First draft

For me, writing the first draft is the hardest thing.

I think of an idea and just twirl it in my head for a few days. I think about it any time I am free… images running through my head. I’ll hit an issue. Some issues are deal breakers – if it destroys the premise or makes the whole story seem silly, poof, the idea is banished. I’ll start the same process with another idea. I usually try to work around deal breakers if I can. It might need a dramatic shift in some of the original hypotheses/characters, but I’m not attached to them yet.

Then, I write it all down in a treatment. Usually somewhere between 3 and 7 pages of prose. At this stage, I find it useful to share. I remember for one of my treatments that I shared with my workshop, the group felt that the ending seemed odd – the character was too strong to pick the option I had picked for her. I felt part of it was not understanding the cultural mileu of India, but I could also see their point. That ending… well, I am still torn on which direction to go on that.

Once I feel I have an idea that can work and outline that seems interesting, I write. Since I’ve spent so much time thinking, the writing usually goes pretty quickly. For the first section of the screenplay anyway…

The middle section is icky. Conflict arises, conflict gets worse, all the character motivations need to be ironed out. This is where I stall. Procrastination, pontification, loathing of the script, scoffing at the idea. Every tool is used to delay addressing the prickly issues.

The resolution has probably been in my head for a while. I may have a couple of alternate endings. I try to pick the less obvious/convenient one. Once I get done, I can’t look at it any more. I need time away before I can come back to it.

How does this compare to how you write? Any suggestions?

5 comments
  • I let the idea generate, much in the same way that you do, probably… when it’s started to take a definite shape, I sit down and write a couple pages of notes on character and a detailed plot outline.

    Then I jump right in to the part I’m most excited to write. Even when writing non-fiction (“research”) papers — I’ve always started with the gritty middle first and then worked my way out towards both ends.

    For me, writing the middle part allows me to deal, right away, with the reasons I’m trying to write the particular piece. Then I can work in either direction to make all the puzzle pieces fall into the right places.

  • striker

    i suppose my thought process is somewhat similar, but my thing is.. (and this is in all probability owing to the amount of laziness in me when it comes to writing).. i have to write it all at once.. and only stop if i hit a block, and choose to revisit it. the first script i wrote with a friend, was a featurette (a spoof actually).. and we didn’t worry about structure, style, plot etc.. we just wrote and wrote. and the film never got made due to lack of resources, and people dropping out. the second script which i wrote entirely on my own actually ended up getting selected to be performed as a play.. again, i just sat down and wrote dialogues. no screenplay, no structure.. i just wrote whatever came to me.. and now that i know how a screenplay is different from a script, i’m giving in and actually thinking more about the structure.. putting it down as a screenplay first.. then turning it into a script. might actually seek your help when i roll around to finishing up the screenplay 🙂

  • Raj

    Writing the first draft is the easiest 🙂 Here’s what you may wanna try:

    1. Try not to think of a beginning, middle or end. Just let the thoughts on a subject that you have chosen, flow.

    2. Try keeping a dictaphone next to you, as sometimes the speed of thought is much much faster than your typing speed; in fact flashes will be faster than your speach speed too!

    3. Keep the first draft manageable… no more than a few pages with just 3-5 key points. More like a precis.

    Then get to work on this… detailing!

  • @ Blue – interesting that you write the middle first. I often find what my characters do in the beginning informs the middle… maybe I should try out your method and see if it gets any easier.

    @ Striker – don’t know if I am in any way qualified to help, but I’d love to see your work!

    @ Raj – Thanks – I think you are talking more about a treatment as a “first draft” and I agree, that is easy. The devil is in the detailing!

  • Raj

    I still say, detailing is easy. Just close your eyes and you will see the rush! (Its probably difficult to capture that detailing- and so u must be prepared with a dictaphone, or a typist right next to you- who can type real fast.)