by Stephanie Morrill
Stephanie writes young adult novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and the Ellie Sweet books. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.
"Write like no one is watching" is advice I've started to see more and more in the last few years. I think this a great way to approach your first draft. It's similar to the advice of writing a bad first draft. But I think writing like no one is watching is only effective if you actually follow through on it and keep your first draft to yourself—which is where many of us struggle.
Sometimes when I have the house to myself, I turn the music up loud, and I sing and dance without care. Have you ever done this? Maybe like me you've also had times where you thought you were dancing and singing alone only to find someone from your family watching. When this happens, I get flustered and my face heats. Even if I try to carry on like I'm not embarrassed, I'm mindful of every wrong note I hit, every spazzy dance move.
My first pass at writing a story is full of wrong notes and spazzy moves. I would never get anything done if I thought someone might see my manuscript before I could fix it! Knowing that the first draft is for me alone helps me push past all those debilitating questions that crop up as I try to write. Is that bit of dialogue totally lame? I'm not sure my grandmother would approve of that word choice. Will anyone even relate to this?
|July 2015 writing retreat. If I'm working on a |
first draft, I won't even sit next to a trusted
If you choose to write like no one is watching, which I believe is a helpful way to create, I think the only way to make this practice effective is to actually not let anyone see it instead of saying you won't ... but then sharing bits and pieces anyway.
In On Writing, Stephen King says, "If you're a beginner ... let me urge that you take your story through at least two drafts; the one you do with the study door closed and the one you do with it open."
Out of context, that sounds like you're supposed to write your first draft with your "door closed" (meaning without input from others) and then open your door and receive criticism before you write the second draft. But in the fuller explanation that follows this statement, King's advice is actually to write a first draft where you're just trying to get the story down without regard for what others might think. Then after a break, he suggests you edit your first draft with others in mind. Not until after you've done that first round of edits does he recommend looking for feedback.
I've found this system works very well for me. My first drafts have almost no description because I'm writing the story for me, and I can see everything just fine in my head. But when I work on my second draft, I'm mindful that others will read it and that just because I can see everything fine doesn't mean they can. So I make changes—like adding description—that will help others to see the story as clearly.
Not every writer works well like this, though. I know lots of writers feel garnering feedback during the first draft process makes their story stronger. If this is you, I would especially love to hear about that in the comments section! Are your first drafts private things, or do you believe in getting help from others even as the story is forming?