Monday, August 6, 2018

How Structure Can Make First Drafts Fun to Write by Christa MacDonald

Christa MacDonald

 How Structure Can Make First Drafts Fun to Write 
by Christa MacDonald

There’s a voice we all hear as we write a first draft. It’s like someone reading over our shoulder, pointing at the words on the page and whispering, "That’s garbage. You should delete this whole page." This isn’t the voice of doubt. It is your internal editor piping up at the wrong stage, and it needs to shut up.

There is nothing like an internal editor to ruin a first draft. I remember when I wrote my first book. Back then, my internal editor didn’t know enough so she didn’t really bother me. Writing that draft was a positive experience. Now I have a few books under my belt, and she’s louder. She knows more too. Often she’ll pester me about repeated words, weak dialogue, over-used gestures in my characters, "you’ve already had him shake his head in this scene." Helpful advice, but not on a first draft. 

I started off my writing career as a pantser, but a struggle with a draft made me a plotter. I had heard that book two (the book you write after selling your first) was legendarily hard to write. Three months into writing mine, I had learned this was all too true. I struggled long and hard over that book and in the end I decided that half the battle was that little voice in my head questioning every choice I made. My internal editor sabotaged me at every stage, leeching the joy out of writing a scene, sapping my motivation. In the end, the plot flailed around and if not for the help of a content editor, that book would never have seen the light of day.

For book three, I turned to the Snowflake Method from Randy Ingermanson. I found it easier to produce a first draft when I had a roadmap. My internal editor had a whole lot less to say when I had the bones of the book already in place. I could ignore her fussing because I knew the structure was solid, and I could fix the rest of it in editing. It was still ugly, but it didn’t take me a year to write it and more importantly, I actually enjoyed the process this time. If slogging through the second book had made me hate writing, silencing my internal editor with some structure made me love it again.

Even if you’re a die-hard pantser, I still recommend getting a rough idea down. And I definitely recommend muzzling your internal editor. Let your first draft be ugly. Give yourself room to write some terrible stuff. Editing will fix what needs fixing. Let the first draft be the giddy, mad, creative stage where you entertain all possibilities.


The Redemption Road
It’s redemption that he needs, and she’ll pay any price to help him find it.

As the new game warden in Sweet River, Alex Moretti is focused on enforcing Maine’s wildlife laws and little else. Moving from tragedy to a fresh start, all he wants is a way to fix his life in the tranquility of the north woods. Until he meets Annie Caldwell at Coffee by the Book. But his own bitter, dark life is a threat to Annie’s sweetness and light. It’s better for him to stay away.

Annie doesn’t know how to label her relationship with Alex, but she is determined to figure it out.  After a few false starts and a kiss under the Christmas lights, their romance goes from fiction to fact. Annie has fallen hard. Then trouble shows up. Someone is stalking Alex, seeking to punish him for a mistake which ended in deadly consequences. When Annie becomes a target, he tries to push her away, but she won’t abandon him. Alex is desperate to keep Annie safe while he attempts to reconcile the past, but what he really needs is redemption. And she will risk her life to help him find it.


Christa MacDonald began her writing career at the age of eleven, filling a sketchbook with poems and short stories. While at Gordon College she traded the sketchbooks for floppy discs, publishing short personal narratives in the literary journal The Idiom. After graduation and traveling cross-country she settled down to focus first on her career in operations management and then her growing family. When her children reached grade school Christa returned to her love of writing, finding the time between conference calls, dance lessons, and baseball games. This November Mountain Brook Ink will be publishing her first novel, The Broken Trail. When not at her desk working or writing, Christa can be found curled up in her favorite chair reading, out and about with her husband and kids, or in the garden. She lives with her family along the coast of Massachusetts in the converted barn they share with a dog and two formerly-feral cats.