Let’s hear it for first drafts

I’d forgotten how fun they could be. The characters and the setting for a new story always look like Gloop and Gleep in my head, without form. As I’m writing, though, they pop into focus. My down-and-out mercenary gets a name and is suddenly blond, five-foot-seven, battles the occasional bout of depression along with the occasional baddie, and has a chronically sore shoulder gotten in a fall five years ago.

The only problem is that after all that stuff lands in my noggin, I have to figure out how much to put on paper and how much to just keep in the back of my head. For the stuff I’m going to keep in the narrative, I like to leave huge markers for myself in the first draft. I go on and on about the sore shoulder. It hurt. It always hurt when it rained. It hurt ever since he fell from that horse five years ago. The repetition will be dumped when I go back through and edit, but in the first draft, repeating the injury helps it stick in my mind and will remind me to address it both before and after that point in the narrative once I begin editing.

And I can hurry through a scene if I don’t feel like working on that particular kind of scene that day. Ah, first drafts, where people discussing stuff around a conference table can be shelved for a day because I want to get back to the stabbing.

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