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ProAm Tips #17

January 24, 2017

Stages of drafts as I understand them:

Draft one: adrenaline.

You want to get your first draft on paper as soon as humanly possible. Never once in the history of writing has what a writer wrote first (there’s a tongue twister for you) been what appears in print. (Online, yes… but we’ll let that go. The age of insta-print is… well… it has it’s positive and negative side.) Never. not once.

You can’t and should NOT try for perfection the first time through. The first time is for getting all your thoughts on paper. Get ’em out of you and into the real world. You’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t make them manifest. Once you get them down, then you can move on.

A metric shit-tonne (it’s an industry term. Look it up. It’s scientific and shit) of books and writers have offered their advice on this subject, and I’m gonna add my words to the pile in hopes that you’ll pick something to believe in. It might even be ME. Right. Sure. Anyhow, here’s the deal:

The first draft is like carving an elephant. First, you need a rock or piece of wood that sorta, kinda, vaguely resembles the outline of an elephant. That’s your first draft. It’s gonna kinda sorta vaguely resemble an elephant. Er… novel. YOUR novel. Or short story, or novella, or vignette, or whatever. Elephant.

Draft two: embarrassment.

Your elephant sucks. It’s the worst elephant ever made. It should be embarrassed to exist. It’s godawful, and terrible, and…. wait. This part sorta, kinda looks like a trunk, right? If you shave this part down, and chip away a little…

hey. That could be an elephant. The trunk, anyhow. THAT part didn’t suck totally. And maybe, just maybe, this is a tusk? Shave that bad boy down a little, make it pointy, work on it a little…


Now you keep doing that until you don’t have a vague possible shape of an elephant- you have a rough approximation of an ACTUAL elephant. And not just a generic elephant. Yours is standing on its hind legs, or curling its truck back to trumpet (or call, or ballooo, or whatever it is elephants do, I don’t know. I’m a writer. I make shit up. Sue me.). Sand that shit down, man. Work it over. Keep going. Refine. Fine-tune. This is an elephant! It’s not an embarrassment. It’s not ready to, like, headline at the circus, or storm the Alps or anything, but it’s definitely startin