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The Critical First Draft
Some compare writing a book to building a house. Before you put up the framework, you have a blueprint made so you know just what you are going to do. You will know the measurements of each room, each closet, and each little space so you know exactly how much lumber you will need and how it needs to be cut. Some say that to prepare for writing the first draft, you should do a basic outline of your story so you know where you are heading. You should know who your characters are and what they are going to do.
But is all of that really necessary? Won't this stifle the creative process? For some writers it is necessary, and if you are one who needs to do this, it doesn't have to stifle your creativity. It may actually help the creative process. For your first draft, you need to write without editing. Who cares if it is full of grammar and punctuation mistakes? This isn't to be published, it is only the forerunner of the completed work.
The first draft of your story is not the time to seek perfection. I'll admit this is hard for me to do. I am a closet perfectionist, and that pesky person who wants perfection in just about everything is really struggling to come out. Maybe you have the same problem. Maybe you always want to go back and correct mistakes that you know you've made. But you need to go on and leave your mistakes alone. They will be corrected later.
There are those who actually find the story while writing the first draft. They start with only a basic idea, one that isn't even necessarily written down anywhere. A single sentence or a basic idea may be the only thing they have to start with. This is acceptable, too.
Writing your first draft isn't something that has to be done by a rigid set of rules. All you need to do is write. Don't stop to think or correct. If you change your mind about something you've already written, don't go back and get rid of what you changed your mind about. Just write down the way you feel it should be, and later you can fix it the way you want. No matter what you have to start with, when you do finally go back over it, you may find gems hidden in there that you don't even remember writing down.
Your first draft should be your story written out in all of its grammatical imperfection. It will probably be full of mistakes in punctuation, and it may be full of characters who aren't really sure about what they are doing in your story. Now is when you write down exactly what runs through your mind about how your story should go.
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