Vomit Drafting

Sometimes you don’t know what you want to say, and all the organizing tricks fail you. You need a VOMIT DRAFT. You just type whatever falls out of your fingers. Don’t worry about clarity, don’t worry about spelling, don’t even type sentences. Just type away. Some people turn off the screen, and just let things gush out. Keep that up until you run out of steam. Stop, print whatever you’ve got, and take a long break.

When you come back, there will be ideas on those pages, unformed and ragged, but ideas. You’ll see what your head was thinking.

Roy Clark uses this method to organize stories. He types two screenfuls of junk, prints it out, and uses a marker to circle useful things. I’ve watched him do this, and he mumbles, “Oh, that’s good,” and “Gee, I didn’t know I think that.”

Sounds slow and bizarre, doesn’t it? But not for some people. Idiosyncrasy is good when it works.

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Published in: on January 1, 2009 at 7:48 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I sure do like the concept. Might want to say that this kind of thing doesnt necessarily come at the time of sitting at a keyboard — can occur at any time — therefore, be ready — write it on a scrap of paper, type it in your phone, BlackBerry, etc). The title grabbed me — but I wasnt completely sure that I liked it –to have it forever referred to as “Fry’s vomit” makes me wonder if for posterity, some other phrase — like “dont think about it…”

  2. Being a squeamish reader, I don’t like the reference to vomit. It squeams me. Instead of a physiological reference, maybe a psychological one might be better tolerated by those without intestinal fortitude: manic drafting? maniacal drafting? madman drafting? son of sam drafting?

    And who is Roy Clark?

  3. Yeah, who the hell IS that Roy Clark guy anyway?

    This makes perfect sense of course, especially if it is part of a larger discussion about drafting stories. As you know, many journalists spend half of their writing time trying to come up with the perfect lead. They do it in part because of the stupid but commonplace advice that if you can get the lead right, the rest of the story will flow from it. And because they think they have to get the lead right to craft the rest of it. This is now way to write. What do you write first A vomit draft, perhaps. Or, if you do have an idea what you want to say, a focus statment or nutgraph. Or, if you are writing a narrative, why not write the ending first so you know where you are going. Or if it’s a profiled, why not just type up the main observations and quotes that gave you the most insight into character.
    What writers need to hear, I think, is there is no correct order in which you approach the sections of a story.


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