Monday, April 27, 2015

First Drafting

I did Nano once and I wrote 35,000 words and the only purpose it served was to show me that yes, I actually can write stuff in greater amounts than I’m used to. I will not be doing it again for two reasons:

1) I’ve already learned the bit about writing long stuff.
2) I hate writing long first drafts.

I don’t know how everyone else does it. Like, details and characters are so BORING and FLEETING the first time. I want to get to the END. I want all my ideas out, I want the plot there, I want to go BOOM BOOM BOOM and have a book.
Flickr Credit: Sue Clark

Not a publishable book, obviously. Just a skeleton. You can work with a skeleton—it’s hard to have a person be alive if they are missing all their body parts from the ribs down. (And I tend to get bored in the area of the ribs.)

(I sound like such a mean writer; I’m going to stop in and say that it’s totally okay if you like writing Nano-style and I applaud you if you can write long. But this is my story.)

So, I’m working out my own way of getting through first drafts.

Notebook Spawn, a WIP I’ve mentioned before, is over 60,000 words at this moment. If I take a look at my first draft, it was 15,340 words, including notes. I zoomed through the story with little regard for plot or characterization or sense-making. Through the magic of editing, I am working on something that is not perfect, but there’s more plot and characterization and sense-making than that first draft did.

I have done it again!

I wrote a new first draft over the last while, currently in the range of 16,000 words, which is the magical accountant story I also mentioned somewhere else. I thought it might be fun to share a few snippets just to show the attitude in which I write these things. Enjoy.

In which I change my mind about what just happened:

Bai eventually came back, and then there was silence until a low gurgle filled the enclave.
“Do you think Deuce will return at all?” Bai asked. “I’m hungry, and if we have to hunt, or steal—”
“Well actually I went with him so never mind,” said Silverhand.
Deuce returned with the food and tapped me back into reality.

In which modern slang replaces anything medieval-industrial: 

“King Noel went to the border last week,” he said. “He has been captured, and may be held for ransom. It super sucks.”

In which I make technology that does not exist appear:

We went, we crawled, we hid, and then we worked to make the phone call with the fairy I needed to see. The fairy who would make the prince safe at last.

In which the characters ruminate regarding the direction of the plot:

“We could maybe split up or something in the next draft and see where that goes since the setup for the illegal trade of drugs is really important in the next book when we all go to the East and Minty gets to enjoy playing with the black market due to the apartment rent ceiling present in my country.”
“Ah, yes,” said Silverhand. “Very important piece of the plot, but still a problem because who will stay and who will go?”

In which I didn’t feel like doing research:

“Oh, that happened to me all the time. Once I was so mad, I accidentally gave my sister tuberculosis (or some other weird coughing disease; look it up) and we panicked for days about whether or not she would make it until I could figure out how to send it away.”

In which I didn’t feel like writing an emotional breakup:

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s go.”
And so we went wee wee wee all the way home. Also, I learned that Deuce was vile and I didn’t want to feel anymore of his romantic advances.

In which I roughly summarize the queen:

She had been crying, clearly, but it hadn’t diminished her strength of face or the stuff that made her look badass and momish and a pretty darn good ruler of her kingdom.

In which the prince decides he’s completely done with this war stuff: 

“Well, we’ll find allies and crap later because I’m done with this situation for now,” Derren replied. “Let’s eat cheese balls. I’m hungry.”

There you go. Onto phase two: making it make more sense!

What do your first drafts look like?


  1. My first drafts are usually pretty short too--I just focus on hitting all the main points, but not much else. Second drafts are a bit better, but, to be honest, it usually takes me three or four drafts before I have something that isn't completely terrible.

    1. *nods* Well, that's the whole point of editing—for us to keep getting better and better with every draft! (And hey, it took me six drafts to be willing to show someone else my writing, so we all work at different speeds.)

  2. *chokes* Oh my GOODNESS. I think you could publish this directly as humour and still make it work.

    I actually draft really, really long. I'm going to look in my old files now ... my first complete first draft (huh, weird wording) was over 100K, the one you've seen was originally 75K. I tend to cut more than anything during the editing process. I think I'll try a sparser version come July for Camp NaNo, although what I really mean is "I'll write 50K because I can't write any faster and add the other 25-30K later".

    We'll see. But much food for thought and laughter here.

    1. XD I wish! Still, I do eventually like being able to draw out what I've written later. :)

      Wow. I have this constant process of trying to make everything longer and longer—I'm still working to the 70K mark on anything I've written! Still, that's very impressive on your part, and I hope you keep up the awesome work in that department!

      :) Thanks for laughing!

  3. I still love NaNo because it's so motivational, but most of my drafts are still skeletons even with NaNo. Most of my first drafts are already in the 50k range, but then I still must go back and layer more subplots, characterization, foreshadowing and so many other things onto the story for it to be complete. I've tried to layer in everything at once for the first draft, but it's never worked, so I must instead write multiple drafts.

    And these snippets are actually very funny. They perfectly sum up the drafting process!

    1. *nods* And that is why Nano is so popular, I think—I'm not the kind of person who gets motivated during that time frame, so it's just not my style. I'm glad it works for you, though! Writing in multiple drafts is more or less the best way to do it, in my opinion. (I mean, if there's someone who writes a perfect draft in one go I don't think I want to know that. That would depress me.)

      XD I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading. :)

  4. Ha! This is great - I'm not ashamed to admit that I laughed several times. You've got a really unique first-draft approach.

    I just kin of turn my charries loose and let them figure out the story for themselves in the first draft. Mine tend to be on the longer side - and yes, I do participate in NaNo and give myself outrageous goals. (Crimson Gods just hit 65k and I've got at least 10k more to go by the end of the month, yikes.) I just kind of throw everything into the first draft and sift through it later. But I will leave notes to myself in the text and it's always amusing to come back to them.

    1. Glad you laughed! "Unique" could probably be synonymous with "lazy" or maybe "impatient" but still, I like the way I work.

      That's impressive—I never really have a good emotional connection with my characters, so it's hard for me to set anybody loose because I'm more or less playing with strangers. Congrats on hitting the 65K mark! I'm sure you can hit that last 10K soon. :) Reading notes is quite amusing though, especially if you were asleep when you wrote them.

  5. I have to say I LOVE the idea of the characters themselves talking about the plot! That could actually work as an idea for a book! And the 'Also I learned that Deuce was vile' was hilarious- you can just feel your impatience to get to the next bit of the story. I've never had the motivation to write anything near as much as you have, to be honest I don't think I've ever completely finished a first draft of anything! At the moment I have loads of random story ideas and snippets of 'books' that I am going to 'write'... but I never actually do :/ Keep up the great work! :)

    1. Haha, that would actually be fun to write about. I think stories where the characters realize they're fictional are fun—Sophie's World would be an example. I was impatient there, yes. I think if my drafting style shows anything, it's that you can eventually work your way up from random ideas into something more significant. Thanks for reading, and I hope you can get into writing yourself!

  6. Those snippets made me laugh. :') but seriously, a magical accountant story?! Sounds like an interesting premise! I have to say I like your writing style, not too purple or flowery. :)

    (btw, I tagged you for something on my blog. I thought I should let you know!)

    1. XD Yay! I do love the magical accountant premise—although you shouldn't judge my writing too much on the messing-around bits, lol.

      Thanks for the tag! I'll check it out!

  7. Ha! I agree with Alyssa and Fionnula. You could totally make it work and publish something like this as humor. I'd read it! Anyway, good luck on your WIP(for lack of a better phrase. I'm sure luck has nothing to with anything regarding the writing process).

    1. XD We'll have to see—it would be fun, but I'm not sure I'd be able to pull it off. Thanks so much, Ally (and yeah, Otto would agree ^.^)

  8. Hahaha! I love how you put in placeholders! I tend to just put in red text-boxes telling me what I've dropped out, but your way sounds like WAY more fun. At some point it might be tempting to INTENTIONALLY write a book that way, stick a meaningful plot in it, and turn it into a comedy.

    1. It really is, although in that regard it becomes less and less fun as the placeholders go more and more away. It does sound interesting to intentionally write a book that way, but I don't think I'm the one to pull it off.


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