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Posts tagged ‘first draft’

Fast first draft writing advice from author Ian Fleming

Congratulations to all the NaNoWriMo Writers who have completed their challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November! I wasn’t able to participate this year due to family concerns so I decided to do my own challenge in December. My goal: finish the first draft of my manuscript-in-progress.

I’m putting together my plan and compiling bits of inspiration to help me stay focused (they get printed out and pasted around the house). I came across a great quote on how to write fast by author Ian Fleming.

Confession: I haven’t followed his advice in the first half of my book–I’ve been doing A LOT of editing and fixing which is probably a bad idea until the entire story is finished. In my defense, the time and attention spent on the first half has made me a stronger writer and craftsman. Maybe it will all wash out in the end and the second half’s first draft won’t come out sounding like a drunken chipmunk? Oh, a girl can hope!

So…on to Fleming’s advice that I think is spot on:

In the May 1963 edition of the long-running ‘Books and Bookmen’ periodical published by Hansom Books, Mr. Fleming penned an essay describing his creative process for the James Bond novels.

Here’s his advice for writing fast first drafts:

“I never correct anything and I never go back to what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? How could you have used “terrible” six times on one page? And so forth. If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain. By following my formula, you write 2,000 words a day and you aren’t disgusted with them until the book is finished, which will be in about six weeks.”

Read the full essay.

 

How to introduce conflict or change in your very first sentence

Nancy Kress, author of Elements of Fiction Writing – Beginnings, Middles & Ends,says writers have about three paragraphs in a short story and three pages in a novel to catch the reader’s (or agent’s or editor’s) attention. She explains how we can make our openings interesting and original through character, conflict, specifics, and credibility.

In our very first sentences, we can hint at some future conflict or change in our story.

Kress says that we don’t have to have a body hurtling from a window—there are many subtler ways to introduce conflict. Randomly choosing a few of my favorite books from my bookshelf, I’ve copied their first sentences below:

“Running with the Demon,” by Terry Brooks.

“Hssst! Nest!” His voice cut through the cottony layers of her sleep with the sharpness of a cat’s claw.

I like the specifics here and the contrast of “cottony layers of sleep” with “sharpness of a cat’s claw.” We have the feeling that something interesting is going to happen. Read more