you can. Keep explaining until you feel 100% like [you] have explained that concept to death [laughter] . Because you can always go back and cut later, but it’s really hard to ADD later. Number four, don’t use bullet points. This, kind of, dovetails with number three, but if you find yourself approaching a really hard chapter, or concept, and you’re like, “Eh, I’m just going to cheat and put some bullet points here.” Don’t. You will SO regret it – SLASH, your editor will so regret it later. Just go ahead and explain it as best you can. It won’t be perfect. Just push yourself through it and finish it off.

 

Number five, if you know you need to research something, put an asterisk and keep writing. DO NOT stop to Google. Google will be the death of your first draft [laughter]. I should put that on Pintrest. If you are writing and you’re like, “Oh my gosh! I know that there’s this study that shows that 90% of students drop out at ..whatever..whatever.”

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Note : Don’t torment your editor.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Note, don’t torment your editor [laughter] Yes, thank you Ron… If you know that the study is out there, and you, kind of, remember even a name, and who did the study, JUST DON’T. Don’t pull up Google. Put an asterisk every time you feel like there’s something you still want to research, and then when you’re done writing your first draft, just do a SEARCH. A global “CTRL + F” or “[Apple] + F”, or whatever, and look for those asterisks. Then you can fill [those in] later, when you plug in some time for research later.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Scrivener has a nice notepad.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … “Scrivener has a nice notepad”… Ron, you know so much about Scrivener that I do not know. I am still learning.

 

Miguel Rubbio ( https://twitter.com/migg300 ) : Oh, good to know.Google has been slowing me down.

 

Morgan MacDonald : Miguel, “Oh, good to know. Google has been slowing me down.”… Yes, I like to have writing days, or writing weeks, really, and then like a research week. So I’ll write the first draft, and then plan a week or two to go back and just do research. So find those asterisks and just go through them one by one by one, and plug that research in to what’s already written.

With some people who are into heavily researched non-fiction… depending on how heavy the research is, if it’s very integral to the book, you’ll need to just plug [in] more time for research. So you’ll want to still write a first draft that is as straight through as you can without stopping to research. But you might need to plug two or three weeks between a first draft and then a revised draft. Plug two or three weeks to go back and hit all of those research points. But put bumpers on it. There’s a start date for research, and there’s an end date for research, and then you’ve got to get back into the draft. If you just try to go back and forth, [then] back and forth, multiple times a day, you’re not going to make significant progress on EITHER writing OR the research. So WRITE in a chunk. Take a break. [Then] RESEARCH for a chunk. Take a break. Write for a chunk…   

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Yes. Even in fiction.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Yeah, even in fiction Ron. You said you had done some historical fiction. Even like fantasy, sci-f, paranormal stuff… There’s always STUFF that you feel you need to know more about so that you can make it flow better. But, honestly, the main chunks of your writing – whether it’s fiction or nonfiction – are determined by you, the author.  In fiction it’s your characters and your plot that determine the flow of the manuscript. In nonfiction it’s your argument, and what you want to say, that determines the flow.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : The nerds will always find something wrong.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … :”The nerds will always find something wrong… That’s so true.

 

TX Namaste Chick ( https://twitter.com/txnamastechick ) : Such good advice!

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Oh Tex, I always forget your name. [Let me] look at your profile. “TX Namaste Chick”. What’s your name? I’ve seen you in here a bunch. Sorry. You should put your name on your profile.

 

TX Namaste Chick ( https://twitter.com/txnamastechick ) : Chandra.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Chandra! Thank you Chandra… Okay. So just remember that when you are the author you are the one who is determining the flow of the manuscript, and the flow of the book. It’s your characters, or your arguments, or your method, or your perspective that is driving the flow of the book. [It’s] NOT the research. The research is supportive. The research is just, honestly, to show that you’re right [laughter]. That’s a terrible way to put it. But in a sense, you can always find research to support either side, and by the time you come to writing a book, you probably already have done a lot of the thinking through stuff, and forming an opinion, and you’ve already done a lot of this deep, cognitive, brain note stuff. So now it’s time to just write. Just put all [of] that down on paper, write the first draft, and then you can go back and research.

 

So that’s it for today guys. [For a] quick recap [of] the five best practices : write from beginning to end, but skip the intro; don’t edit as you write [or] your manuscript will die a slow, painful, grammatically correct death; write expansively, like over-explain; don’t use bullet-points to shortcut – just go ahead and explain the dang concept…

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Awesome Scope!

 

Morgan MacDonald : ..Oh, thanks Ron…And five, if you know you need to research something, put in asterisks and keep writing. So those are all at http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope Let me [shift] you around so you can see…Ta da!…Oh yes. if you like to talk about writing, and you want to write a book, follow me. Follow Ron, especially if you’re a fiction [writer]…Ron pop some emoticons back up in there…

 

Miguel Rubbio ( https://twitter.com/migg300 ) : Good stuff!

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Thanks Miguel… Follow me. Follow Ron. We’re going to have a party. This is an unending, constant Periscope writing party [laughter]. We’re going to do some more tomorrow… [irrelevant comment] … Ron does great fiction and young adult fiction, and it’s very inspiring and motivating, so yáll follow him too… [irrelevant comment] … And there’s Miguel. Miguel, you also write too. Miguel, what do you write? Let us know. What do you write? I’ve forgotten. Are you scoping now, Miguel?

 

Miguel Rubbio ( https://twitter.com/migg300 ) :  Fiction.

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Miguel writes fiction…. Miguel, are you Scoping? You SHOULD be Scoping [laughter]. And I’m also on Twitter. Same handle @morgangmac ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac ) .. Okay Miguel. Good. I need to put you on the Twitter list. I’m trying to make a Twitter list of all the Periscope writers, and we’re going to be using the hashtag #periscopewriters, so that we can try to find each other, because Periscope’s searchability is ridiculous.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : New York subway horror.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … New York subway horror. Oh my gosh, Miguel. Talk to me. Can you put, somewhere in your book, Miguel, an episode of a young mom pushing a stroller, and the elevator door opens and there’s a guy peeing in the corner? Because that happened to me [laughter]

 

Rye Young ( https://twitter.com/ryeyoung25 ) : This is always helpful. Thank you.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … You’re welcome… It wasn’t HORRIFYING, but it was really gross. So I’m there with my one-year-old at the time, pushing the stroller, hoping to avoid carrying my one-year-old down three flights of subway stairs, and the doors open and there’s this guy in a business suit peeing! But I was too intimidated to actually say anything to him, so I just picked up my stroller and carried it down the stairs. That was horrible [laughter]. It was just very surprising, because I’m from Texas, and it was like my first week living in New York. I was like, “Where am I?” [laughter] “What IS this place?” But that’s okay. That only happened once – mostly because I started just avoiding the elevators because they all smelled like pee [laughter]. This is SO not where this Scope was going today. But that’s the fun of Periscope. People, I’m telling you, it’s a party.

 

All right. That’s it for today guys. This is your lunchtime writing Scope. Now go do some writing, and I will see you guys tomorrow. Goodbye.

 

Miguel Rubbio ( https://twitter.com/migg300 ) : You see all types of stuff in the city.

 

Morgan MacDonald : …”You see ALL types of stuff in the city.” That is so true. I digress. [It’s] time for you guys to go digress into your own writing. All right.   .

 

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