How I Write: Killing flies (or finishing a first draft)

Okay, I know, I’m two days late. My blog was being switched over to a new host. I didn’t mind though because I wasn’t sure what to say. Until a fly buzzed across the room.

So far, in the blog series on writing, I’ve covered everything I do before I write a first draft. I create the idea, plot, outline and all that good stuff. (Scroll down and you’ll find the posts. Sorry I’ve been at the ocean all day and I’m exhausted.)

Because I do all of the big plotting beforehand I didn’t want to repeat myself. I have no secret method or weapon that pushes me through the first draft. I don’t often get stuck because I get all the sticky stuff out during the plotting part. I hit my walls then.

When I sit down to write a first draft, I set goals: 1-2 thousand words a day and 5 thousand words a week. And if I go over – great. I write in order from the beginning to the end. If I have to stop to replot, I do. And then I jump right back into it.

I guess I can’t end the post without explaining about the flies. I hate flies. All kinds of flies. But especially big black buzzy house ones. I swear they are possessed. I try and kill them, usually with my shoe; and if I miss, they come back and dive bomb me. Totally freaking me out. So, I go on the hunt. I grab my flop and follow the bugger through out the house, swinging wildly until I kill it. And I always kill it. I’m always the victor. I never give up.

And that’s how I finish my first draft. Relentless. Driven. Fingers to the keyboard.

(My method of exterminating house flies was mostly foolproof – until my son tried to follow in my footsteps, except he used a 2 inch thick book and broke a window.)

Do you have any tips or top secret methods to finishing a first draft? Or tell me about the insect you hate the most and why. Let me know I’m not alone.

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13 Responses to How I Write: Killing flies (or finishing a first draft)

  1. Jen Bee July 16, 2010 at 8:42 am #

    Nice analogy. I guess it’s perseverance that gets me through, and wanting to finish (I want to tell these stories, and more after them, oh and I like writing), with a hint of fear at becoming one of those ‘writers’ who say they’re a writer but never produce anything.

    Re. insects: Mine is slugs. I cannot stand slugs. Or touch them, or even look at them. They make me feel sick. It’s silly, the darn things can’t hurt me, or move faster than a slow gloop, but there it is.

  2. kris July 16, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    And this is why I wish I was more like Laura. ::waves::

    I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting for divine inspiration (which WILL come if I wait long enough, but it’s always the waiting that kills you.) I need to try the plotting/outlining thing so I can relentlessly write.

    When I get back from the camping trip. And after I finish the outlining/research on the nonfiction I’m working on. 🙂 (Do I sound overwhelmed? Nah.)

    Thanks Laura–Honestly, you totally inspire me!

  3. Laura July 16, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    Jen Bee – I don’t think I care much for slugs but at least they can’t follow and harras me! Thanks for sharing!

    Kris – Summer is fun but a bit overwhelming as far as being productive. Srsly work on that nonfiction and then worry about the fiction! And it takes time with me too for the plotting to come. It doesn’t just happen.

  4. Ansha Kotyk July 16, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    I’m in the Hating House Flies group. They’re absolutely gross, second in line is carpenter ants because when they invade the house they have no qualms of crawling on you. Blech.
    I’ve given myself a 500 word goal for the days of summer. Day #1 down, today we’ll shoot for it!

  5. Nelsa July 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    Centipedes, millipedes – anything that has more than a few legs freak me out. And I’m the designated bug killer in our house so I get no relief.

    I have no words of advice on how to finish a first draft because the only thing that bugs me more than bugs is NOT FINISHING THE STORY. Sometimes it may take me longer than others but, dag nab it, if it has something, if I love that main character enough and understand what really motivates them (and that is key for me) then I need to know what will happen to them and I’ll usually stick with them even through those frustrating “I want to give up on you” periods.

    Good luck on the drafting (and the fly hunting!)

    • Laura July 16, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

      Those freak me out too. Earwhigs really freak me out when they fall out of things unexpectedly!

  6. Tina Lee July 16, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    I love how that metaphor of the flies totally works. I totally picture you as a relentless (great word) hunter in writing and I love that the method led to disaster with your son. Just like in writing. I think I am determined like you. But sometimes I lack the patience with myself that is totally necessary to do it right. That is when disaster ensues. I need to have it both. Probably most of us do. Maybe my way of fly hunting has to be with chop sticks. Maybe I just like that image because flypaper is so ugly.

  7. Marcia July 16, 2010 at 5:30 pm #

    Yes! Yes! Buzzy insects are possessed! Someone agrees with me! But the only ones I absolutely cannot, will not, cope with are the ones with stingers. Bees, wasps, hornets — I’m down for the count until SOMEONE ELSE kills it.

  8. Robert Guthrie July 16, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    Years ago at an animated film festival I saw this amazing short – a few minutes of life from a fly’s perspective. The sporadic movements, the ground covered… soooooo cool. Made me respect the fly a little. How much they get to see and how often they change plans.

  9. Kate Stewart July 17, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    I have to have at least one character I really love and then I find it easy to keep going. If I don’t love a character, I give up, which is probably a good thing – if I don’t like them, why should anyone else?
    As for insects, cockroaches – I hate them!

  10. Jen July 18, 2010 at 2:10 am #

    What a fun series!!!

    I don’t have a problem finishing first drafts… no I’m not rubbing it in… for some reason I am able to go from beginning, middle, end without a problem, a few hiccups but they are really minor. I just let the ideas marinate in my mind for weeks and I wait until I know it’s time to write, when that happens I’m nonstop for days until it’s finished. Last novel took 7 days…

    Now if we’re talking revisions I’m already dead. I’m at a stand still. I would love advice in that department.

  11. Catherine A. Winn July 18, 2010 at 8:42 pm #

    I just keep plodding through until the end. Sometimes, I have to put it away for a few days, work on something else, so that I can come back to it with renewed energy or having solved some problem with it.
    I feel the same way about flies.


  1. Stuff Around the Web « Steven K. Griffin - July 16, 2010

    […] I love reading about how other writers go about doing their work. This week, Laura Pauling wrote a post about how she writes her first drafts. […]

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