Climactic Moments: Putting Together Your First Draft


How to write your first draft of an erotic story (easy recipe):

Supplies Needed:
Pen and paper or computer
Crazy glue (or, for alternative method: friend with whip)

Step 1: Find a chair. Put lots of glue on chair. Sit. Write.

Alternative method: Find chair. Sit. Write. Get friend to stand behind you and crack you with whip if you even think about getting up between now and the next 3,000 words.

OK, so I admit that first recipe is cheating. Even though we all understand in our heart of hearts that that’s really the way to write a first draft, it’s probably not all that helpful to most of us. But the truth is, I proposed this column months before I actually had to write it, and once the time to write it came, I began to get nervous. That’s because, despite having written more first drafts than I can count, I still don’t fully understand how I do it. Or how anyone does it. Which makes me wish that I’d proposed a column called “How to eat your way through the fridge when you can’t sit down and write your first draft.” Now that one, I would be able to pull off.

And, then, even as I’m saying I don’t know how to write a first draft, here I am doing it with this column. Granted, it’s not fiction, but first drafts are first drafts. So as I write, let me analyze the process and see if I can find anything that’s useful to you.

How I write the first drafts of my erotic stories (in eight semi-easy steps):

1. First, I’m comfortable. I’m sitting in my big living room chair with my laptop and a cup of coffee. I like to have something to drink when I’m writing, not because I’m terribly thirsty, but because I like to have something to do with my hands (I think it’s because I used to be a smoker). Also, it gives me an excuse to get up every once in a while to go to the bathroom.

2. I have a general idea of what I’m writing about. Sometimes I’ll sit down to start a story and I’ll realize, “Hey wait, I don’t know what I’m doing yet.” Actually, it happened the first time I sat down to write this column. OK, and the second and third time, but now here I am, fourth time’s a charm, and I’m plowing right along. I find that if I don’t have an idea, a walk works. So does reading something. So does doing the dishes, but mainly because I hate doing the dishes, and I force myself to do them until I have an idea. Amazing how fast one will come.

3. I have my supplies near me. For fiction, that typically means any notes I jotted down about the story idea or the characters. I usually also have magazine pages or photographs that show something in my story: a place, a face, a piece of jewelry, whatever I want to be sure that I’m correctly describing. I usually also have the guidelines, if I’m aiming for a particular market. On my laptop, I have a number of writerly-like pages bookmarked, including a baby name page (for characters), any how-to pages that I find inspiring, any photos sites that might prove equally inspiring, and an online dictionary/thesaurus. While I’m writing a draft, I only (and this is crucial) allow myself to visit said writerly-like pages. Otherwise, it’s just too easy to get lost in the web and not get a damn word down (trust me, this is experience talking here).

4. I have lots of time. Or no time. Both of these work for me. If I have a couple of hours stretched before me, I can settle in and get really comfortable before I start clicking away at the keyboard. If I’m pressed for time, and I find that I can just sit down and start working right away.

5. I’m willing to write down everything that crosses my mind. Every dumb thought, every cliché, every ridiculous impulse. What if you aren’t sure if this is the beginning or the end? Who cares! Put it on paper. Because no one else is going to see it. You’ll have a chance to cut all of those things long before the story makes its way to my editor. And you might find, as I do, that the things you are tempted to leave out in the first draft are the things you come to like best because they’re risky or funny or somehow outside the norm of what you thought you were allowed to put on paper.

6. I’m willing to put nothing down. What I mean by that is I make lots of big yellow highlighted XXes in my first drafts. These are places where I don’t know what I want to say, or I don’t know what someone looks like, or I can’t remember the name of that restaurant where Susan gives Jakes a blow job under the table. If it’s an easy thing to research, or if it affects the rest of the story in some way, I’ll look it up while I’m writing. Otherwise, it gets the big XX and I know to come back to it later. This keeps the momentum going and allows me to get something on paper that feels like a complete draft, with a beginning, middle and end, even if there are chunks missing.

7. I will not get up. I will not feed the cat. I will not wash the dog. I will not dig out my binoculars in hopes of catching the neighbor in his skivvies. I will not check my email and go through the junk mail just in case. I will not, I will not, I will not. Neither will you. What you will do is sit there and write until you’ve finished. This is the one step that distinguishes those who want to write from those who have written. You can throw the other seven steps away and just do this one, and you’ll still be ahead of the game.

8. I have a treat lined up for after. Yes, it’s true: I’m as easily trainable as a dog. Promise me a soy mocha or a great movie when I finish a draft, and I’ll have it done in no time. There are writers for whom the thrill of finishing is enough, but I am not one of them. So, know what motivates you, and have it lined up for after, whether it be it a piece of cake, a long walk, or the chance to run around the house yelling, “It’s done! It’s done!”

When you finish your rough draft, it’s good to just be done with it. Don’t hen-peck it to death before the ink is dry. Instead, put it away or send it off to your critique group. You can come back and make it beautiful another day (see my next two columns: “Ménage a Trois: Critique Groups and Others Who Can Get You Off” and “Multiple Orgasms: Revising Your Erotic Story” for tips on this), but for now just savor your accomplishment.

And now that I’ve finished this draft, I’m going to do just that. I hear a soy mocha calling my name.

Other Recipes for Writing Your Draft

Shanna Germain
July 2007

“Sexy on the Page” © 2007 Shanna Germain. All rights reserved.

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