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Five Tips for Respectable First Drafts

5 Mar 2017

Writing is always said to be a lonely experience. You spend a lot of time locked away creating characters and worlds and when you think you are done you suddenly realise: who is going to read all of this effort I’ve put in? Then you wonder if it’s even good enough for human consumption.

 

When you’re first starting out, you might even trawl various online writing sites, not quite plucking up the courage to dive in and share your work. The fear of ridicule can grip you so hard it paralyses you from moving forward and gaining some objective perspective on your creations. Soon enough, it feels as if you will only ever write for yourself.

 

Eventually, after much psyching yourself up, you post a short story or a chapter and await nervously for the negative responses to roll in, while hoping someone will see you for the genius you are. But something far worse happens.

 

Nothing.

 

Nobody critiques your work.

 

What’s wrong with it? You ask yourself. Is it really that bad?

 

Believe me, not knowing how your work reads is far worse than some negative feedback of areas you can work on to improve. And yet, there are a few basic techniques you can employ that will make your first drafts of fiction writing perfectly respectable, even if there are still some major flaws.

 

Focus.

 

Make sure your story or chapter has a focal point, usually something that changes the character's or reader’s perception, or the direction of the story. Something to build your prose towards. All the action, dialogue, character building, setting description should be heading towards a defining moment. By doing this you will create some basic structure in your piece and even just a little is better than none.

 

Shaping.

 

Take any printed book from your shelf and look at how the pages are presented (let’s keep self-pubbed books out of this for the minute, as the quality varies so drastically). You will likely notice that each page contains different sized paragraphs, some long-ish, some short, some comprised of just a single word. The dialogue will be correctly punctuated and there may be scene breaks.

 

What you won't find is reams of block paragraphs taking up whole pages, inconsistent punctuation arbitrarily inserted, and characters’ speech all sitting on the same lines.

 

Presenting your writing in this manner is like presenting your reader with a brick wall and no apparent height limit, where the builder has stuffed the contents of the local rubbish bin in with the cement mix so that bits of bin bag, tin cans and old bed springs poke out from the mortar. Nobody wants a wall like this on their property, unless they have commissioned a New York installation artist. Writing is the same. Don’t take the attitude that your critique partne