A First Draft: Getting to the Page

How does one create a first draft for a book? The best advice I have for aspiring authors is to develop a regular writing practice. In my case, I begin my day with journalling. It’s a time to let myself write whatever comes up. My entries usually begin with the mundane, as ordinary as a list of things I did yesterday or how I feel in the moment. However as I keep my pen to the page I am often surprised by the wisdom that emerges. Sometimes my pen generates an idea for a story or an article that I want to develop later. I highlight the thought in some way and come back to it later. During first-draft writing such as I’ve described, I follow my impulses and do my best to avoid stopping and searching for that perfect word or sentence.

In my writing circles, I often send people out into a natural environment with directions to observe carefully, keeping in mind the following possibilities: “I’m curious about ….” “What I’m noticing now ….” “What I love the most is ….” After a period of observation, we write together for ten minutes with the instructions: “Go, don’t think, keep your pen to the page.” Afterwards, each participant is invited the time to share their words with the group. The invitation is always to take the writing further once our circle has ended, and some of these written pieces have become the basis for much longer pieces of text.

First drafts are messy and imperfect, at the cutting edge of the creative process. Allowing less-than-perfect words to arise on the page can be a challenge. What has helped me when I get stuck in “needing my writing to be perfect” is to give myself permission to write the worst draft in the world – whether it’s a blog post, an article, a chapter in a book, or an email.

You may have a story arc or a structure in mind, and that will serve your writing. However, be prepared for your writing to take twists and turns out of the structure. It’s like colouring outside the lines. Follow your writing, rather than trying to herd up those words like a border collie rounding up sheep in a pasture. It’s one of the things I both love and hate about writing – my words have a mind of their own. However, when I follow them down unexpected pathways, I often find myself in profound new awareness. And I bless the writing process.

When I write, I focus on one person who will be supported by hearing what I have to say. Is that you?

If you would like to learn more about my writing circles and retreats, and my book, The Chocolate Pilgrim, please go to my website for details: www.mariemaccagno.com

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