Writing Tip #10 – The Dirty Draft

Hello my lovelies,

I hope you’re well? As I get ready to jet off to Florida, overlooking the tarmac from a comfy sofa while sipping a certain drink that might have Mr Daniels in it, it occurs to me that it’s time to start drafting your book. In previous posts, we’ve talked about reading, writing what you know and love, being prepared to work hard, plot, structure, character, conflict, setting etc. Now that you know your story and how it’s going to unfold is clear in your head, and you have the main characters raring and ready to go, it’s really time to put bum on seat and start typing/writing/tapping/whatever floats your boat.

And by the way, the title of this post is not a reference to a well-known book with fifty shades of S&M in it, or some kind of pornographic intro. When I talk about the dirty draft, I’m referring to a raw first draft that is full of plot holes and peppered with spelling and grammar mistakes and it doesn’t matter. Because it’s not the finished product you’ll be happy to send off to your editor, agent or anyone willing to read your book. This is not the book baby you will proudly show to the world. This is the start of your book, the birth if you like, and it’ll be some time before it is bathed, and smartly dressed, and ready to be passed around for people to smile and tell you how beautiful it is.

The reason I suggest writing this way because it’ll help you get a draft written without making it feel like a slow form of torture. The type that means by the end of it you hate your book, the characters, your life in general… and you never want to touch a keyboard again. It’s about getting the story down, downloaded from your head and heart, and onto the page. Don’t think too much, just write. Don’t worry about tense, pronouns and flowery descriptions etc. Just let yourself go, let your characters speak to you, and enjoy writing their story 🙂 Once this is done, you can go back to the beginning and start revising and redrafting and making it shine.

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I learnt this the hard way, believe me. When I first started writing, it used to take me a long time to write  a book – we are talking years. Because I was being too precious about it, and wouldn’t move the story forward until I was absolutely sure that every single word, sentence and paragraph was polished and sparkling. I’d spend weeks on a single chapter because every time I sat down to write, perhaps having only a one hour slot between the day job, kids and household chores, I’d go back and look at what I’d written last time, and would revise it. I’d do this a line at a time, taking bits out and putting them back in because I wanted perfection first time around. By the end of the hour, I’d have maybe added only a few hundred extra words in word count to the end of the chapter. The next time I wrote, I might even go back to the beginning of the whole book, revising everything again. This was a slow and painful way to write, and at times I thought of giving up. Or else, I’d start writing something new, because I was so sick of the current project that I needed to feel some excitement again. I can’t remember who suggested the dirty draft to me; I think I may have overheard a conversation at an RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) event, but for me it was a game changer. Without learning that lesson I doubt The Lost Weekend (my debut novel, released under the title Crazy, Undercover, Love) would even be finished, let alone published. It’s very easy to end up with a pile of half completed manuscripts. But if you want to be a published author you need to finish one and get into a habit of finishing them!

So why not try it, and let me know how you get on? I’d love to hear from fellow writers 🙂 Good luck!

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love Nikki x

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2 thoughts on “Writing Tip #10 – The Dirty Draft

  1. jenanita01 says:

    I am desperately trying to do this. After years of being obsessed with being perfect right from the beginning and finally realising how daft this was, I vowed to change all that and try another way. And it isn’t easy. It is almost impossible to stop reading what I wrote yesterday or the day before, but I think I am doing it less…

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