Externalization featured

Artists give their imagination substance. Painters manifest their imagination in oils and watercolors. Musicians bring their imaginations to life in little black dots on a page and notes drifting in the air. Sculptors carve their visions out of clay and marble. And writers encapsulate their imaginations in words.

Words are perhaps the most malleable of the art forms. There are a dozen different ways to say the same thing. In English there’s dozens of different versions of the same word. No need to paint over what’s already on the canvas when you can change words with a few keystrokes.

But first, before a writer can manipulate their words, there must be words. There must be a story on the paper, either actual or digital. As a writer, the best thing you can do for your story is to get it out of your head and onto paper. The substance of those words will then give you something to work with. You can analyze what you did well and what needs help. You can see how well the story plays out. You have something to adapt to make it better.

Or, as Darcy Patterson says, “The function of the first draft is to help you figure out your story. The function of every draft after that is to figure out the most dramatic way to tell the story.”

Some writers approach the first draft as quickly as possible, full of placeholders like [do something cool here] that keep them from having to stop the flow of words by facing a decision point. Some writers use outlines or other prewriting tools to manage those decision points before sitting down for some butt-in-chair-hands-on-keyboard work. Other writers slog through a full draft, stopping at each decision point, getting the words down bit by bit.

One goal of an agile first draft is to get the story in your imagination externalized as quickly and easily as possible. Without placeholders or gaps in the decision points of the story. You want the most complete version of the story as fast as possible.

And perhaps you can also start to figure out a dramatic way to tell the story in the midst of your first draft, without slowing down the drafting process.

Curious to give it a try? Check out the workshop and see if how an agile first draft works for you.

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