You’ve got an idea, and you’ve been mulling it over for a little while. You’ve really given it some thought, and you’ve got some background work done. Maybe you have a full outline and detailed character descriptions already done. Maybe you’ve got an idea about the storyline and would like to get going to see where your writing takes you. Either way, you are headed into first draft territory. What should you know before you begin?
Remember that your first draft is simply the initial telling of the story. This is where you will take all your preparations into account and try to determine what works and what doesn’t. You will be giving your story substance, and lending a voice to the characters you’ve so lovingly created. It’s important to get all your ideas out and into the open where you can really take a good look at them.
However, it’s also important to remember that this is still the very beginning stages of the piece you are working on. First drafts are made to work like clay – this is your setup period. There will be lots and lots of molding to come in the future before you are looking at the finished product.
A good first draft sets everything into place and explores the story you are trying to write in a way that allows you to see where you are heading. This means that you will use this as a base for many, many revisions. No one’s first draft is perfect, so don’t expect yours to be. Your goal should be to give life to your characters, get your story rolling, and to, quite simply, get it done. It can be easy to get discouraged in the first draft stage, as there will likely be some points when it is blindingly apparent that your piece needs more work than you thought it did. That’s okay. Power through it and move on. There may be parts that you find work even better than you thought they would too. Don’t get too caught up in them either. Get the whole story on paper, then come back and fine tune where it’s needed.
This is the time where you are putting all your ideas together in one place, and allowing them to become something fluid. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be road blocks. What it does means is that you are getting to know the story better yourself so you can then go back and figure out the best way to tell it to your readers.