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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - The Mental First Draft

I've added cross-country pasture hikes to my regular walking regimen with Viktor, and they serve the dual purpose of being both fun and useful. Fun because I love to see the field that time of evening, in all its brown winter splendor. And useful because the cold and the quiet, the exercise and the melancholy of winter nights help me generate the best mental first drafts.
In a perfect world, I'd wake up every morning, float over to my chair, sit down to the perfect cup of cappuccino and start writing first thing. Then, when I was done for the day, I'd pack the project away and turn my mind to other things until it was time to write again. Unfortunately, this is the real world, and luxuries like that don't exist.
When writing time is limited, like mine is right now, I find it helpful to have planned my scenes before I sit down to write them. I used to do that in an abstract way, but with my latest project, I've written more concrete mental first drafts for each scene. As I walk through the pasture, I set the stage in my mind, bring out the actors, run the dialogue, test each component. I work out the conversations, the looks, the gestures, all of it. The really good lines I'll type into my phone to save for later. The rest are replaced with better alternatives when I sit down to actually write the scene. This way, I'm "seeing" the material for a second time when it hits the page. And it means I can get to work as soon as the computer is booted up. I've greatly cut down on the time I spend brainstorming at the computer. Now, I'm writing during the entirety of my writing time. I can produce about five thousand words in a day.

The downside to this is that I have trouble sleeping because I'm constantly running lines in my head. It does edge up the anxiety a notch. But it's been a real boon when it comes to making the most of my work time. Would I recommend a mental first draft? Yes, absolutely. sure you squeeze in some actual mindless downtime here and there.

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