Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 24, 2016

The World of a New First Draft – Erika Wassall

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here with…

Forging into The World of a New First Draft

I’ve done it! I made the jump from outlining, scene selection and character development to actually writing the meat of my new YA project.

I came to the genius conclusion that if I don’t actually WRITE it… it is MUCH less likely to get written.

Fingers to the keys, pencil to paper. Brain?     … immediately on overload.

I quickly learned things that are integral to my drafting:

JUST DO IT! Everyday.

I’m committed. This is happening.  For me, this is the only way large projects come to fruition.  While I don’t have a lot of spare time, by making this manuscript a real priority, I find SOME time everyday.

New words get written six days a week. (one floating skip day for wiggle room!).

This keeps my energy and mind focused in that direction. And it’s really encouraging to realize that even a few hundred words is still WORDS.  Still words on paper that didn’t exist yesterday.

Data Dump Permission:

In the first few chapters, I found myself doing HUGE data dumps.

Ugh. Who wants to read THAT?

They’re glaringly boring, not properly distributed and completely unnecessary for the reader. But, for me, the writer, they were mandatory.  Reminding me of where the characters have come from grounds me in their reality.

First I battled their presence, tried moving them around. Then I realized what a waste that was.  I should be writing, not rearranging!!!!

Besides, who knows how much of that background will change once I get through everything? So I accepted them.  When I feel the need to data dump or go on some random tangent, I just… do.

Indulgent?  Yup, probably.

But for now, me the writer needs the background.  And I have to be that writer before I can think about what’s best for my readers.

Word Count Obsession Smack-down

I have a pretty good idea of the flow of my manuscript. I’ve charted it via The Plot Whisperer and other books about story arc.  This has given me invaluable confidence.

BUT, I’ve learned that now is not the time to think about that… TOO much.

So… my goal word count is X. I know the first big event, happens around the Z percentage.  So that means at exactly 10,463 words, I have to write THIS specific scene.

Maybe some people can write like this. I cannot.

I realized this around the same time as the one above. MUCH of what I’m writing will be cut, edited and altered anyway.  So why worry about pace (to that extent) yet.

Am I moving along the storyline quickly/slowly enough?

The answer is: I don’t know.  I’ll worry about that later.

Still Reign it in Sometimes

There is a balance here of course. I tend to be long-winded when I write.  My emails go on for miles.  I ramble more in written form than verbally.

This can be good, powerful. It accesses the beauty, the truth, behind what I want to say.

And sometimes I’m just rambling.

Yesterday, I came to a scene that’s important. I can SEE it.  I know the points I want it to hit, the emotion and catalytic affect I want it to have.

But exactly HOW to do that… yeah, well, I’m not so sure.

I spent pages describing how Tris, my MC, felt, what she saw, touched. What happened on the ride over, what time she arrived, etc.

Eventually I realized… this is ridiculous!! I was no longer giving myself background or trying to paint a picture.  I was just putting it off.

Turns out, I can even procrastinate WHILE writing. Who knew?

I’ve officially cut myself off. Tonight, when I carve out my time to work on my manuscript, the actual meat of that scene must begin.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be words on paper.

From Point A to Point B

Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@NJFarmScribe) may have noticed I’ve sent out a few tweets about this lately.  For me, drafting is all about words on paper.

There is no way I’m going to write a perfect first draft. So I’m not going to try.

I can’t fix it until it’s written. Tris must get from Point A to Point B.  The story has to unfold, the characters have to come to life, scenes have to play out.

First, the story has to get written.  And I have to write it.

I encourage everyone to do the same. Don’t let perfectionism or nit picking your own work line-by-line stop you.  Just write.  Because without writing, your story will never exist.

And your manuscripts are worth it.


Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Look for Erika’s articles every other Wednesday on Writing and Illustrating. Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,


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