The Rough Draft: Sketching Your Masterpiece

The most frustrating part of painting to me is showing someone what I’m working on  – mid-process. Kids are always the most honest.

“It’s kind of messy, Mom,” said my son, then five years old. He tilted his head to the side, squinting at my painting.

“I’m still working on it, bud. It’ll look a lot better when it’s done.”

“It will?”

“Yup. Just trust me. I’ve done this lots.”

He trusted me. That’s what five year olds do. And once it was done he did like it – even kept it on his dresser for years after that.

This story came to mind while I was stressing about one manuscript I had yet to finish. I had restarted it three or four times, but never completed it for one embarrassing reason –  I didn’t know how to write a rough draft. Not really.

A rough draft is suppose to be just that, rough. It’s meant to have phrases you aren’t sure how to complete, scenes that feel off, characters that feel flat, plot holes so big you could fall into them. I was looking at my unfinished manuscript as “messy” and instead of allowing myself to make a mess sketching out the basic lines of the story, I was trying to skip ahead and get a finish product my first time through.

Impossible.

The first draft gives us, as the writer, a chance to discover the story ourselves. This is true whether you plot out your stories beforehand or not – there will always be aspects to your plot and your character you’ll be discovering for the first time. Pausing to edit and perfect during the rough draft shuts off the pure artistic flow that comes when a writer is in the “zone.” Write now… only write. Edit later.

For you visual learners, like me, let’s look at the idea this way.

Images from www.metmuseum.org
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Raphael’s paintings started as sketches, like our rough drafts.
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With edits, he cleaned up the image, adding more detail and life to it.
madonna sketch
More edits still, and you can see how his piece is shaping in to what it will become.
After MANY improvements, we get the masterpiece.
After MANY improvements, we get the masterpiece.

Lois Lowry, the author of “The Giver” said when she writes a rough draft that she often scribbles down a variety of words that might fit in a certain sentence and goes back to find the right one during the editing process. I think that’s brilliant. She gets her thoughts on paper, but waits to polish it up once the story is ready for that step. Not before.

So, to all you other perfectionist writers, I encourage you to let go and let your rough drafts be messy. Very, very messy. Stop worrying about that flat character, or that scene that just doesn’t feel right. First get your story on paper – the whole, messy story. Then, and only then, go back and work that sketch into the masterpiece in your head.

What’s the trickiest part of the writing process for you?

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Famous Authors Interviews – Words of Wisdom

Be prepared to be shocked… authors, even the extremely famous ones , are real people – like you and me.  I know, shocking huh? 😉

Honestly though, while I’m glued to my computer for my day job, I enjoy listening to interviews with these real people. Their thoughts are inspiring and motivating – especially if you’re a writer too.

I was capitvated by J.K. Rowling’s interview with Oprah (see below). If you have 45 minutes it’s worth the watch (or listen, like I did). If not, I’ve included links to some other famous childrens author interviews I enjoyed (that are a lot shorter).

Be prepared though – you’ll want to write as soon as you’re done listening. Might want to save some time for that for later.

— click on the author’s name to see the video —

Author InterviewsJ.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series) -CLICK HERE-:

She is the ultimate rags to riches story. One of my favorite things about her is her ability to remember what life was like before fame and to not lose sight of that. So refreshing!

Jon Scieszka (True Story of the Three Little Pigs) – CLICK HERE-:

What a funny guy. I really enjoyed hearing his thoughts on reading and boys – how they struggle to read more than girls. I just enjoyed this interview in general, his happiness is contagious.

Jerry Spinelli (Maniac Magee, Stargirl) – CLICK HERE-:

I enjoy Spinelli’s writing style – so I was eager to hear his interview. I loved that hated reading the required reading in school because I always struggled with that as well.

Beverly Cleary (Ramona and Beezus) – CLICK HERE-:

Beverly was a children’s librarian before becoming an author. She got in to writing because the children weren’t satisfied with the books that were available. She never received a rejection letter – ever!

 Lois Lowry (The Giver) – CLICK HERE-:

Lois Lowry dropped out of college and finished after he children were all in school. She never submitted a story formally. She was approached by an editor and asked to try writing a story for children – which turned in to her first novel.

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Mo Willems

Mo Willems (Elelphant and Piggie, Pigeon) -CLICK HERE-:

Mo fell into writing almost by accident, but man am I glad he did. I LOVE the Elephant Piggie series.

Katherine Paterson (Author of Bridge to Terabithia) -CLICK HERE-: 

She stresses the importance of reading as an author. She also talks about the real life death that inspired the book The Bridge to Terabithia.

Kate DiCamillo (Author of Because of Winn-Dixie, Mercy Watson) -CLICK HERE-: 

Kate says she loves to finish stories but doesn’t actually love to write them. Each morning she has to convince herself to get the writing done. Man, I can relate to that some days.

Before you head off to to do some writing yourself, would you share comment below about something that motivates you to write? Thanks!

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DON’T TOUCH! This is MY reading time!

Hand Over the Books

I’m in that phase of life – the Tasmanian devil in a mini van phase. And the endless running around leaves me wondering how to follow the holy grail of advice to writers:

READ – read – READ!

I tried reading in the morning while I ate my cereal. Not my brightest idea. My day goes a little like this. I wake up long before the sun comes up and wake up my children (two who are far too peppy for 6 am). Then clothes and hair and teeth and lunches. Some shoe tying and shoe finding, then library book hunting – under the bed, under the couch – until we’re five minutes past go time. One says they never ate breakfast, so I hand them an apple and bread and shoo them out the door. Repeat the process two times for my middle schooler and high schooler – throw in a little driving faster than I should ’til that school zone sign comes in to view and you’ve got my morning (sounds familiar to any of you?). I count it a success if my kids get in the front door before the bell rings, I mean, who’s really looking if their socks match anyway? So…

Reading while I eat breakfast is out.

The rest of my day isn’t much slower. I work from home part-time, which sounds magical to everyone I tell and in many ways it is. But without set work hours and no clear cut ‘coffee breaks’ and ‘lunch hours’ like most office jobs – reading while I work is not an option either.

Afternoon carpool is different. I have about fifteen minutes in the car before my kids come out. I used to try and squeeze in some writing here (and still do sometimes) but most often, I read. Repeat that twice for picking up my middle schooler and high schooler and I’ve got 30-40 minutes of reading under my belt.

Afternoon carpool reading is a GO!

Is it selfish that that’s not enough time to me? I crave a big, long chunk of reading time but almost never get it unless I do the following:

Swap TV/Internet zoning out for reading time.

With four kids and all the after school activities that come with that, sometimes there isn’t even TV time to swap. When I do choose a book over HGTV I’m always more satisfied. In reality, I wish I was one of those avid readers that always preferred a book over TV – but I’m not. Often TV wins out, but I still think – especially on the channel flipping nights- we should all do ourselves a favor by turning it off and grabbing a book instead.

The only curse (or maybe it’s a blessing) I have with reading is it puts me to sleep. Anyone else have this problem? When I read I calm down. My body seems to take that as a cue that it’s time to sleep. When I was reading the sixth Harry Potter book for the first time, I came to the climactic seen in the tower – you know the one I’m talking about. One of the most pivotal scenes in the entire series, and what do I do mid-sentence? I fall asleep. I woke up four different times trying to finish the scene and couldn’t.  I finally gave in to the sleep and finished the chapter when I woke. My husband still teases me about that to this day.

Bedtime is my reading time.

My reading curse makes bedtime a great time for reading. It helps me unwind and fall asleep faster. Before my husband convinced me to trying reading at bedtime I would lie in bed for nearly 45 minutes – waiting for the chatter in my head to quiet. Books quiet my internal chatter ’til all I hear is the story I’ve wrapped myself in.

Then… I fall asleep. 🙂

Being a reader does not require ideal circumstances. Don’t let yourself or anyone around you try and convince you it does. Readers can come from any kind of life and any level of busy – you just have to want it bad enough.

When and where do you read?

Please comment below.

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