Working Methods: THE VOMIT DRAFT

Writing a first draft of anything can be an awe-inspiring, fear-inducing task. How do you get started?Depending on what kind of writer you are, this method may or may not be useful.

I think there is a lot of good to be said about structure, planning, research and thoroughness. There is also the matter of just getting the damn thing down on paper. I have previously banned the word procrastination from this blog, but that’s what it’s called when you are not writing. You are postponing what is the most stressful part of writing: decisions.

It’s easy to get caught up in the little things when you are writing. Setting up a character, a great opening, making sure that first sequence is pitch perfect.

But guess what? It never is and it never will be.

The fear of botching the job can keep you from ever getting the job done. That’s why some screenwriters (and probably other kinds of writers) allow themselves a test run, a “vomit draft”. Just get the story out, and look at what you’ve got.

I tend to see my first draft scenes as building blocks, like Lego’s. I know a block needs to go here, it needs to be about this big, to support whatever is on top of it. But the color can change. A scene can be “Jack argues with his wife”, because I intuitively know that needs to be there, but everything within the scene can change.

When I edit my story, the outcome of a scene rarely changes, but I will maybe go in and change the objective or anticipation of a scene. Knowing the scene with Jack ends in bitter disagreement, maybe he could come home in a romantic mood instead of being grumpy and tired, make the turning point stronger.

Writing a vomit draft is a way of getting to know your characters better, and seeing what the story is. Often your idea of theme and plot can change when you are writing. The trick is to finish. And then put the story away and go do something else.

You need distance to judge your own writing.

And editing becomes so much easier, when the story is there, beginning, middle and end. It may change completely, but at least you don’t have the dreaded blank page effect. The vomit draft is supposed to be bad, so there’s no reason to beat yourself up over it. And hey, sometimes there’s really good stuff in there that you can keep.

Write hot, edit cold. It’s about getting the story down on paper.

As fast as you can.

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