3 Ways to get out of the First Draft mess

We all know what first drafts of our writing projects are like. Sh****, rambling, incoherent. First drafts are generally too long at the unimportant places and embarrassingly short at the meaty. In the haste to put down all the points on paper, the mind jumps ahead of the pen and we get typos, incomplete sentences and unexplored ideas.

First drafts can be edited, improved and rewritten. We can polish them into gems. But the task is daunting to most of us. I know, because I have the first draft of last year’s NaNoWriMo sitting heavy on my hands. After I finished the first draft, I took time off for a few weeks before picking it up again. And then it became a huge gargantuan task that I simply could not tackle.

It is easy and far too regular to get intimidated by First Drafts. Here are a few things that I learnt about getting back on track.

1. Strip down to the bare bones

Call it outlining or summarizing, but after everything that is in your head put down,  it is time to sit back and find out the story that you are telling. In a fictional piece, tell yourself that story again. Take away the cosmetic fillings, the recurring themes, the metaphors, the irony and plot for yourself what the real story is. Find out the protagonists and what happens in their lives in your book.

For a non fictional piece, outline your premise, the arguments for and against,  the supporting evidence and the conclusion. Once you are clear about what essentials you are presenting, you would be able to get a hang of where you are going next .

2. Shake things up

After writing the first draft, it might just seem very difficult to get back to it. Inexplicably, you can’t seem to get back into the same frame of mind as you were before. That is just fine because to move to the next level, there needs to be a change in attitude. 

Change that attitude by getting into a different frame of mind. You would have already spent a little time away from the first draft. Now shake things up by changing how the draft looks. Get a printout for a soft copy. Change the fonts. Change the margins. For the text itself, change the point of view. Have the story told by a different character. Examine your narrative from a different angle. 

3. Be ruthless

Be ruthless with the script you had laid out.  You know the story and you are raring to go and embellish and present it differently. Let go of things and characters that you know do not sound right or are not going to work. Chalk out what needs to be elaborated upon and what needs to be cut out. 

Above all, be ruthless with yourself. It is time that the first draft moves to the second draft stage and after that see the light of the day. It is something that you owe to your readers and to yourself. 

Dear Writer friends, how do you tackle your first drafts? 

4 ways (and a bonus tip) to push ahead with your writing projects 

One, know how to juggle the various writing projects that you have on your plate. Scheduling time for them on the basis of priority would be a good idea especially when you are tempted to pick and complete the easiest or the one dearest to your heart. 

Two, know that rotating the projects can be rejuvenating and keep you away from the writer’s block. You would always have something you can come back to and your writing muscles stay flexed. 

Three, know what helps you gain momentum when you are slacking on your projects. When it comes to writing, certain forms may be more conducive to making the push. For fiction, writing short stories could help you compress the process of writing a novella. Writing long form could help you clarify your thoughts for an informative article. Change the form you are writing in currently to kick start your creativity. 

Four, begin with the end in mind. Know what ways and where the writing would end up. You must be sure of the literary journals or publications your writing is targeting. This would keep you motivated and help you stay on course. 

Lastly, know when to step back. Writing can be fulfilling and it can also be tough. Taking a break could be the best way to recharge yourself. 

How do you manage your various writing assignments? I would love to know more ways. 

5 Things that help me get back to Writing

More often than not, I find a slump in my writing life. Things happen, there are minor hiccups, there are major upheavals and writing takes a back seat. Or, nothing happens and a sense of ennui prevents me from taking up my pen. 

I know that I need to shake myself out of my reverie. Here are a few things that I do to get back to writing from the heart. 

1. Change the scene

I might go to a nearby town or a picnic or even a short walk, but a change of scene does wonders to the way I think. I might get back rejuvenated or inspired by a different set of feelings that the new place have evoked in me. 

2. Read more 

Reading leads to writing. Reading is one part of the creative process of writing. Reading others gives rise to newer threads of thought and the words and the tone of a writer can bring forth my own response. 

3. Write of things I absolutely love

There are things I would want to talk about all the time. Those are the things I can write about. There have been books that I could never have enough of. There have been emotions that have evoked a prompt response in my heart. A few things, some places, some foods, art and culture and our response to societal norms are things I use to get back to writing more. 

4. Explore the ways others write 

To know of ways writers write and to understand their rituals and imagine their feelings kicks forth the energy and helps the creative juices to flow. It is good to know that many others have the same struggles and also the same euphoria at a piece written well. 

5. Visualize the end result 

If there is a piece that is sitting unfinished and needs to be pursued, it helps if I think it through the end. For a fictional piece of work, running the story through my mind gets me all worked up to get back to writing. Looking at the structure of the piece in other kinds of writing and creating an outline works very well too. 

Please share the ways in which you make sure that you are writing. Are there any specific rituals that you have before and during writing? 

Amaltas- Sunday Trees- 291

Amaltas blooms aplenty in my hometown in the month of May. I discovered it only last year, for I would avoid visiting in the hot months. At that time of the year, living in the hills was more comfortable. 

May is hot and torpid and the warm winds sweep the landscape carrying dust. In midst of this miserable onset to an even more severe summer, comes relief in the form of resplendent flowers that cover the trees. 

Amaltas or the Indian Laburnum, has golden yellow flowers and a tree in full bloom can look like a golden shower. 

Last year, I delighted in the blooms. There were rows upon rows of these lovely trees.

This year, I was away from my hometown at the time the trees were in beauty. I longed to see them and when I finally got back home, there just a few of these. In days, the flowers would fade and the trees would soon be only green instead of yellow. 

I was grateful to be able to witness them at all. 

This post is part of Becca Given’s Sunday Trees. 

5 Things to Consider if You Want to Write Regularly 

Writing everyday or even regularly can be intimidating sometimes. We all mean to be prolific but can slip up even with the best intentions. 

Here are a few things to consider and to tighten up :
1. Where– Your writing spot

The place where you write can be the most important factor in helping you put in the mood for writing. 

I dream of having a sturdy wooden table, dark as walnut, sitting right next to the window, the sunlight streaming in. The garden outside would be verdant. The blooms would be fragrant and overpowering and the birds would be noisy. 

Yet, it is not always possible to have a dream setting like that. You may have to make do with the dining table and even the pillow on bed as a writing space when the need arises but a regular spot works best. Once you get there, your mind tells you that it is time to write and day dream and put the words on paper. 

2. When – The time of the Day

Writing at the same time every day works wonders. It helps to tell the Muse when you are  going to be creative so that she can turn up and look over your shoulder as you write. 

On a more logical note, the mind is trained to think of writing at that same time everyday and the words flow easy. 

3. What– Know what to write of beforehand.

There are days when the words I write are hurried, the curves of the letters less exaggerated, the i’s remain dotted and the t’s remain uncrossed. 

Then, there are days when I slip up and feel stuck. There are days when the words just don’t come and when the birds sound raucous rather than sweet and the curve of the letters are exaggerated. 

It helps to know what things inspire you and what things you love to write about. Always have a few topics handy for the days you cannot think of anything interesting to write of. 

4. Why– Remember the reasons you write. 

Think of the reasons you are here in the first place. Never let go of the sight of what writing gives you. It could be the joy of expression or just a vent to your feelings or the satisfaction of a creative pursuit. If it comes from within, you can do it well. And anything that you can do well is worth doing again and again. 

5. How – Ways to get better

The answer to how to do anything well comes from experimenting, making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. It comes from practice and  from the pursuit of the art and craft. Developing the writing muscle is a matter of doing it again and again, and at regular intervals. 

What are the ways that you adopt to write regularly? Do share. 

4 Things I Need to Hear when the Times feel Tough

There are times when we are just bumbling along, trying to manage the messes we find ourselves in or to sail smooth in the rough, choppy waters. 

Sure, they happen to me when the spirit feels heavy and I cannot think beyond the now. 

Here are the things that I must remind myself of :

1. Taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of others. Practice self compassion. Be kind to yourself. Try to be understanding just as you are for others in need of guidance and support. Be non judgemental. Forgive yourself. It is alright. You need all the love you can get. 

2. This, too, shall pass. Good moments and bad moments are made so through our perceptions. And whatever it is that you are going through at the moment is unlikely to stay forever. Life is a constant state of flux. Embrace the change, even welcome it. Nothing difficult is going to stay that way forever. 

3. There are no lives without challenges and no paths without obstacles. Enjoy the process of getting to your goal. Stay grateful that you have the resources and the confidence to tackle the difficult times. 

4. The perfect moment is Now. The present is when everything that you have aspired for comes together. Do not wait to prepare to launch your dream. Understand the why of your dream and of your action and the how would fall into place. Your deeper self only needs to be convinced of the importance of pursuing what you want. The actual way to go about doing it would fall into place if you are committed enough. 

What is your favorite piece of advice that you hang onto, when times are difficult?