Behind “The Process”: Get It Over With (Writing First Drafts)

Sometimes you have to power through your first draft

Hey folks,

One more in the Behind “The Process” series, which takes a look at the ins and outs of the fiction writing process.

Sometimes you have to power through your first draft
Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash

Today I’m writing this as much for myself as anyone else. I’m still in first draft mode. For a couple things, actually. First, I’m writing another novel (yay!). I’m also trying to finish a short story I’ve been toying with for a writing contest. Toying as in, starting it, not loving it, starting over, not working on it for awhile due to blogging, novel…ing, and life stuff. But as the extra time melts away and the deadline looms, I’m getting more focused on the short story. But here’s my problem:

I Won’t Let Myself Finish the First Draft

And this is solvable. How?

Write the damn thing until it’s done!

Simple as that. Don’t get caught up in the, Oh, is this good enough? Does this sound cheesy? There’s no depth to this story… when you’re doing the first draft. It’s not worth time and agony.

These are traps we set up for multiple reasons. One, to avoid humiliation. When you’re an artist, of any kind, and you put something out there–it’s kind of like walking onto a stage naked and hoping no one laughs at you.

Stupid analogy, I’m aware, but the emotion fits, and one way to avoid that humiliation: don’t go on the stage.

Another reason we don’t finish:

First Drafts Are Embarassing

They are. When you write the first draft, you’re like, Damn this is bad. So…don’t show it to anyone. No one deserves to see how bad your first draft is. And every writer I know says their first drafts are pieces of shit.

No pulled punches. First drafts, by their nature, kinda suck. Good writers don’t writer good first drafts every time; they fix crappy first drafts and make them into beautiful works of art.

It’s like doing a pencil sketch on a canvas that you’ll eventually paint in. You don’t want to show someone the sketch; you want them to see the finished product! They can’t see the layers upon layers, depth, and–and here’s the MOST FUN part of “The Process”–the stuff that you don’t even know will be there yet!

So here’s what you do:

Keep Writing the First Draft–No Matter What!

Brandon Scott, author of the Vodou Series was on Creative Ops and said that he writes that first draft with an intensity placed on simply getting from beginning, to middle, to end as fast as possible. I couldn’t agree more. Once you get the first draft done, you can get to the truly fun parts, in my opinion–the building, restructuring, rewriting, editing….

But not until it’s done.

When Writing the First Draft:

  • First of all, write by hand, dammit! Everyone should write by hand. When you compare typing vs. writing by hand, there’s no contest which is better for your creativity.
  • Don’t focus on proper spelling, grammar, syntax, or any of the things computers like to put lines and highlights around. Only focus on what’s going to happen next.
  • Don’t worry about dialogue, or sentence structure. You can have some plain-ass blah-blah-blah the whole way through.
    • You’ll come back later and add the dialogue and description and variable sentence patterns and details that add depth of character and plot.
      • In fact, I almost guarantee you that you’ll come back to the first draft with ideas upon ideas of how to improve it…after you finish the first draft.
  • First drafts are a starting point. It’s a story in its infancy. You raise it right, then send it out into the world when you’re both ready.

Alright. OK. Enough farting around; I’ve got a first draft to get through.

Good luck to all of us. Happy drafting, writers!

-CT

Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? HIGH FIVE!

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Creative Ops (A Podcast for Creative People, by Creative People)

Behind “The Process”: 1 Quick Show-Don’t-Tell Cheatcode

Show don't tell is the most common writing advice. Dialogue can be a means to that end.

In my blog, I write about many things. Anything with Behind “The Process” in the title refers to my blogs about the writing process. Today’s is a quickie, specifically a how-to tip for following the old writers’ adage:

Show, Don’t Tell

If you’re not familiar, show, don’t tell, is the concept that writers shouldn’t tell the reader something is up, like this:

The stress lines ran deep like knife wounds on his forehead. His eye’s were a million miles away…

The idea here is that someone looks considerably stressed and deep in thought. You could also say:

He looks considerably stressed and deep in thought.

But now you’re not even trying. C’mon bro.

Sis.

Whoever.

Here’s the tip. Ready?

Show with Dialogue

Dialogue is the go-to saver of over descriptive prose. For me anyway. So if the message is that your character is stressed and lost in thought, present it easily, and with few words–specifically a character’s words. The reader will figure it out just as fast, and it’ll be more intuitive and organic. Like this:

“Hey Ted. Ted. TED!

“Huh?”

“You alive in there? I see smoke coming out your ears. What’s got you all fucked up?”

Not the greatest example, maybe, but, hey, I’m not gonna give away my best stuff for nothin!

Remember, now…

It’s not the only trick in the book, but it’s a good one if you don’t already use it. If you feel like you are over describing the scene…let someone on the page put it into their words.

Literally.

Hope that helps!

For those of you who are desperate to know, yes, I am on social media. If you so wish, feel free to holla! (Individual links are also below the picture of that handsome guy.)

Now…get writing!

-CT

Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? HIGH FIVE!

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Creative Ops (A Podcast for Creative People, by Creative People)

Creative Ops | Ep.10 | RN Double Feature

Creative Ops is a podcast for creative people, by creative people.

Hey folks…

There’s a new episode out!!!

On the most recent Creative Ops, we met in-studio with two local nurses from different hospitals. Meaghan is in management and works with children. Rachel was in ICU, now PACU, and works with adults. Both talk about their pre- and post-COVID health care experiences. You can listen to the episode right here:

Creative Ops | Episode 10 | RN Double Feature!

You can also download Creative Ops wherever you go for your podcasting needs. It’s there, just waiting for you to come listen. It’s sad and lonely. Go give it some company, would ya? Then, if you don’t mind terribly, please RATE AND REVIEW the show. I’ll be your best friend.

Look for the next episode to drop in two weeks. For that one, I talked to Mike Breymann (via Zoom). Mike is an award winning film/TV/VR visual effects artist, as well as a software designer, freelancer, and businessman. He talks about education, coming up in the film/TV industry, working on an Academy award winning film, art, computer stuff, and a lot lot more. Very fun dude to talk to.

In the meantime, check out my blog, peruse the rest of my website, see what writing services I offer, catch up on Creative Ops past episodes (there’s only 10 shows total, so it shouldn’t take too long) and stay tuned for more, as I have a couple interviews scheduled that I’m really excited to record and put out there.

Thanks folks!

-CT

Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? HIGH FIVE!

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Creative Ops (A Podcast for Creative People, by Creative People)

Behind “The Process”: Pre-Writing a Blog Post

Don't make writing a blog post more difficult than it has to be. Structure your blog post before you write it, and it pretty much writes itself.

As some of you may know, I’m a professional blogger. I mention it because it’s a relatively new title, and I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned so far along the way.

I recently helped a friend with their new blog after they asked me to edit a few posts. What I saw, and some of the advice I gave them, planted the idea for my next Behind “The Process” post:

Structuring a Blog Post before You Write It

If you’re exclusively writing poetry or fiction on your blog, please tell me, I’d like to see it, but also, never mind this advice. Go. Be creative. Be free.

But if you write on topics that are meant to inform or persuade–and be, to some degree, entertaining–then it helps to have some source materials.

Whatcha mean, source materials?

Like when you wrote papers in school, and you had to have credible sources (*read: Is My Source Credible for help with that) to back up your thesis.

Thesis?

A thesis is the point you’re trying to make, or a problem or question you’re trying to introduce. Would you like an example? Mm-k. Here’s two ways to frame the same point, depending on how you want to approach it. Basically makes the same point:

Podcasts [should/shouldn’t] be censored by the FCC.

Should podcasts be censored by the FCC?

Before You Write the Blog Post: Have Your Sources Trimmed

Get at least 8-10 sources that have information that appeals and pertains to what you’re writing. Then trim them down to the best 3-5. If you’re split on which to get rid of–whichever is the more credible source and/or whichever is the most recent. A strong source goes a long way. But you have to consider this: if someone tried to convince you to change your way of thinking using information that’s 3 weeks old, and another person is using information from 3 years ago…who’s going to appeal to you more, right off the bat?

Probably the person with their thumb on a living pulse.

Once you have the info you want

Then it’s time to put it together. Not time to write, but to structure.

Now, you’ll hear different people say different things when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization) and the “right” word count for blogs. For professional jobs, I recommend 600-800 words. You can go longer, but think about the contemporary attention span when it comes to internet reading….

If you think about structuring your blog post the way I’m going to present it, it’s almost like a paint by numbers when it comes time to write.

It’ll be, well…not easy, but easier than writing on the fly–stream-of-consciousness style–then trying to find info that fits what your wrote.

I know I’ve specifically spoken against plotting things out when you write, but that’s for fiction. I still believe that. See, fiction (in my opinion) should be mysterious, sometimes misleading; non-fiction, specifically blogs, should be easy to follow. If they aren’t, they run the risk of going unread.

Sadness…

Structuring Your Blog Post

Introduction

Start with a heading. Then write your thesis. You can fill in the rest of the paragraph later.

(You can do what I did on this post–write a sentence or two before you write an introduction paragraph, or just start with your first paragraph. Whatever feels good when you read it back, but don’t worry about all the stuff in these parenthesis just yet.)

Your introduction paragraph doesn’t need to be super source-reliant. Honestly, you can keep the source materials out of it if you want. The paragraph can look like this: about in 100-200 words, without getting too specific about the who-what-where-when-why-how…that’s what the next couple paragraphs are for.

Proof(s)

In the first paragraph, you gave a hint at your proofs, but no details. Here is where you dig in with the source material. As an example, let’s say the intro says:

Podcasts should not be censored by the FCC.

OK, now it’s time to follow up. If you have a source that shows how much the FCC fines radio programs, then another that shows how much money the average podcast makes, that’s a paragraph: the FCC would put podcasts out of business. Link your sources and/or give credit to the material somehow. Go ahead and put in the stats, quotes, graphs, whatever.

Go to the next paragraph. If you have a source that shows a cool quote about freedom of speech from a high profile person, organization, or something to that affect, that could drive the second proof paragraph. You could tie it in with a link to the constitution, or some historical comparison. I don’t know; I’m just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Which is what research is, basically–look at a bunch of stuff, filter out the crap, and fix the stuff that remains into a coherent string of thoughts.

DO NOT put all your source material in one paragraph. It’s clunky and hard to read if the paragraph doesn’t have a specific point it’s trying to make.

DO NOT overdo it. If you use the same source more than 2 or 3 times, you might be leaning too heavily on it. It should be mostly your words, the sources are just there to back you up.

Write as many proof paragraphs as you need, maybe 2-5 (depending how long you’re going).

Conclusion

Conclusions aren’t as tough as people think. The cheat code is this: Re-say what you said in your intro, but with more of a now-do-you-believe-me? kind of tone. Not a smartass tone, but one of a now-you-see-I’m-not-making-this-up tone.

Nobody likes a smartass. Except maybe a dumbass.

If You Have Trouble with Intros And Conclusions, try this…

Write them last. Big secret’s out!

Write your proof paragraphs first. Each proof paragraph makes its own point. After you write your points out, you’ll have a better idea how to prepare your reader for it. Your introduction paragraph doesn’t need to be super source-reliant. Honestly, you can keep the source materials out of it if you want. The paragraph can look like this: about in 100-200 words, without getting too specific about the who-what-where-when-why-how…that’s what the next couple paragraphs are for.

Then rewrite the intro as the conclusion, keeping in mind that the intro is for the reader before they saw your proofs; the concluion is a post-read version of your intro.

Your blogs don’t look like that!

Oh yeah? Well this is my personal blog and I can do what I want. Nah nah nah-nah nah, I can write what I waaa-aaant.

Sorry. I’ve been around my kids too much.

But here’s a real take on that: You can’t call audibles until you know the playbook. Not a football fan (American football, for my international friends)? OK….

Ummm…oh!: Don’t break the rules until you know the rules. Once you’re familiar writing in-the-box, your style will come out and push you out-of-the-box.

I hope this helps. Please let me know–or let me know if you think I miffed it. Just remember the rule: if you’re going to be mean, at least be funny.

For those who want to know, yes, I am on social media. Holla!

Happy writing!!!

-CT

writer Christopher Tallon

Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? HIGH FIVE!

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Creative Ops (A Podcast for Creative People, by Creative People)

Creative Ops | Ep.9 | Zach Snyder – Artist, Entrepreneur, Educator

www.sneedartdesings.com
www.sneedartdesings.com
www.sneedartdesings.com

Zach Snyder is an artist. It his passion, freelance profession, and now, his job as a college professor. How does a 24 year old get a job as a college prof? LOTS of talent, for starters. Listen to find out more.

Check Zach out on IG @sneedart

Get more info at www.sneedartdesigns.com

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Check out the folks who make this show possible: River Town Adventures; Baby Farm Soaps; Hey Guys Media Group

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Please connect with the show on social media:

Facebook: @TallonWrites

Twitter: @TallonWrites

IG: @christopher_tallon

and visit www.christophertallon.com

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Please, please, please rate and review the show. It helps us grow. (Or give us money. Yeah, that’s what we thought…)

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