Three Simple Questions: Question 1

The Participants

Koraly Dimitriadis is the author of Love & Fuck Poems (Outside the Box Press), the play I say the wrongs things all the time, and the director and producer of Koraly: A Mockumentary.

Tess Evans is the author of The Book of Lost Threads, The Memory Tree (Allen & Unwin), and Mercy Steet (HarperCollins).

George Ivanoff has written more than 90 books for kids and teens, including the RFDS adventures (Random House), the You Choose series (Random House) and the Gamers trilogy (Ford Street Publishing).

Julie Koh is the author of Capital Misfits (Spineless Wonders), a capsule collection of short stories, and the short story anthology Portable Curiosities (UQP).

Ryan O’Neill is the author of the novel, Their Brilliant Careers, and the short story collection, The Weight of the Human Heart (Black Inc). His next book is The Drovers’ Wives (Seizure).

A. S. Patric’s debut novel Black Rock White City (Transit Lounge) won the 2016 Miles Franklin Award. He is also the author of the short story collection Las Vegas for Vegans, and the novella Bruno Kramzer. His follow-up novel, Atlantic Black is due out later this year, and next year will also release a new anthology, The Butcherbird Stories.

Inga Simpson is the author of Mr Wigg, Nest, Where the Trees Were, and (the soon-to-be released memoir) Understory (Hachette).

Laurie Steed has had short stories published extensively and teaches Advanced Fiction for Writers Victoria. Look out for his first novel, You Belong Here.

Okay, here we go!

Last week, we looked at three simple questions:

    1. What do you look to achieve in a first draft?
    2. How extensively do you revise?
    3. What do you want to get out of an editor?

We’ve assembled a group of talented, diligent authors (see their bios in the orange sidebar – right) and have asked them the same questions.

This week, question one …


What do you look to achieve in a first draft?


Koraly Dimitriadis: ‘With a first draft it’s really about getting your ideas, emotions and plans for the piece of work on the page so you don’t forget. There is nothing more frustrating than walking around all day with poetic lines or ideas in your mind and thinking, I’m going to forget this, I better write it down. I just want to empty myself of the story. I don’t really care what it looks like as I have no intention of showing it to anyone. It’s a brain dump.’

Tess Evans: ‘The short answer is “quite a lot”. I edit extensively on the way. Each day when I start to write, I revise the last few pages from the day before. This serves the dual purpose of rewriting where necessary and re-engaging with the world of the story. I also write each scene as it occurs in the narrative and rarely have to move one. At certain logical points I revise the whole of what I’ve written once again. So by the time I’ve finished the first draft, I expect that the narrative journey will be much the same as in the final draft, the sentences will be coherent and the voice well-established.’

George Ivanoff: ‘With a first draft I’m just aiming to get the story out of my head and onto the computer.’

Julie Koh: ‘For me, the first draft of a short story is about getting it organised. I pin down thoughts and scenes in a rough order that I think makes sense. Once the story is cohesive, and I’m sure it’s going to work well as a whole, then I’ll go through and refine it.’
Ryan O’Neill: ‘The only thing I look for is to get something down, however badly written or full of gaps. Get something down, no matter how bad, and you can work with it and improve it.’

A.S. Patric: ‘I don’t think in terms of drafts when I’m writing. Unless its poetry, where my first draft is my last draft, but that’s probably because I’m not a poet. With any kind of prose of whatever length, all of it is a mass of ideas, character details, themes and motifs, aesthetic pleasures, all evolving together until I feel it’s finished. Different metaphors work for different writers.

‘The drafting idea comes from a craftsman’s perspective where a carpenter might make a beautiful piece of furniture and her first draft might be when she feels what she’s making resembles the object she intended. Her table might not be finished but you can sit down at that table and eat a meal. Another metaphor might lead you to believe that there’s no drafts in writing the same way as there are no drafts in cooking. I put all the ingredients together and it’s ready when I place that meal down on the table for my family to eat.

‘I don’t ever feel like I’m dealing with something dead like wood, steel, concrete or plastic to create something functional, that resembles a chair or table. All of the materials I prefer to use are as close to living as possible. The meat is from the recently slaughtered; the fruit is still warm from the sun. And you are eating it with your friends and family alongside them after you’ve placed it on the table. So there are no drafts in writing for me. It’s fundamentally about taste and nutrition, communing and community.’

Inga Simpson: ‘First draft I’m just trying to get the story down. I’m quite practical and literal for a writer, so a lot of the initial writing process is keeping myself in a certain creative space where the story and characters reveal themselves organically and, at best, subconsciously. I don’t try and order things or plan very much at all. I only write for an hour or two each morning. What bubbles up, those bits that surprise me, are most fun to write and, I suspect, also the most fun to read. Like most writers, I find the middle, between 20,000 and 40,000 words, the most difficult – when the end is so far out of sight.’

Laurie Steed: ‘For me, the first draft is really about nutting out the foundations: Character, setting, and the key conflict. With that said I always ensure that the first draft is finished in one sitting, if at all humanly possible, so that it also captures a mood, or tone that I felt in that first rush of creativity.’

Next Week: Question 2!

2 responses to “Three Simple Questions: Question 1

  1. I liken the process to the development of a photo with successive sections, layers, colours, and textures I discover in the development process. I begin by finding a voice, a word, or a situation. Unconsciously, I give the voice (character) a problem or two, and catch a few thought waves I surf in by exploring the terrain of the character’s experience and interaction in a place, with a stylised atmosphere that makes it unique, so it reflects the character’s perception. For first draft–that’s where I am now, not where I was when I began writing years ago. I would now hope that the limbs of the narrative structure emerge. I particularly love writing in my zany, ridiculous voice, which is very easy, humorous and witty, if self-indulgent and filled with contradictions. The draft grows like a plant, with each limb of the plant attracting another branch, and the stems grow buds, that may eventualy bloom, perhaps. That’s first draft. Second draft is time for a different process.


    nd next I revise and give definition to detail. Plot is often the most difficult to tension for me, and arrives in chunks, so that the immediacy and spontaneity of the work remains in tact. In all, the process of the first draft is an act of faith.

  2. I don’t plan on first drafts. I conceptualize and “write” my story in my head. That is sometimes painful and frustrating. When I feel that this mental draft is what I want then I start writing, day by day. Of course I have to re-read what I wrote before in order to pick up the thread again. That is a place where I often re-write or correct. When I am finished I hand my manuscript to relevant and competent people to read. I listen closely to their feedback and reactions. Again, now I might re-write as well. Next comes the editor. And yes, I’ll re-write if necessary. The creative process can be painful. But a story must be written and read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *