Observations On First Drafts

Almost everything I’ve read warns that the first draft is going to be embarrassingly bad. But one source said that she liked that part because it allowed her to work on the transitions from paragraph to paragraph and chapter to chapter without worrying about the details until she started working on the second draft.

Here are a couple of comments on that subject from Ernest Hemingway.

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote the first part of A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times. You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself.

Anne Lamonte in Bird by Bird said: “Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. ”

As a side note: Hemingway also said that you should exercise: “It was necessary to get exercise, to be tired in the body, and it was very good to make love with whom you loved. That was better than anything. But afterwards, when you were empty, it was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again.”

The steps used in writing a novel:
Step one, start writing.

Whitesmoke Grammar Checker

I found a special from PC-World on the grammar checker by WhiteSmoke. It was $69 premium lifetime subscription. A good deal, no?

The only snag I’ve hit is that the deal was for a single computer, if I rush I can get a second computer license for the same price. $140 for lifetime access on two computers is a good price, and thus far I’ve found nothing wrong in the program except for the nag about an “informal question” and its determination to replace “is” with “be.” I’m just miffed at myself because I was so busy getting the “deal” that I forgot to read the EULA. (Does anybody read those? They invariably leave me with a legalese headache.)

At any rate, I can get a Grammarly premium account for about $7 a month, paid yearly, but then it goes to $139 a year, in contrast to the $138 lifetime rate for two machines on WhiteSmoke. So I’m going to give it a chance, maybe it will knock my socks off, but I doubt it.

In the meantime, I’ll continue using the free Grammarly on another site; it won’t correct the premium errors it finds, but it will notify me of their existence.

That will allow me to make a general comparison, and help me decide whether or not to buy another license from WhiteSmoke.

For what it’s worth, WhiteSmoke looks like a competent program and will probably serve my purpose as well as any other software out there. Nothing I write is intended to be a review, nor is this becoming a review site. I’m just another amateur trying to find his way around the world of writing and commenting on things I run across along the way.

I found a new glitch with WhiteSmoke. I don’t know if it matters that I’m using WordPress, but when I changed to size of the edit screen, it eliminated a bunch of spaces between words. –It did it a second time, I guess I need to check on that.

Scrivener and Organizing Your Story

I started using Scrivener ($40) to organize my stories. It comes with a character template and a location template as part of the basic install.

Then I hunted around until I found some free templates online that I thought I would try. Unfortunately, the templates that ended with “srivtemplate” instead of “scriv” were in an older Scrivener format and I couldn’t import them to save my life.

The thing that surprised me the most about using character sketches is that creating backgrounds, personalities, habits, and physical descriptions forced me to think harder about their actions and thought processes. In other words, it makes them people, not pieces on a chess board.

This is weird, I tell stories, I don’t create organized, reasoning beings. I do, but not consciously, and certainly not in any organized manner.

However, I find the biggest help is the location template. With it, I can make a more efficient mental map, so I don’t have them do a “Dantana” and turn right at the top of Fremont Street, winding up instantly facing the opposite direction in front of the D.I.

Someone in one of the forums suggested using an actual map of a city or countryside, then tweak it to fit so I took the map of Skyrim (game) as a base for a sword and sorcery short story. The story sucked, but at least everybody showed up when and where I wanted them to.

A final note:
After reading and rereading the advice I found on the net, I’ve set myself the task of writing a knight in shining armor, pure of heart, with no bad habits. This is going to be a serious challenge, because my characters may not be evil, but they’re not exactly angels either. I mean, let’s face it, goody-two-shoes types are boring, or didn’t anyone else notice that Snidely Whiplash always had a lot more fun than Dudley Do-Right.

Grammarly – Free Version Works for Me

The free version of Grammarly has become my go-to grammar checker, even if I do have to fight with it from time to time.

The paid version has more features, but I don’t write enough to justify a monthly fee of $12. Maybe I can catch a sale, but I probably won’t bother until I up my output.

At any rate, Grammarly catches those double blanks, “it’s vs “its, “their vs they’re,” and it suggests different verb tenses. Although it sometimes forces me to put things in quotes to get it to stop trying to use a word or verb I don’t want it to use.

I’ve come across some checkers that used only British English, dozens that made you type or cut and paste on their website, the WordPress plugin “after the deadline” by Automattic is no longer supported, and Ginger costs about the same as Grammarly. So, while I’m told there are better grammar/spelling checkers out there, I haven’t found any that are as useful for the type of writing I do, so I’ll stick with what I’m comfortable with.

I just came across this promo that gives 25% off Grammarly, but it only runs for the next couple of days, and I believe it’s only for the first year. –Not as much as I’d like, but it still saves you money.

In spite of having a grammar checker, this happens. “If your blogger or writing some content online or offline then this tool is for you.” It wouldn’t be bad if it wasn’t from Grammarly Discount on Facebook. 😉

Remember Those That Can, Do; Those That can’t, Teach

We all remember the old saw, “Those that can, do; Those who can’t, teach.”

In reading every bit of advice about writing I can find that most of those people telling me what to do are rehashing the same old advice that everyone else is posting.

All of these people claim the title of “author” but I can never seem to find anything they’ve published. Except for their website and the advice they want to sell you.

For instance, there is an author who writes how-to books for aspiring authors, but her entire collection of published books in any other genre consists of a single, 27-page, Kindle only book containing two short stories. Yet, that makes her a legitimately published author.

There are other authors that haven’t accomplished even that much, who want not only to tell me what to do, they want to review my work; for a price.

The whole bloody mess reminds me of those “money for nothing” schemes, where you rework some PLR (private label rights) ebooks, publish them under your own name and sell them on your website.

Having said all that, I have learned a lot, but when you start seeing the same advice on every site and some of them don’t bother rephrasing it, it’s time to begin haunting the forums until I’m comfortable enough to ask for advice.