The Captain Jack Sparrow Method for First Drafts

by Emily Wenstrom | 37 comments

Getting through that first draft is one of the toughest part of writing—and one of the most important.

I’ve often felt while drafting that I’m not so much writing as much as I am weathering my way through it. No matter how carefully I set my sails, there’s inevitably a change in the wind at some point, and my story drifts off on some unchartered path.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re going to wing it in unknown waters, you better have a few tricks up your sleeve. Who better to take tips from than a the ultimate pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow?

Here’s four of his best tips to navigating the high seas to help you navigate your way through a first draft.

Photo by Ross Elliot

Photo by Ross Elliot

1. The rules are more like guidelines

It’s important to know the rules of the craft—but it’s also important to know when it’s okay to break them. Just like in Captain Jack Sparrow’s world, they’re really more like guidelines.

The truth is, your story is a wild and roguish thing. There’s really nothing to do but let it be the story it is. Don’t inhibit yourself on a first draft! Go ahead and see where it leads you, mate.

2. Improvise as needed

Once you let your story lead you where it wishes, you may find yourself (or, rather, your characters) in situations you didn’t plan for. No amount of outlining can save you now—and that’s okay. Like life, your plot is bound to have some twists to it.

Follow Jack’s example and just go with it. Let it be unruly, love. That’s exactly what first drafts are for.

3. All that matters is what you can do and what you can not do.

You can set aside a little time each morning to do a little writing. You can’t function properly after passing on sleep to binge-write three nights in a row.

You can outline before you start drafting. You can’t foresee every detail of what your characters might develop into as you get them on the page, and the ways those little details might turn into big changes in your story.

Surprises are bound to pop up. Do what you can do, and accept what you can’t. Give yourself and your story a little breathing room. Savvy?

4. Or was that the plan all along?

No matter how many times Captain Jack Sparrow encounters unexpected twists (or changes sides), he eventually ties it all up so neatly that you start to wonder if he somehow had this elaborate plan in mind all along.

That’s how a reader should feel at the end of your book. Take the time to tie all your plot threads up in a nice neat bow, and no one will ever know all the trouble it caused you to get there.

Getting through a first draft can leave you feeling lost and desolate. But keep your spirits up! Follow wherever the winds may take you, and Captain Jack Sparrow’s tips are sure to keep your draft on a steady path.

And if all else fails, a little rum never hurt anyone, either.

What’s your biggest first-draft struggle? What tips do you have for getting through it?

PRACTICE

Take 15 minutes and start to draft a story. As you do so, put on your pirate hat and apply Captain Jack Sparrow’s roguish attitude to your drafting. Then, post your unruly and wild works in the comments.

How to Write Like Louise PennyWant to write like Louise Penny? Join our new class and learn how. Learn more and sign up here.

Join Class

Next LIVE lesson is coming up soon!

By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, a sci-fi and fantasy author whose first novel Mud will release in March 2016.

37 Comments

  1. EdieMelson

    Love these!

    Reply
  2. Susan Smith-Grier

    First, thanks Emily! This was a great post. Now I’m going to have to watch one of his movies tonight! I needed your post to get me through my last ten thousand word of Camp NaNoWriMo! What an inspiration! So here’s my practice – not connected with my NaNo project!

    Jenny hoisted up the last bag of groceries from the back seat and a flash of familiar blue caught her eye. She peered over the hood of the car and saw a beautiful blue cashmere sweater go by on a short, chunky blonde. The blonde smiled and gave a little wave as she passed by. “What the…” Jenny began soundlessly, then smiled weakly as the blonde continued past.

    “Carson!” Jenny yelled as she stomped into the house carrying her load of groceries. “CARSON ANGELICA SCHMIDT!! GET DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW!!” She threw the groceries on the counter forgetting that one bag held a carton of 18 eggs. “CARSON!!”

    “I’m commin’, I’m commin’ I’m commin’,” yelled Carson as she scrambled down the steps nearly wiping out on the landing. “What’s wrong Mom?! What happened?” Carson breathlessly slid into the kitchen expecting to see some kind of disaster.

    “That’s what I’d like to know Carson,” said Jenny. Her voice was calm and quiet now. Too calm and too quiet. Carson knew by this particular tone that she was in deep trouble. She scanned her mind to see what possible transgression she had committed to warrant this level of anger from her mother. Dishes? Done and put away. Floor? Scrubbed and smelling fresh. Dog? Walked, pooper scooped and penned in the back yard. Fish? Fed and tank cleaned. Clothes? Washed, folded and put away. Homework? Well, almost done, but that didn’t seem a likely cause for this much anger.

    “I saw your blue sweater just now.” Jenney eyes were lit with fire. The fire that only an angry mother can muster up when one of her children crosses a line.

    “What blue swea…” Carson started to ask, then, “Oh, that one. But Mom…”

    “Don’t even try with me Carson. I’ve told you before I’m not clothing the neighborhood children! I’m tired of seeing your clothes on the backs of other people’s kids.” Jenny pointed at Carson and then indicated the rest of the world with her thumb.

    “But…”

    Jenny threw up her hand in Carson’s face and shook her head. “We’ll talk about it later,” was all she said as she started putting the groceries away. And there went the eyebrow. Now Carson knew for sure this was not going to end well.

    Reply
    • Emily Wenstrom

      Good luck with the rest of your NaNoWriMo project!

    • Susan Smith-Grier

      I made it! my goal was 35K and I did just a little over that. Had a ball with my cabin mates – people from all over the world. I highly recommend NaNoWriMo Camps for fun and practice. It’s a great experience and “winning” is such an ego boost!

    • Alisha Joy

      Good start with that flash of blue

    • Susan Smith-Grier

      Thanks Alisha. Beginnings are always hard for me. The lesson about the first sentence and paragraph being the most important really sticks in my mind!

  3. Alisha Joy

    Abel is particular about how she gets tucked in. Her arms need to be under the quilt but over the sheet and the blankets need to be pulled up to her chin and her pillow needs to be fluffed. She will only wear pajama pants that aren’t too tight with and a t-shirt or tank top that isn’t too scratchy. Nightgowns and long sleeved shirts have been deemed too “tangly” to even consider.

    “Mommy what about my story?” Abel asks just as Anais finishes getting the blankets just right.

    “Not tonight, okay? I just got you all tucked in.”

    Abel sits up, undoing what had so carefully done, “please mommy. Just one?”

    Too tired to argue Anais sighs and climbs into her daughter’s bed, “Okay, but just one,” she warns, “now scoot, you’re hogging all the covers.”

    Anais randomly plucks a book off of the girls cluttered headboard, Wacky Wednesday. Abel giggles and nestles in close to Anais’s side. “Wacky Wednesday,” she squeals, eagerly reaching for the book. She flips open the front cover and places a paint chipped fingernail under a row of blocky type, following the path to a crooked name written in orange crayon. Anais adds, cut Abel’s fingernails to her mental list. She could repaint them too, maybe tomorrow they could take a walk to Walgreens and buy a new color, that would be fun, she thinks and almost says it aloud, but stops herself, not wanting to make any more promises she might not keep.

    “Mommy, did you write that?”

    “Honey, you know I did.”

    “How old were you?”

    “Baby, mommies tired. Let’s just read the book,” Anais says, turning the page.

    “I’ll read it to you so you can rest,” Abel says. She begins to recite the book from memory, carefully pointing out the wackiness along the way.

    “Mommy you aren’t helping,” Abel whines a few pages in.

    “Look how good your doing all by yourself. You’re getting so big, you don’t need my help anymore,” Anais says, “I can’t believe my Aby-Baby is about to start kindergarten,” she adds using the nickname Able had long ago grown out of.

    Abel gins and caulks her head to the side, obviously waiting to hear more.

    “Don’t go! I’ll miss you too much!” Anais cries playfully, hugging Abel tight.

    “Mommy I can’t breathe,” Abel giggles as she wiggles out of Anais’s arms, “You just want me to be a baby forever.”

    The thought of that twists Anais’s stomach into knots, “no honey, I don’t want that,” Anais says planting a kiss on Abel’s cheek, “Guess what?”

    “What?”

    “I love you, that’s what.”

    Abel returns her attention to the book and Anais tries to ease herself back into the moment but the image of Abel being a baby forever has already knocked her into a darker pace.

    It’s a strange thing, almost loosing a baby you didn’t want, something you never forget or ever fully recover from.

    ~~~

    She had been tired then too, after eight hour of labor—each push punctuated with an internal scream, “I don’t want this baby.” When it was done, she had just wanted to sleep, to forget … but a stern nurse hadn’t let her. With a huff of open disapproval the woman had unceremoniously thrust a tightly wrapped bundle into Anais’s arms.

    Anais had held the baby because she had to but she hadn’t acknowledged the child in any way. She hadn’t even looked at her.

    “That babies is going to need to eat soon,” the nurse had said, before stomping out of the room—leaving Anais alone with her accident.

    She must have drifted off to sleep then, because the next thing she remembers is opening her eyes and seeing a nurse, not the nurse from before, but a younger softer nurse, vigorously rubbing the back and arms of a naked infant. The baby’s skin was tinted a beautiful and horrifying shade of pastel blue.

    Anais remembers glancing down at her own arms, not out of concern but because she was curious to see what color a babies skin was suppose to be. She had been surprised to find her arms empty. But she still hadn’t been alarmed… not yet. There was this odd moment of blissful ignorance—a casual thought, “hmm, I wonder where they took my baby?” And then the moment of realization—a backhanded slap that had knocked her smack dab into the center of reality.

    And in the blink of an eye, her accident had become her world. If someone had walked into the room at that moment and asked her to trade her life for her daughters, she would have … in a heartbeat. But no one asked her. So she had been forced to hover helplessly in limbo somewhere between heaven and hell as she watched an expressionless nurse attempt to rub life and color back into her daughter’s tiny body.

    Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. The word marched through her mind, a mind crowded with regret … so many regrets … way too many for a girl who had only been a mother for a few hours. Breathe—she hadn’t kissed her daughter’s skin—breathe—or touched her face—breathe—or fed her or changed her diaper—breathe—or given her a name.

    That last thought hit hard. Anais will never forget the feeling of raw panic it had caused her; her daughter didn’t have a name. How could her baby fight her way back to life when she wasn’t even a person yet; when she was just some nameless infant—baby jane doe

    What she had done next, had been wildly irrational but at the time it had seemed so necessary. Anais had jumped from the bed and grabbed the nurses arm, screaming at her to stop, “Wait, I haven’t named her yet, please, wait, she needs a name. She won’t be able to breath without a name!”

    More people had come in the room then, people with carts and equipment and an incubator. Some one had wrapped their arms around her and drug her back to the bed. She had screamed the words again and again, “she needs a name; she won’t be able to breath without a name!”

    She had been so certain, but she had been wrong. Her nameless daughter had been able to find her breath after all. Color had poured into her skin as air poured into her lungs. And Anais had realized the girl had had a name all long; she was Abel, able to breath, able to fight, able to do anything despite her mother’s faults.

    Reply
    • Susan Smith-Grier

      Well done Alisha Joy! I liked this very much.

    • Sandra

      wow, very nice.

    • Emily Wenstrom

      I really love your first line, so engaging.

    • Alisha Joy

      evocative, had to look that one up. =) Thank you very much Denise and I have now added a powerful scrabble word to my repertoire

  4. Chloee

    I walked down the
    cobble brick roads of London towards my home. The night sky twinkling with
    stars like diamonds and the moon shone like a fire in the sky setting off
    looming shadows that toyed with my imagination. Though it was summer there was
    a cool breeze blowing my red hair back.

    I stared off into the distance and waited on
    the street corner the street light causing me to have a more intimidating
    shadow then what I felt inside I had always like the night but now it felt
    different as though I was a mouse about to be caught by a cat. I dug into my
    pockets in a nervous manner waiting for the street light to change to walk.

    Suddenly a tall dark
    figure stepped in front of me. A scarf covered his face making me unable to see
    him. “CJ?” A deep voice echoed from him. I took my earplugs out and
    look at him my cellphone in one hand. “Yes?” I said a bit uneasy.

    “My name’s Tom Masen
    and you need to come with me.” “I don’t know you.” “But
    I know you.” Okay this guy was now creeping me out. “How’s that supposed
    to make me feel better?” I said while looking for a way to get away from
    him.

    “There’s now time to bicker we
    must go.” He grabbed my arm and began to drag me. “Stranger
    Danger!” I yelled slapping him in the face knocking his scarf to fall off.
    His chocolate brown hair fell in front of his face but his hazel eyes cast a
    spooky glow almost on his right eye was a jagged scar. He quickly covered it
    up. “Goodnight.” He covered my mouth in a rag. My screams were muffled
    causing me to inhale. My eye lips slid closed. “Sleep tight.”

    Reply
    • Sandra

      nice story so far. raises a lot of questions quickly.

    • Emily Wenstrom

      An early twist. Intriguing.

    • Alisha Joy

      Yikes! Loved the “stranger danger” line.

  5. Jevon Knights

    Brilliant, and I totally agree. During my first draft, there were times when it felt like my characters were deviating from the plan all on their own, and other times I wrote a scene only to realized my character would never do that.

    But while I like everything tied up neatly at the end of a story, I’ve heard there are people who actually like loose ends, something to make the think about.

    Reply
    • Emily Wenstrom

      That’s a good point about loose ends, Jevon. Food for thought.

  6. Julie Stock

    I’m on my second novel and this is absolutely my experience, except that I feel guilty for not having followed my outline to the letter. So now I feel better because Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, swoon) says it’s okay 😉

    Reply
    • Emily Wenstrom

      Yes! I’m a strict believer in letting your art inspire you as you work!

  7. Tea, the Spirit, and a Pen

    I love this! I completely agree. My biggest problem was that I had not set a deadline for myself so I had the mentality that I could finish at any time. Once that date was set I had it done! Now I can start the revising process!

    Reply
    • Emily Wenstrom

      Smart thinking, Tea. I operate best on deadlines too.

  8. Sandra

    man figits with his clothes before a party where he is going to be a speaker. His coffee spills all over the kitchen floor. He calls out angrily to Martha the maid that there has been a problem and points to the coffee spill. She has an irritated look at him as she kneels on the floor.

    He get’s into his car and turns it on, and his cars goes off. As he get’s into the heart of the city cruising down the highway, the sky a bleak white color begins to rain heavily. He has to make a sharp stop as the cars ahead of him are stopped just as quickly.

    His papers spill out of his notebook, getting scattered over the car floor.

    Shit he says. The cars even out soon though and he is back to driving again. And there is his turn and he pulls in to a very large building.

    He walks into the hall entrance, people are busily walking in every direction.

    Then two college age girls smile and wave.

    He nods his head confirmatively.

    He goes into a room where thousands are seated. The room is round shaped, with one large center aisle and smaller aisles at quarter points.

    The lights have already dimmed as he makes his way to a seat. A speaker up front has a high hairline and a somewhat rounded waistline. He is wearing a sweater vest, and khaki slacks.

    Let’s give a proud welcome to our featured guest this evening. The man that will bring us Mars, Cris Amps.

    The sound of a gentle roll of claps fills the room. He walks up through the middle aisle.

    “Thank you everyone. It’s good to be here.” He clears his throat. “I’m Cris Amps. We have known for a very long time that Mars has had water and also bacteria on it. The bugs were covered up by the FBI for a long time. But they finally let that one go and now it is out in the open. Mars can sustain life. The question for us as people is are we going to take advantage of that? Our home still sustains life for now. But Scientists have been alarmed for a while. And yes everyone knows there are certain groups who have done a majority of the damage, but we also know that they won’t take accountability or stop. Those negative forces are here to stay whether we want them or not.” There are angry murmers in the crowd. “People are scared right now. But we have to consider it may be time to expand out. But then I know the fear. Like who is going to agree to be the first to leave and start the new colonies?” His hands start to tremble.

    “But this can be more than just a fear, we can take this in our hands and see the opportunities for our people. The dawning of a new day is here, and we can do something different this time. We have been through a lot. Wars, famines, recessions. But now we have to have a new chance. ”

    His eyes look strained as though he had more words to say but can’t bring up out of himself.

    He falls on the floor. Blood drips out his nose.

    There is a chorus of gasps from all over the great room.

    And a couple of people who are doctors run up to the front checking his vitals, looking under his eyelids. An ambulance a few minutes later comes up and the man is swooped onto a carrier and taken to the hospital vehicle and the ambulance then rushes away.

    At the hospital, he awakens, he is holding a piece of red string from his pocket. He clutches it to him and a tear is sliding down his face.

    When the doctors come in, he wipes it away and shoves the string back into his pocket.

    Reply
    • Emily Wenstrom

      Thanks for sharing, I’m hooked.

  9. TheCody

    I had an idea of a decent priest struggling with faith. I’ve finally written something… It’s gonna change a LOT but here’s my quick start:

    Father Smith tuned out as Mrs. Todd spilled her guts in the confessional. He’s tried every tactic he could think of not to listen anymore. He’s replayed old episodes of Walker: Texas Ranger in his head, practiced multiplying two digits by two digits, and even pictured some of the older ladies (who always sat piously in the front) in ridiculously old and saggy bras.

    He wasn’t trying to be improper or rude. And he was certain Mrs. Todd deserved a better confessor than himself. But he couldn’t listen to peoples’ sins anymore. He was supposed to be the conduit for her misdeeds, God and Mrs. Todd being the two endpoints. But he didn’t believe in one of the endpoints anymore. Her sins were bottlenecking at him and he couldn’t do anything for her. And, becoming the new endpoint, he felt like a gossipy old woman tuning in to neighborhood stories.

    Father nodded once when Mrs. Todd paused, letting her know he was listening and that it was OK to continue. What he was really doing was composing the next morning’s homily in his head. That was one part he still loved. God didn’t have to exist to spread decency. And bettering himself – regardless of who was or wasn’t watching – was something he still firmly believed in. That need had actually become stronger in him once he stopped believing, the need to do good filling the empty hole in his body.

    Mrs. Todd paused again and, again, Father Smith nodded at her to continue. She tilted her head at him like a confused dog.

    “Well?” she said.

    Father pursed his lips. He had no idea what she was talking about, but she wanted his input. This happened sometimes, and he wasn’t too worried. He simply folded his hands, bringing his index fingers to his mouth, as if thinking. Then he rocked back and forth in his chair a couple times.

    “OK. I want you to say a quick prayer asking God for what you want.”

    He cringed at his own words, but felt it was better than listening to information not meant for him.

    Mrs. Todd nodded and apologized, as if she should have known all along what to do. Rubbing her hands on her pants, she said, “Dear Lord, please guide me on what to do. As I just said, I had relations with Deacon Thomas.”

    Father Smith’s elbows banged into the armrests of his seat as he sat up in his chair.

    Mrs. Todd’s eyes grew wide with embarrassed surprise.

    Father held his breath with his mouth open, forming a perfectly round “O”. Deacon Thomas’s wife was sick from chemotherapy.

    “Remember, you can’t say anything about this to anyone,” said Mrs. Todd.

    Father Smith exhaled a quick staccato of breaths and folded his hand in his lap. “Of course,” he said, calmly. Inside, his bones trembled with rage. This was why he didn’t want to hear peoples’ dirty laundry. And, worse, he was bound by an oath he didn’t believe in anymore to keep quiet. It didn’t matter that Lauren Thomas was falling apart, both physically and emotionally. Because he was only a conduit, all matters were to remain confidential. And he was helpless to intervene in the method he wanted, which was to go straight to his deacon and tell her that Mrs. Todd was bipolar and that Mrs. Todd had once faked infertility to get pregnant and that Mrs. Todd was interested in money.

    “I know it’s wrong,” added Mrs. Todd. “But I want him to leave her.”

    Reply
  10. Lisa Monks

    PLAYERS
    A 40 year old woman finds herself single and fumbling at every pass, when she ends up dating an endless parade of famous sports players, liars, and thieves.

    What if I don’t make it, pull it together
    Lilly, I said to myself. I can’t afford to miss this. And I can’t risk being pulled
    over. I can’t believe I slept in, I never sleep through my alarm. I don’t even
    miss a hair appointment never mind something as important as this. I was
    speeding down the highway out of control, weaving in and out of traffic. I had
    to make it into the city. My whole body was shaking as I was driving. I tried
    to dig through my purse for some Tylenol, but gave up when I almost swerved
    into the next lane. Fuck! Why is everything so difficult? One by one, I had
    picked up and whipped the entire contents of my purse onto the car floor as I
    frantically dug through it for some fucking Tylenol, but I still had not found
    any. I looked up and noticed it was my exit, reeled my car over into the far
    right lane and pulled onto the Allen Rd. Expressway southbound ramp; there was
    no time to stop. Holding in my urge to vomit, and cry I raced through the city
    streets of Toronto to make it to this appointment. I was terrified that I was
    going to be late. I didn’t know if they’d still take me if I was late. I felt so
    sick I could barely focus on the road. Thank God, it was spring and I didn’t
    have a snow storm to contend with. I had to make it there; I could not stand to
    live another week feeling like this. Do other grown women get themselves in
    this predicament, or was I a special kind of fuck up. My mom would be so
    disappointed if she knew. Hell never mind her judgment, I was disappointed in
    myself. Were extremely long periods of loneliness a legitimate excuse for such
    reckless behavior? I believed it was. I was starting to believe I was the only
    person in the world that would accept that excuse, or even understand it. Does
    anyone else feel the way I feel about being alone for years? Am I the only one
    making bad decisions due to loneliness? I am referring mostly to decisions made
    while intoxicated of course. When I reached downtown I looked for the closest
    parking lot, parked my car, flung open the door and threw up on the pavement.
    It was embarrassing and humiliating, even without a single soul in sight. I
    felt like a low life. I rummaged through my glove box emptying most of its
    contents onto the floor, now I had an even bigger mess to clean up, as much as
    it bugged me to leave it there, I would have to deal with that later. I had
    more pressing issues to attend to. Finally, I found some napkins, courtesy of
    Starbucks, wiped my mouth then quickly headed towards the drab grey colored building.
    I pushed the buzzer. After a brief moment, a women’s voice with a strong nasal
    pitch came through on the tiny intercom. ‘Name?’ asked the voice. My head was pounding which made the sound of
    her voice ring through my ears like nails on a chalkboard.

    While gagging back the remaining
    bile in my stomach, and fighting the overpowering urge to vomit yet again, I managed
    to reply, “Lily Monroe.” Instantly I heard the loud noise of a buzzer all around me. It was
    comforting to know this institution was just as hard to get into as a maximum-security
    prison.

    Once inside I tried my
    best to maintain eye contact with the floor to hide my feelings of shame. As I
    looked up, I quickly matched up the nasal voice to a gloomy looking
    receptionist. She was in her late fifties with large
    rimmed glasses and short, tight curly grey hair. She looked like one of those frighteningly
    stern nurses you’d see in a black and white horror film, which seemed fitting
    given the circumstances I was in. She handed me
    forms to fill out and I slowly made my way into the waiting area, and sat down.
    I couldn’t believe how ill I felt.

    There was a question on
    the form that I had to answer about my certainty going through with this
    procedure. As horrible as this sounds, I wrote, I’m so sick and I can’t wait to
    get this over with. Not only did the famous athlete I was with not want this,
    neither did I.

    I felt even more sure of this decision
    because it was making me so sick I couldn’t function as a human being. I
    couldn’t work. I had to support myself. I had bills to pay. I had no choice.

    Sure, after I gave birth, took a DNA test,
    and fought for child support I’d be set for life, but that’s not the kind of
    person I was. Over the three years that we were together, he made it quite clear
    that he was not ready for another child. I never saw or heard from him again after
    I told him my news. I didn’t want that for my child or myself. I had no doubt in my mind that this was the
    right thing to do. I had to terminate this pregnancy.

    It’s the worst experience to share with a
    room full of strangers even though we were all in the same situation. No one wanted
    to look at anyone. The feelings of shame, guilt, and uncertainty were palpable
    in the air. I tried not to look around the room out of respect for personal privacy,
    I couldn’t help but notice everyone had someone with them except me.

    As I
    sat in the waiting room with my hands over my mouth, the urge to vomit never
    went away, not even for one second. The receptionist kept looking over at me. I
    thought to myself she must have seen this type of thing before

    Reply
  11. Simon Lenthen

    Thanks for the post. I had just overcome a writer’s block during my first novel. My MC was supposed to get an item out of a display case and somehow get into a shark enclosure in an aquarium. I lost faith in the story’s ability to get there and ruminated for some weeks over what to do. It wasn’t until this morning that I said, let the story reveal itself to me and that gave me permission to improvise. I found my solution. Here is an extract…. (since this is a first draft, its riddled with spelling mistakes and poor grammar, I never stop to correct a first draft)

    “My daughter still has the fire and impatience of youth.” stated the Ambassador. I however, like to take my time. Unfortunately, that is something I lack. Mr Wall, as you probably know, is a (insert speicies here) that means he’s strong, frightfully strong. He also answers to me. Do you see that he’s holding Ms Curate? Well, lets say everybody is going to leave this acquarium with something, or not. Your friends might get to leave with relatively fewer bruises, or not. Ms Curate will leave wth a broken neck, or not. You will leave with your life, or not. I want what’s in this box.” The ambassador motioned to the box which contained the grey god shark artifact, the large shark’s tooth.

    Charlotte and the rest of the ambassador’s soldiers started pushing the others out of the room. Ms Curate struggled within Kubrick Wall’s grip. Ambassador Looms motioned Winslow to join him at the shark tooth display case.

    “Mr Taker,” said the ambassador, “The shark’s tooth in that case, pull it out.”

    Winslow stared at the Ambassador. I shouldn’t be doing this. Images of the shark from the book in the bookshop flashed in his mind and intermingled with the old man and the mermaid. Realisation blossomed in Winslow. He turned to stare at the tooth. What do I do with you? A voice drifted into his thoughts. “Help me.” He looked up at Ms Curate. Mr Wall’s grip was firm and unshakeable, but Ms Curate still tried to struggle.

    “I need a spry bar. The whole mechanism needs to be decalibrated.” Winslow said to the Ambassador. The ambassador shrugged. “Sorry Mr Taker, I have no spry bar.”

    “Then I can’t get the tooth out!”

    The ambassador laughed. “So says the man who broke into the vault of Heaven and stole the Scepter, plunging my country into a long and bloody civil war! If you can break a country, you can break a glass box!”

    The amabassador was red in the face. He glared angrily at Winslow. “The tooth, now!”

    Winslow thought for a few minutes. “Why? Why do you need the tooth?” The ambassador did not reply. He stood there with an angry look on his face, his arms crossed. Winlsow turned to the display case. It was obviously jostled because the alarms were blaring. The ambassador’s men must have rocked the case hoping the vibrations may shake the tooth enough for it to crack the glass. He looked closely at the tooth. It was askew on the platform, and it gleamed. Then he heard the voice whisper “Help me” again. It sounded like it was coming from the ambassador. He looked up at the ambassador who was still glaring at him. Behind him, the aqaurium was dark. But a vague shape formed a grey smudge against the glass. The shape had small lines running across it and small pockmarks on those lines. It almost looked like the bar of music. Winslow had studied music in order to steal a lyre, and also to bring down a crystal snake. He hummed the tune suggested by the markings on the grey patch. It sounded vaguely familiar. He had heard the tune before. Something was tugging at his memory.

    He turned back to the display case. The tooth had somehow shifted. It was closer to him than before. At first Winslow felth that it was odd that that had happened. Nobody had jostled the case, yet the tooth had moved. He stopped to think.

    “Every moment you delay, Mr Taker,” started the Ambassador. “I need to think.” said Winslow curtly. He ran through his memory of what had happened immeadiately before the movement. The only thing that stood out was that he turned to look at Ambassador Looms in order to ascertain where the voice had come from. He had looked up and stared at the ambassador and then noticed the markings on the fish pressed against the window. The markings! Staring intently at the tooth he hummed the tune, the tooth shifted towards Winslow.

    The Ambassador gasped. “What are you doing?” he said as he leaned closer to the display case. “The tune, it’s attracting the tooth.” said Winslow, more to himself than the Ambassador. “How did you learn that tune?” demanded the Ambassador. This made Winslow look up. “Do you know the tune?” he asked. “No!” denied the Ambassador with a blush. “Do you want the tooth?” asked Winslow. “Of course.” snapped the Amabassador.

    Winslow whistled the tune to the tooth. The tooth remained stationery. So it was voice activated. Winslow hummed to the tooth. It slid towards him and clunked against the glass. He hung the tune again and added a few extra bars, bars he had heard the mermaid singing in the hallway of the Registry of Names. The tooth rotated until the sharpest point was against the glass. Winslow felt the song possess his mouth and he began singing the words, calling the tooth to him. The tooth pushed against the glass. The Ambassador gasped again. Winslow kept singing, listening to the words he sung, he recognised them as Ancient Yoredi. THe tooth pulled back and jerked into the glass, a spiderweb crack appeared and as Winslow sung the glass shattered. The tooth slammed into Winslow with such a great force that it lifted Winslow off the floor and into the acquarium wall. The ambassador ran after him yelling “the tooth, quicjly, give me the tooth!” Winslow could not stop singing. In his mind he saw images of a mermaid, an old man, a shark filled with utter despair. Suddenly a grey glow surrounded everything. Winslow was pressed into the glass of the acquarium, then with a suddeness that dismayed him, Winslow was dragged through the glass and into the dark water of the tank. The Ambassador appeared on the other side and started banging on the glass. He was shouting at Winslow but the water was muffling the sound to make it unintelligible.

    The song released Winslow, and Winslow started panicking. He was underwater without a breathing apparatus, he started swimming upwards, but the tooth felt so heavy, so he dropped it. The tooth floated back into his hands. “Help me.” said the voice again, behind him still. He turned to face the voice, but all he could see was a cave. Walking awkwardly across the bottom of the tank, Winslow called out “who’s there”. Water flooded into his mouth. Winslow cursed his lack of thought, he clamped his mouth shut to stop the water from drowning him. He started coughing and more water rushed in. He felt an itching sensation at the base of his neck. This is it, he thought. This is how I die.

    Reply
    • Emily Wenstrom

      Nice work, Simon, way to keep at it.

    • Susan Smith-Grier

      So, Simon, when is your book coming out? Let me know if you need any beta readers!! I was totally into it. I definitely would like to read the work in its entirety. Excellent!!

    • Simon Lenthen

      Thanks Susan, I will get in touch with you as soon as the first draft is finished.

    • Susan Smith-Grier

      Awesome! I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

  12. Dawn Atkin

    I’ve just finished the first draft of my first novel (woo hoo!).
    Thought I’d drop you a link to a blog post that records the moment half way through. I think it covers all the ‘Jack Sparrows’. :-). The biggest struggle is to keep on going. I had to let things cogitate at different times, but I kept on writing to the end.
    Link below if you’re interested. That’s for the great post Emily.

    http://www.dawnyspace.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/welling-up.html

    Reply
    • Susan Smith-Grier

      Hi Dawn! Had to check out your post…it was very timely for me! Excellent post and congratulations on your first draft. Last night as I headed into the last stretch of a 35K word goal I wanted to just quit, but didn’t. It was grueling, but I saw it through. And now I can say I’m a truly happy camper!

    • Dawn Atkin

      Well done.
      It’s cool reaching that goal. I’m still intrigued with the way story just carries itself into surprising little twists and turns of tale.
      Keep up the good work….and keep in touch.

  13. winter bayne

    Passive voice is what I struggle with right now. When I use it, my sentences become very simplified. The combo of varying sentence structure and active voice is frustrating me right now. I spent a life time doing journalism and business writing. It’ll take a while to get it out of my system and the transition is not pretty or painless.

    Reply
  14. Matt Ohashi

    I used to have this outlandish fear of driving, I was always afraid of flying off a cliff or driving into a fireworks factory. I would make ridiculous excuses like those to avoid practicing for my drivers test; it was a way to preserve my weirdness and live comfortably in my fear. Then something totally outrageous happened, I was invited to participate in the GGGP. The GGGP, or the Galaxy Gate Gran Prix, is the most celebrated racing tournament in the Universe. Only the best of the best get to race, so why was I chosen to participate? Well, there was something hidden inside of me that was more powerful than my fear of driving, it was my passion for speed.

    I never knew about it since I’d always stay home and play video games. It was only when my friend invited me to a street race that my passion awoke. My friend, Reilly Lavender, is a three time champion of the GGGP. She is a racing prodigy without a lick of fear within her. On the night of the street race she forced me to be her passenger for the ride. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Once the race began, I had a total panic attack. Her driving was insane, drifting around corners, dodging sideswipes from the other racers; I almost fainted.

    Suddenly I had a shocking revelation. When we traveled down the last stretch of the race, a long straightaway, my heart dropped. Not in fear, but in pure excitement. She activated her speed boost and flew down the track. I felt like time slowed down, as if that feeling of speed was the epitome of life itself. Once we passed the finish line I was out of breath; the whole experience was pure and utter bliss. A week later I took my drivers test and failed horribly. I was driving like a maniac, but I didn’t care. That sense of speed was necessary for my survival. Even though I failed, I still got the invitation. The letter stated that having a driver’s license wasn’t necessary as long as I had approval from the Intergalactic Racing Association. Now, with a brand new car and a newfound lust for speed, I set off to the GGGP preliminaries to shake the racing world to its core.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tips from Pirates- Taylor | Independent Seminar Blog - […] Wenstrom came up with a few from Captain Jack Sparrow in her post about writing first drafts on The…
  2. The Captain Jack Sparrow Method for First Drafts « Barn Town Children Books - […] https://thewritepractice.com/the-captain-jack-sparrow-method-for-first-drafts/ […]

Submit a Comment

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

Say Yes to Practice

Join over 450,000 readers who are saying YES to practice. You’ll also get a free copy of our eBook 14 Prompts:

Popular Resources

Books By Our Writers

Headspace
- J. D. Edwin
Under the Harvest Moon
- Tracie Provost
Box of Shards
- K.M. Hotzel
63
Share to...