First Draft Toolkit

I’m now into my first draft of–it’s hard to believe–my fifth book.  With every book, I learn something different, particularly about the process of writing it.  There are some things, for example, that I can do during the revision, but in the first draft, it’ll never work.   Some people like to do a lot of prep work, like building a novel notebook or doing all their research.

My first draft toolkit is pretty simple:

  • White boards.  I use these to write the characters’ names down as they come into the story.  Can’t remember one?  A quick glance, and I’ve got the name.  I’m also using it for hard to spell place names.  Last time it was a character: Phannelia.  This time it’ll probably be a place: The Embarcadero (that’s the name of the street that runs the length of the harbor in Morro Bay, CA).  Target has some very nice 14X14 boards, so these can not only be mounted on a wall, but carried around.
  • Notebook.  For me, type of notebook is important.  I can’t work with a three ring binder–they all eventually wind up in the three ring binder graveyard.  It’s a big production working with one–got to buy the paper separately and put it somewhere, then find it when you need it; punch holes at some point—all points where I’m going this is way too much work! And that doesn’t even include having tabs and thinking about where to sort things.  I do better with simple:  A spiral bound notebook, one subject.  It has to be 8×10, just because the larger size is easier to write in.   It also has to have a cover that stands out to me.  Everything goes into that notebook.  So if I run across some bit of research, it goes in the notebook.  Later, in the revisions, I’ll have brainstorming.
  • Idea Map.  This is something new I’ve been trying.  It’s a visual representation of everything rather than just words.  I used to toss out the various ideas for the book so that they’re handy.

What do you do to prep for your first draft?  Is it different than the later drafts?

2 thoughts on “First Draft Toolkit

  1. Hi! I start with an outline, using the standard outline format we learned in school. And I key the outline into the computer so I can move things around easily. Somehow, seeing the flow of the story in outline form helps me see where something is out of place or missing.

    Usually I have the main characters’ names in my head right from the get-go. But in my second book, I was having trouble because I hadn’t yet cut the cord from the characters in my first book.

    After hearing an overview of the story during dinner one night, my daughter came up with the “theme” for all of the characters’ names. Her contribution of that single element sort of opened the floodgate for much of the story in my mind.

    But everything started with an outline.


  2. I have a pocket-sized notebook (so I can almost always have it with me) and I write down all ideas for characters, plot, etc in a jumble, though I set aside a special page for names to refer back to and mark it with a paperclip. Then I type it up into the computer, one document for characters, one for plot. I’ve developed a list of character traits, behaviors that I fill in for each character. Once I have a good grasp of the main characters and the plot, especially the beginning I hand-write an outline so I can see how it looks on paper as a whole. (I seem to think better by hand than on a computer).


Comments are closed.