On Drafting

I get easily excited about ideas. If you sit me in front of a computer long enough, I will inevitably start writing.

Drafting is the fun part. Drafting should be the stream of consciousness part, the unfiltered part, the part that is done out of joy. In drafting, there is no judgment, only indulgence. One is able to describe a house or a room or even a bowl of soup for several thousand words. You can change the topic, let a conversation trail, abruptly change scenery, and nobody gets upset. Everyone knows they’ll get their turn later.

To draft (verb) is to write a first version. To draft is to also select a particular entity for a particular job. You’re choosing words that might work–others might not. There’s risk involved; turnover is likely.

Read your draft when you finish, but don’t share it, yet. Rejoice in the fact that you wrote something coherent, something with a beginning, a middle, an end. You’ve compiled all these words in one place, lined them up to your bidding, asked them to serve a purpose.

A draft (noun) is mandatory recruitment into the military, usually during times of war. A draft recruits those that are eligible, but not those that work best.

Title your draft. Put your full name on it. Bring it to Kinko’s and bind it. Trace the black plastic spiral holding those pages together. Flip through them without reading more than a word at a time. Imagine someone finding this thing on the sidewalk. Imagine what it would be like to explain to a stranger what you’re doing with all these words in one place.

Wait a few weeks, then open your draft. Keep some loose goals in mind, but be gentle. Listen to your draft as much as you want it to listen to you. Ask your characters if they’re hungry. Give them something to eat.

Know that at the end of your draft, you’ll be wiser, but don’t look back ashamed. Don’t say, if I knew then what I know now. Remember that you’ve probably done something much more embarrassing than anthropomorphize a bowl of soup. Be kind.

A draft (adjective) animal is powerful, but always subservient. It gets you from point A to point B.

Find other people with drafts. Don’t be afraid to listen to their advice. Don’t be sad to abandon characters. Marvel at how many years have gone by and still, you will not abandon this draft. You will revisit it. You will excel at revisiting. And eventually, your draft will abandon you. In its wake, you’ll find your book.

 

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Stephanie Jimenez

Stephanie Jimenez is a former Fulbright recipient and Prep for Prep alumna. She is based in Queens, New York, and her work has appeared in The Guardian, O! the Oprah Magazine, Entropy, and more. Her debut novel, THEY COULD HAVE NAMED HER ANYTHING, will be published in the summer of 2019 (Little A). Follow her @estefsays.

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