From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The First Draft as Outline Theory

If you're anything like me, it takes hours to bleed out a thousand words of writing. I can't help it, I analyze and stress over every word and every sentence, and that is so not helpful for cranking out a first draft. So this past week I have come up with an idea that has actually helped me quite a bit. I call it the first draft-as-outline theory.

Basically, you just write through your first draft with a mindset that its not actually a first draft, but just an outline. A very detailed, sentence by sentence outline. It is basically to tell you what information needs to be in which sentence where. Tell yourself that yes, these aren't the exact right words, but your just getting it out there and you can come back later and rewrite the entire thing as your real first draft. Don't look back. As much as possible, let the words just come and remind yourself that this is just an outline, you'll write it better later. Put it on a sticky note on your desk if you have to.

Following this pattern I've come up with the first 2500 words of my novel in the past few days, which for me is a ton. I will never fully get over my bleeding habits, I don't think, so its still a slow process, but its definitely faster thinking of things this way then it was before. I hope it helps you guys too.

Sarah Allen


  1. Actually, many writers follow this theory of writing a draft as an outline. It is especially useful for those writing mystery and need to keep track of important details. I'm glad it helped you!

  2. Good luck!!! I know a lot of writers who feel the need to edit and scrutinize every line...every word, as they're writing. Fortunately, I am able to just write and write and not look back. I just pumped out about 27,000 words last month....haven't gone over any of it! LOL! I am about halfway through my WIP....and have decided to stop and do an edit now...which I usually don't do. Usually I wait til the entire project is finished. But I wrote so fast that I need to make sure that the story is going where I want it to...that it all makes sense! :)

  3. Thanks for the comments, Stephanie and Laura. I appreciate your advice and encouragement and wish you both the best of luck on your own writing.


  4. LOL, I can agonize over a word choice and the structure of a single sentence for HOURS. My fear is that if I don't select the best possible shade of meaning or build up that sentence properly *right then* when I go back to it, my mindset won't be the same, and I will have forgotten or lost the exact meaning I had wanted to convey.
    Your idea to repeat that this is a (detailed) outline is good, but how would you address my fear of losing the essence of what I had wanted to nail down by obsessing over word choice/sentence structure on the first go around? (I'm not a fan of outlining because I like to write to discover the story, which sounds a lot like your first-draft as outline suggestion.)

  5. Good question :-) If you're worried about one word changing the rest of your book, I'm not sure what I can say except thats probably not the most efficient way ;-) But whatever works, and that may get great things out of you. You can always go back and agonize over each sentence after you've got the whole put down and in your head. That's what I'm telling myself at least. Hope that helps!



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