Monday, November 29, 2010

Writing a dry run

When I was a kid, my dad insisted on "dry runs" for everything. Anytime I went to a new place, a new dentist, music teacher, school, whatever, my dad would drive me through the new route, explain everything he thought I'd need to know.

It often seemed unnecessary or time consuming, and I'm sure I frequently rolled my eyes at him. But it did the trick of making new things go more smoothly (except for the time I got completely lost on the way to my music teacher's house, but that's a different story).

Lately I've been struggling with my writing. I started on Project Demo, then stopped, then started again. I think what frustrates me is not having all the answers, not knowing my characters inside and out, how the book starts or ends, or even what tense I want to write in.

But recently I remembered something one of my Bath Spa University tutors, Steve Voake, told me. He said that the first draft is for telling a story to yourself. The second draft is for figuring out how to tell the story to others.

As I plod my way through Project Demo, figuring out all the ins and outs of my characters and plot, that's me trying to tell myself a story. Once I know everything, then I can figure out how best to write that story. It's kind of like writing a dry run. And like a dry run, it feels time consuming and unnecessary. I wish I could just get on to some good writing. But once I finish this dry run, hopefully Project Demo will grow into a real story.

Thanks, Dad.


  1. ooh - I love that quote from your tutor! That's a keeper.

    Have fun exploring as you figure out your story.


  2. Oh, Anne, thank you so much for this post! I find myself plodding through at the moment, too. Your tutor was right—and I need to follow his advice.

    We used to do dry runs, too. =)

  3. A parent can only show the way. It is still up to the individual to determine which path to follow!
    Now we just sit back and watch what happens (but are always here to offer free advice!).

  4. Thanks, Andrea and Elisabeth! I'm so pleased Steve's quote is as useful to you as it has been to me! Also glad to know I wasn't the only kid being dragged around on dry runs. =)

  5. Thanks, Dad. Goodness knows I need that advice fairly regularly!

  6. That's such a useful quote to add to my mental tool kit - thank you!

  7. Thanks for sharing that quote. It is so true! As I plowed through my NaNo draft, it was in order to figure out the story for myself. Now I have to make it into something that others will understand and (hopefully) enjoy!

  8. Thanks Anna & Anna! So glad it could be useful for you. It's a good way to remind ourselves that the first draft doesn't have to be perfect (or even totally coherent!).


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