What I learned writing my first draft

I will be the first to admit that English was not my strongest subject is school. In college I majored in the sciences, primarily biology and physics. I started graduate school in microbiology. After 2 years of that I realized the lab bench wasn’t for me. I found Library and Information Science my niche. I am now a librarian at a world renowned biomedical research institute.

When people hear that I am a librarian, they ask me about new books, best sellers, or just “Oh, what do you do besides read books?” I give them a blank stare.

Anyway, despite all that, I decided to write a novel. I have been writing poetry since high school, but only published in home press chapbooks (printed on someone’s home printer and distributed by mail – does anyone do these any more?)

Over the past year, I learned a lot about writing a novel, and about myself. More than I ever wanted to know on both accounts. But luckily I met interesting people along the way (no, not my alter ego or split personalities – that’s for another post). But the number one thing I learned was there are no rules.

I will repeat that for my high school English teacher who is probably rolling over in her grave. There. Are. No. Rules. Just write. If you outline and plot and plan, do it. If you throw everything down and sort it out later, go for it.

Yes, I know, some day an editor is going to go over my draft with a fine toothed… pen? and it will be covered in red ink. But that is what they get paid to do. Writers get to spill their hearts and souls onto paper (or a computer drive) and then clean it up for public consumption later.

Although I will have to say I began writing meticulously, carefully rereading every sentence, every paragraph, getting the scene just right. It took me 2 months to write 4 chapters. Then NaNoWriMo hit and I did 50,000 words in 1 month. O.M.G! I’m not sure I like that process. “Vomiting” on the page as some call it. And yet, I still had not finished the novel. Then the new year rolled around and my writing stalled. So summer came and I joined a Camp NaNoWriMo and my goal was to finish the first draft.

It felt a bit forced, just to get the words down, the chapters written. I know I left some characters wandering the void, some plot threads unraveling in the wind.  My goal was to “finish my first draft”. And I did! But at a cost. Now I am going back and trying to locate lost moments and figure out what the heck I was thinking when I wrote: “Sister?” He choked. “You are my sister!” – Ummm, what sister?

At any rate, just write. Write slow if that works for you. Get it all down as fast as your mind can throw it at you if that’s how you work. What ever you do, just write! THere are no rules about how you have to write your first draft, or your second, or how many drafts it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop…wait, what?  All you have to do is write.

How do you like to write? What is your style? Let us know!

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