A NaNoWriMo post, and my personal take on what a first draft should do:
When I start a new book, I open a file, and start writing at random. I pick a scene that inspires me, and when inspiration runs out, I move to another scene. Note how I didn’t say ‘the next scene’? Because the scene can be anywhere, either before or after the one I’ve just written, or maybe even a lot further in the book. Finished? Next scene. There is no order, although eventually I will place the scene in the order in which I think they will go.
If I get stuck and run out of inspiration, I’ll do one of a few things:
– I drop back to a previous scene, and start adding a whole lot of internal monologue to justify why the character did whatever he/she did
– look at the scene balance. Too many talky scenes? I’ll write a shoot-out, or a car chase, or something entirely different. I may not yet know why this happens, and I may not be using the right characters, but I’ll write the scene anyway, because it will form a focus point for earlier parts: this is where the characters have to end up
– I’ll put two characters in a a room and let them talk. Anything goes, but inevitably they’ll start talking about relevant things, and reveal their feelings, and once those feelings become clear, I’ll often realise what I should have done in earlier scenes.
– Write an infodump. Never mind that infodumps are to be avoided, sometimes it really clears the mind to say out loud that so-and-so is such-and-such because of this-and-that.
Right, so by the time I finish, the first draft is a jumble of scenes that may or may not be in the right order, that have far too much internal monologue and other infodumping and that have quite a lot of dialogue that doesn’t go anywhere. But! I know now why my characters are doing things, and what their background is, and I know which parts of plot logica I’m missing. The first draft is for sorting out the character motivations, the plot logic and scene balance, although a first draft will have none of those things.