May 25, 2012

What Rough Drafting Looks Like

I'm halfway through the rough draft of my third novel. First drafts are a strange and special animal that seem to roll out differently for everyone. Some people love drafting; some people hate it. As for me, I keep waiting for the whole process to become easier and more streamlined. To stop making me feel like a self-indulgent crazy person who talks through plot problems while stuck alone in traffic. I think to myself, "I've done this a few times. So, clearly, I have learnt my lessons. I will know my ending in advance. All of my characters will behave and be nice to me."

Every book has been a different experience, but I'm finding that my drafting process has developed a predictable pattern. Let me illustrate.

0 - 10,000 words: 
My characters are vivid and interesting. Everything I write is vivid and interesting. I can't wait to see where this story is going! And this novel writing thing?...pure magic.

10,000 - 35,000 words:
I can kind of see where this story is headed, but I have no idea how I'm getting there. That end point seems really, really far away. My characters are being tempestuous. I was a fool to think I could make a novel out of this crazy premise. It's hot out here. I'm thirsty. I'm going to send this to my critique partners so they can tell me if it's awful. This novel writing thing?...the hardest.

35,000 - 55,000:
I understand my characters now; they're starting to tell me when I've got them wrong. In fact, they're keeping me up at night trying to dictate their stories. All of these plot possibilities seem worth exploring, but I'm angsting over which ones are the right ones. Let's go left!:

...maybe I shouldn't have taken a left...maybe I shouldn't have written this, period...

...wait, this is nice, but I think the creepy woods were more interesting...

...and here we are again. I remind myself that my crit partners assured me that this story isn't awful. I force loving friends to read pages and promise me that isn't awful. 

55,000 - 75,000:
So this isn't awful; I'm liking this. I know where I'm going! My characters are starting to make big decisions as they stumble towards the finish line. My plot is revealing new twists. Or maybe they're not new: hey, look, I planted the seeds for them in chapter three! This is scary! This is exciting! Someone pass me my oxygen tank!

75,000 - 80,000:
I'm in love with this story. I hope others will also be in love with this story. In a few weeks, I'll probably reread this draft and moan about how much work it needs but right now, for me, it is perfect. 

 Five minutes after typing THE END:

Current Writing Soundtrack: "Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers


  1. HA you are so funny and witty! I can't wait to read more of the story!!!

  2. Writing the first draft can really be hard, but as you go with the flow, it would be easy as you get used to it. What hard about it is thinking a thesis topics ideas and formulating thesis statement. Anyway, I do hope your third novel ended well!