“Shitty” first draft? Doesn’t everybody?

Alright, so the term “shitty” first draft may be a bit over the top, but a “rough draft” is perfectly normal, and an accepted way of working. A rough draft is not something I produce then put to one side and start writing all over again. No, the draft goes through series of reworks until it reaches the end-product stage.

Sometimes I am very lucky, and have a reasonable idea in my head of what I want to say, and in what order. This doesn’t happen so often.

Mostly I have a few points fixed, and then something comes to me while I am typing that also needs to go in. Then we have the question – yes, but where? Can I just add it in as I go along, or will I have to cut and paste and shuffle things around? Often I won’t know the answer to that until I have reread the draft from the beginning.

I think its important to have flow – the document starts with the title, and ends with the closing sentence, and everything between those points must lead the reader from the start to the end, or it won’t seem “right”. Its a ‘feeling’, if you like, but if it ‘feels’ wrong, it probably is wrong.

I have a set sequence of working on any text. I start out in Wordpad, as I dont need a full-blown word processing program – I keep it as simple as possible.

The document is massaged carefully into shape, and constantly checked for typo’s, as there is no spell checker. I don’t like them anyway – they are mostly stupid. I often see perfectly good English words flagged with an error because Americans can’t spell them properly. Ridiculous!

It is also checked for grammar, as there is no program I know that will do a decent grammar check for you. You check also for omissions – did you get everything in that you wanted to say? In fact, by the time you have finished, you have spent more time reading than you have writing!

Never mind. Its the result that counts.

Now comes the important bit – the Pause!

You go away and leave it for a while. Go shopping, have a beer, take a walk in the park, whatever. The main thing is to take a break from it and do something else. Just let your subconscious work on the document for you.

When you come back to it, read it through from start to finish. There are two questions you need to answer – 1) Did it ‘feel’ right? and 2) Did you enjoy reading it? Why? Well, if you didn’t enjoy it, how can you expect anyone else to?

On rare occasions I come back after a pause, and a document doesn’t seem “right”. If I can’t get it right, or can’t pinpoint where the problem is, I can do one of two things:-

    1. Have another pause, and see if that helps, or
    2. Junk the whole thing and throw it away. Fortunately that doesn’t happen very often.

So, assuming I have some usable text, the next step is to get it into my off-line WordPress system. So I fire up Wampserver, log in to WordPress, go to “New Post”, and copy and paste from the Wordpad document. Then I add images if necessary, preview the post, and tweak it around until I am satisfied with it.

The final stage is to get on-line, with my off-line system in one browser tab, a new on-line post in the adjacent browser tab, and copy and paste from one to the other. Upload pictures if required, and the new post is ready in record time. A final preview just to check, and then publish it for the world to see!

Would you believe that in spite of this rigorous production process, I still have the odd occasion where I have published a document with an error in it? Its true!

To my eternal shame I had to make an on-line correction only yesterday. (But I am certainly not going to tell you what it was. I’ll just hope that you didn’t notice.)

One last comment on this subject. I think the last line of a post is very important. I always try to come up with something humorous, punchy, or in some other way memorable.

The “Lets hear it for People Power” post closed with “Once you get to a million signatures, things start to happen!”, for example.

If only I had such flashes of genius more often!

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