For those of you unfamiliar with the term, allow me to clear it up:
vomit draft: (n) 1. writing draft in which the author spews words on the page in a chaotic outpouring of ideas, characters, plot, passion, and quite possibly last week’s dinner; 2. the art form of funneling the maelstrom of inspiration in one’s brain into a porcelain throne of paper; 3. in which a writer commits a story to paper for the first time, therein relating it to herself. synonyms: first draft, rough draft. antonyms: polished piece, final draft, completed manuscript.
I had used this term for quite some time before I met another kindred who also happened to refer to his writing this way. In my humble opinion, the vomit draft is the most important step in the writing process. It builds a foundation from which to work — indeed, you cannot complete a work without it.
The reason I call it a vomit draft is because that is precisely what it feels like. I spew sentences on paper often in a heaving fashion. I might get the dry heaves for a while when nothing will come out. And then once again, there is a rampaging outpour that leaves you dizzy, wiping your lips and wanting to lay your head down on something cool.
Today I wrote about 3,000 words or so. Looking back over it, I’m not sure how much of it will end up in the final cut of the novel, but I don’t feel as though I’ve wasted any of my time there. What ended up on paper was what I needed to see in terms of some character tension and development, and some factoids that will come in handy when I get further into the story. In a lot of ways, the vomit draft is when I pour out every little tiny thing that comes through my mind, and that means that if I go back to it later, it’s all laid out there. It might not be that neat or organized, but it’s there for my reference if nothing else.
I often feel like the first draft of any piece is really the author telling the story to him or herself. It’s in the revision process that we translate what came out the first time into something that others can read and truly understand, usually in a way much more succinct and impactful than it came across in the first draft. This is, I believe, what separates great writing from mediocre or poor writing. The ability to take a vomit draft and polish it up so it looks suitable to be ingested by others.
Gross, I know. But also true.
I try to make my vomit drafts as good as possible — which is to say that I do pay attention to mechanics and those little writing tics that always end up on the cutting block (excessive adverbs, repetitions, awkward sentence structure, etc.) — mainly because it saves time in the long haul. However, it’s still very much a first draft.
I’m quite fond of my vomit drafts. I always save them. No matter where a story ends up, I always enjoy seeing where it began.
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