What’s Your First Draft Like? – Alex J. Cavanaugh

alex-j-cavanaughI’m pleased to be able to introduce Alex J. Cavanaugh to the blog today to talk about his first draft process. As well as being a very persistent blogger with whom I have talked with for several years, he is the writer of science fiction books.

Alex  has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (ISWG). He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.



When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

I start brainstorming in my head. It might be months before I commit anything to paper. But I work out a lot of the story in my head first, letting it run past like a movie.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

Slow and steady? Is that a routine?

rough-draftPen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

I write the outline on paper first. After a while, I transfer to the computer. Once I’m happy with the outline, I start writing on the computer. Habit I picked up from NaNo. At any rate, I write as slow as I type, so it really doesn’t matter.


How important is research to you?

Probably not enough. I do some before I begin. But I learned with my last book that a lot of research sometimes doesn’t amount to anything. (Anyone want to know about sea kelp?)

How do you go about researching?

Google. Google knows everything.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

I copy and paste into a Word file, type it into Word, or make note of the song. (I’m a musician, so music plays a big part in my writing.)

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I hate writing the first draft. I’m all about the revisions phase. So I attack the first draft as fast as I can, just plowing through to the end.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

Water, Hot Tamales, and music. Sometimes the television is on. Muted, of course. That would be overkill…

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

I have to immerse myself completely, so I’m rather lost.

What does your workspace look like?

Uncluttered. Might not be neat, but I can’t stand cluttered.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

The only way I can get through that dratted first draft is to plow forward without looking back. Although I do slow down to ponder just the right words more often than I would like.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

I check that Word count every single day! I’m a lazy writer. I wouldn’t write anything if I didn’t have a daily word count goal.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

Usually about six weeks. Like I said, I hate writing the first draft, so I plow through it as quickly as possible. Fortunately, I also outline to death, so the first draft isn’t a huge mess when I’m done.

In what format do you like to read it through, e-reader, paper or the computer screen?

I like to print it out. I stare at a computer enough at work. I catch more that way.

What happens now that first draft is done?

Edit, edit, edit! After about a month or so, I let my two test readers read it. Then I edit another month. Then it’s off to the critique partners. Then more editing. When I can’t polish anymore and I start changing things back to the way they were in the first draft, I send it to my publisher. (Oh, and I don’t break it into chapters until I send it back to my publisher after their editor has tackled it. Yeah, weird, but that’s how I roll…)

Thanks for digging into that first draft, Alex.

You can find Alex on his Website | The ISWG | Twitter

Dragon of the Stars

dragon-of-the-stars-alex-j-cavanaughThe ship of legends…
The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. Poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.
But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?
One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?


14 thoughts on “What’s Your First Draft Like? – Alex J. Cavanaugh

  1. Great interview! I’m the same with first drafts – for me it’s a bit like ripping a plaster off, I close my eyes and do it as quickly as possible! 😉


  2. I sure wish I could write the draft in six weeks. I can spend that long on a single chapter sometimes, although I am getting better. Congratulations on the books, Alex. And thanks for the interview, Rebecca.


  3. Great to see Alex here. Loved reading about how he tackles his first draft. He was my inspiration in April-May when I wrote the first draft of my first YA novel. Though I took eight weeks, two weeks more than his usual six weeks 🙂


I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s