Finding the Writing Zone

There's a reason they call it a rough draft.  The first draft is definitely rough.  I'm not just talking about the words on the page, but the blood and guts that spill as it's written.

I'm going to make a confession.  Most of the time, I hate writing first drafts.

Sometimes I wonder why I'm even a writer because the process of getting a rough draft on paper is so terrifying and painful.

But then I have a moment.

The moment might be big or small, but it's always a surprise.  It's the moment when a character reveals a secret that takes the story to wonderful places I never imagined, or utters a line that makes me laugh out loud.  It's the day when I write five thousand words without breaking for lunch, when the story unfolds as if someone else is writing it.

Athletes call this the zone; a heightened state of consciousness where your body performs at peak levels almost automatically, reacting before you can think to make it.  The writing zone is that space where your subconscious takes over and your characters start to say and do things seemingly on their own.  These moments happen whether you're a plotter or pantser.  And they are amazing.

I wish I had a checklist for this, a step by step process that would lead us all to those wonderful moments of discovery in the writing zone.  I don't.  And maybe that's why rough drafts are so hard for me.

The only way to get the novel written is to write it.  I wish there were another, easier, less scary way.  There's not. 

So I write.  And then I write some more.

Some thoughts on how to get through the first draft:

1.  Don't be afraid to suck.  There will be plenty of time for revision and rewrites later.  The important thing is to get words on paper.

2.  Don't be afraid to write scenes out of order.  Yes, it means more work in revision, but sometimes you need to write the climax before you can understand what happens in the scene just before it.

3.  Don't wait for inspiration.  Some days words flow like water, some days its more like pulling teeth.  Yank away.  If you always wait for inspiration, your novel will never get written. 

4.  Reward yourself along the way.  Writing a novel is a marathon.  It takes stamina and endurance to get to the end.  Keep yourself motivated by setting goals along the way and rewarding yourself when you hit them. Treat yourself to a latte when you finish a chapter. Take a weekend off when you hit the halfway mark. Buy a new outfit when you hit the end.

5.  It's okay to be afraid.  Just WRITE.


Great post!

I could never write scenes out of order, even if I am a plotter. Things flow from one scene to the next, and there are always surprises that happen that I hadn't plotted for. By writing out of order, it means I might have a bigger mess to deal with when I get to that scene I've already written. And in the end, I've wasted time.

I thought I was the only one who hates writing first drafts. Thanks for letting me know I'm not!
I love editing. Can't wait to get the first draft of my WIP done!

Love this, T. And I love the First Draft Haters Club. They are so painful!

this is so interesting, because i just blogged that first-drafting is the FUN part, and revising is the WORST!
i love how different the process is for each of us. good post. :)

Erin, I wish I had a clone to write my first drafts so I could skip straight to revision. Even when revisions = rewrites, its so much easier for me.

Suzanne and V, I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggles with rough drafts!

Stina, there is definitely a risk to writing out of order, but sometimes it's the only thing that keeps me writing when I'm stuck on a scene that comes earlier.

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