Stuck on my First Draft

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I wrote a first draft of a picture book this week. Except, I didn’t finish. And that’s a good thing.

This often happens to me when I’m writing the first draft of a picture book or the first draft of a chapter. I write and write and write, then suddenly stop. Why stop?

When something says, "STOP!", you need to listen.

I’ve learned to trust this stopping as part of my process. Something is wrong, but it’s rarely the story itself. I may not yet be able to articulate what is wrong or how to fix it, but something stopped me and I have to wait a couple days to re-read the story to that point and figure out what’s wrong.

Research Needed. Often, I need to research some detail. For nonfiction, it probably means I need more resources to answer specific questions. And, well, the same thing for fiction. Yes, you need solid facts upon which to build a fictional story. It must be believable. For example, I might need to know exactly how long it takes robin eggs to hatch before I can finish my plot timeline.

Voice Needs Tweaking. Sometimes the voice needs to be tweaked, or totally overhauled. I may need to try it from another POV, another attitude, or switch from a picture book to a short chapter book. Something is just off in the storytelling. To remedy this, I need to stop and play with format and voice to find where this story fits best.

In other words, the first draft is to tell you what your story is. Second and following drafts are about finding the most dramatic way to tell the story so that it will reach your target audience. That’s the fun part. So, when I suddenly stop before the end of a draft, I know the fun has just begun.

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