Brenda Cooper: Readers, and Doing a First Draft

by Brenda Cooper

Welcome to the second installment of Adventures in Writing. This week I’m back from the Rainforest Writers Village and now balancing writing, the day job, family, and a head cold all at once.

The highlight of the week so far has been a trip to a book group at a local (Portland) independent bookstore where I heard good things from a whole circle of people who had read The Silver Ship and the Sea. Writing is a weird profession: a river of rejection, waves of the word no, and sometimes, floating on the waves, a yes.

But the main reason to write is for readers to read. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we’re writing for editors or publishers or money, but the real key is writing for readers. So talking to people who read my book felt good. Even better, they liked it.

In the meantime, I’m revising a story I finished at the workshop set in the same world as my books, still reading my own book two in the current series, Reading the Wind, to get ready for the copyedits on the next book, Wings of Creation. And I’m planning a story for the positive future anthology Shine. I think every science fiction writer out there should write a story for Shine. The guidelines call for a near-future story with a positive spin. We could use that right now. Science Fiction has become pretty steadily apocalyptic, even though in reality, the human race is basically doing better than ever before. So if we all write a story for Shine, then they’ll buy and publish a bunch of good ones, and there will be a lot more positive science fiction looking for homes and getting published elsewhere.

I have to admit that if my cold would go away, I’d feel shinier.

So in my last blog I talked about idea generation, which is freeform and largely can i buy gabapentin in spain subconscious. I then pick an idea using my more analytical parts, although I have to admit my emotional attachment to the story is usually how I finally choose. Now I have a few paragraphs to a page summarizing the story, including a beginning, a middle, and an end (right now, I have ten of these for my Shine story). It’s gut check time – do I need to develop it more? Do I need to research anything? If the answer to either of those is yes, or if I just don’t feel ready to start, I’ll play with my idea some more, most likely with a pen and paper journal.

When I sit down at the computer and create a lovely blank page to start filling in, I go fast. I just need to get the whole story spit out. I typically write five hundred to a thousand words an hour and work until I’m done. That might be one sitting or across a few days, and a few trips to coffee houses on the way to or from work. If it stretches, I do reread what I’ve written so far, and maybe tinker a bit, every time I sit down. But I don’t do major editing. The more I stay out of my editorial brain the more unexpected and lovely things drip out of my fingers and onto the page. Much junk comes out too, but that can be dealt with later. At this stage I’m not worried about specifics like pacing, so some scenes might be well developed while others are sketches. That’s all okay since there’s more work to come. What matters is to stay out of my brain and use my heart as much as I can. Yes, even in science fiction.

So now I feel compelled to mention that there is no one right process. So what’s your process?

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  1. Brenda,

    Thanks for explaining your process for just getting the first draft out there and not worrying about how some parts are more filled out than others. That is encouraging to me. I knew that about 6 weeks ago but had forgotten to remember it recently.

    From now on I will try to…remember…to….remember…to… ? Dang! lost my thought. I think I’m just going to focus on finishing my draft. 🙂

    I look forward to more of your weekly blogs.


  2. Hi Brenda!

    Thanks for the peek into your process. I’ll admit that I’m very, very bad at turning off the internal editor. I want every sentence that comes out to be perfect. It really slows me down… if anything ever gets written at all.

    I guess I just need to practice allowing myself to write more freely. Then I could probably go from, say, about 250 words an hour now to more like your 500 to a thousand. 🙂

    — Jason

  3. Hi Jason and Paul,
    Thanks for the comments. I’m not sure how to post a direct reply here so you get in your email, so hopefully you’ll see this. It took me a while to get the internal editor to be quiet, and frankly, there are still periodic arguments between the muse and the editor inside my head when I sit down to create. It’s really important for the muse to win at this stage. Just tell the editor it will get its turn!
    In my next installment, due in a few days, we’ll talk about some of the stuff the editor side of you will like.

  4. Hi Brenda,

    It’s inspiring to see that you sit down and ‘Just Do It’. I hear a ton of pro-outline and plot mapping advice and was beginning to think I must be foolish in sitting down and just writing. I wouldn’t be able to conquer a blank page if I didn’t punch my Editorial Instinct in the face before starting. I’m eager to hear more about the Shine project your working on also. It sounds like a phenomenal idea and is definitely something the world of Science Fiction could use.

    Do you find your ideas spawning in dreams? You mentioned that your process was largely subconscious. Most of my story ideas come to me while I sleep and will actually develop over time from an ongoing series of dreams. I just wake up and jot them down. I mentioned this at a writing group meeting once and got the stink eye from a few folks.


  1. […] do you do first drafts?  Shaun Farrel over at Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing has posted the second installment in my short guest blog series.  In this one, I talk about my process for spitting out first drafts and ask for comments on how […]

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