On Writing a Novel: Drafting until it’s Drafted

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Drafting — or as I described it in my post on planning and research — the horrible, rough, manic, shit-storm that makes beautiful novels possible.

Just as planning and research is accomplished in different forms depending on the specific writer’s process, drafting happens for each writer in a way only they can truly understand. It is a little bit magic, a lot determination, fueled by adrenaline and insanity and caffeine. While there are different processes and methods, there are some constants that most every writer adheres to, and those are what I will focus on in this post.

Write Tip #1: You can start at the beginning. You can start at the end. You can write the inciting incident because it is the seed idea and therefor all you can actually see. But one thing is certain…YOU MUST WRITE SOMETHING.

There is a safety in research and planning, an insulation around your idea and it’s fragile bones that makes opening a blank Word document and actually writing feel a little bit like throwing your precious into the middle of a tornado. It will be tossed around some — this is a reality you must accept. Your fear is not a reason to stay in the safe zone.

I have written some horrifically bad sentences in my first drafts. Bad enough that I cannot even believe I am showing one to you. Nevertheless, here is a line from the first draft of my novel Redhunt:

I step onto a landing that opens into the kitchen and it’s dark, lit only by the morning light through the window.

With revision that sentence was cut. The scene around it was also cut and forgotten until today. It served its purpose — its only purpose really — to facilitate the forward motion of drafting.

Write Tip #2: Keep writing forward. You can do some minor revision as you go along, reread the pages you ended with during your last writing session to jumpstart, but the key to finishing is to not look back for long.

You will realize there are problems in your manuscript as you are writing it. Every single writer, whether a first timer or seasoned pro, has inconsistencies in their first drafts. The purpose of a first draft is to get the story out of your head and onto the page (or screen). A common mistake in drafting is going back to read through what you’ve written. Thus begins the eternal edit loop that will kill your momentum and silence the creative voice inside your head.

Instead, reserve any major revisions until the end of the manuscript. This is what you should especially do if you have attempted to write a novel before but never completed the task. A writer who has a few manuscripts under their belt might be able to seamlessly jump from past pages to current, revising and drafting at the same time, but that takes a level of skill most of us won’t achieve for a very long time.

Write Tip #3: Find rewards for hitting word count goals, or scene goals, or plot point goals. Further, make sure to set a goal when drafting and find a way to keep yourself accountable.

If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I frequently update my feed with progress reports, failures, reward system announcements, and any other thing I can think to Tweet that will mark my progress.

I have used caramels and alcohol, an episode of a TV show that I am really into (Doctor Who, Veronica Mars, Game of Thrones episode largely featuring Jon Snow, etc.), pages in a novel I am currently reading and dying to get back to, as a reward for meeting my drafting goals.

Write Tip #4: Set a deadline to finish. I am a goal oriented person, which you can probably tell by the above tip. But having a deadline is less about a goal, and more about prioritizing your writing over watching TV, shittin’ around on the internet, or, yes, even reading.

No one is going to finish your book for you. Writing is you and your characters, their story, and nothing else. It is a dark room of silence. It is screaming into the void of your imagination. You can have a gaggle of cheerleaders at your back, but if you don’t sit your ass in that chair and turn thoughts into words on a page you will never have a book. If you cannot complete a draft, you cannot revise.

In order to be an author you will have to meet deadlines. Start now. Maybe you don’t make it, but don’t plan on failing. Don’t let yourself off the hook. The misery of beating yourself up about a deadline is the joy of finishing on time.

Write Tip #5: Finish it. Make is messy and wild and break every rule in the book. You can fix it later. You’ll slash sentences and circle paragraphs, writing in red ink WTF?, when you do your read through. Don’t stop until you have typed THE END.

 

 

 

 

What’s Up Wednesday : The Finished Draft Edition

AlienStarsWUWWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

* Crickets *

Today I jump back into my reading pile. While in the writing cave, the time I didn’t spend writing was spent brain dead. I have some special manuscripts to read, some books sitting on my nightstand and waiting on my computer, plus an ARC of my friend Lindsay Cummings forthcoming Middle Grade novel The Balance Keepers. This next week is all about the reading.

What I’m Writing

That manuscript that has been in progress since August 2013, well, it is no longer in progress, but completed.

I feel like this:

celebrateAnd this:

tired-puppy

And my hair looks like this:

insane

There are revisions ahead, as always, but I look forward to them. After a read through it’s off to CPs and onto titling and summarizing and stuffs. Right now, basking. The time for basking is here.

What Inspires Me

See above.

The same night I finished my manuscript, my CP Susan finished hers. We have given feedback to each other for about a year now, but these manuscripts are the first we’ve written and critiqued from the beginning. We have ridden the drafting raft together. We have talked each other off ledges. We have encouraged beautiful words and helped note problem passages. Finishing together…just feels right.

The incredible outpouring of excitement and love from friends, both within the writing community and outside it, when I announced I finished my draft.

Requests from CPs and writer friends that I SEND THE MANUSCRIPT NOW! You guys are the bees knees. For serious.

heart

What Else I’m Up To

My son ran a fever last night. His allergies are awful this time of year, every year. We can’t get ahead of them, it seems. My mom, who is a Master Gardener, got him some local Bee Pollen to help. Now to get him to take it everyday.

We spent the morning talking, and honestly, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do today anyway.

Sam: Mommy, I’m using my imagination.

Me: Love it!

Sam: Do you use your imagination?

Me: Yep, everyday.

Sam: What do you do with it?

Me: I create worlds, and characters, and write stories about those worlds and characters.

Sam: I want to create a world.

And for the next half hour we did just that.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

 

 

 

What’s Up Wednesday: Writing Cave

TreeWUWWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime or Erin’s blog.

This is my first What’s up Wednesday to use Jaime’s adorable new buttons. Oh geez, I love them.

What I’m Reading

kristen-wigg-hair-twirl

Yeah. Not much right now. I read the awesome and moving and hilarious and awesome Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy last week, then nothin’, nada, nil. I do have an excuse, I will elaborate on that more fully below. All I can say is I have a stack of books by my bed and on my computer that are desperate for my attention and starting to get testy.

What I’m Writing

That thing I said I’d elaborate on, well, prepare for some sweet, sweet knowledge. If you follow me on Twitter, you might know — because it only actually happens if I put it on Twitter — that in the last two weeks I have added 16,000 words to my YET TO BE TITLED work-in-progress. Below is a true-life depiction of what I currently look like.

Ron-Swanson-Dance

I’m so pretty and dainty. I have a self-imposed deadline of April 1st. Why? BecauseIdoshutup. As of today it looks like I need 10-12,000 words until I can type The End. In honor of progress, and even though I get really embarrassed posting my writing anywhere ever, I’m including a tiny, baby snippet. (Be gentle, it’s rough.)

Cheers rise like roaring beasts around the room. In the burst of celebration, I finally look at her. Her eyes are pinned to the King, her hands pinch the fabric of her skirt, nervous, but she smiles. I almost reach for her hands, planning to flatten them against her skirt like always. A gentle reminder that she has nothing to fear — but I can’t touch her now, I can’t help her now.

My place is no longer beside her.

What Inspires Me

I don’t even know because it’s all a haze right now. I think the idea of finishing this book, for one. Requests from agents on my other book and positive feedback, for another. Seeing the word count edge higher everyday, and with it the realization that I will finish this thing before it finishes me.

Daily chats with writer friends that encourage and empower. You ladies know who you are.

I went to the Side Effects May Vary Launch and Signing. The turnout was phenomenal, and so, of course that is super inspirational, but it was seeing how it affected Julie that really hit me. Hard. Writers work so many hours on their books, give so much of their life-force, their soul and heart and brain, to these fictional worlds. Writers, us, we live in the bubble of our worlds and our characters and them mattering to only us for so long, that when it finally comes time for them to matter to others the fact that they do can be shocking — wonderful, but shocking. julieme

 

What Else I’m Up To

A few weeks ago, agent Maria Vincente with P.S. Literary put out a call for contributors, regular or special feature, to her blog I Believe in StoryI applied and was accepted, which was awesome. My first blog post, up today, is a Character Study on Jon Snow. Yeah. You’re gonna want to go read that. Follow I Believe in Story on Twitter to get blog updates. I am really excited to be collaborating with Maria. It has been a fabulous experience thus far.

Binge watching Veronica Mars. Saturday evening my husband and I were supposed to attend a reunion show for our awesome friend’s band. We couldn’t because child-dog care didn’t work out. We had never watched Veronica Mars, and with all the chatter about the movie, and all my friends being hashtag marshmallows, I just had to check it out. Hooked like a kid on phonics, I tell ya.

Lamenting over the soon-to-be loss of Psych (Tonight, 9/8c, USA). My husband and I have watched this show since it began back in July, 2006, or for the entirety of our marriage thus far. It’s a big deal for us. There will be a full blog post on the topic Friday, here on the blog, once I have dealt with my feelings. Or to help me deal with my feelings. Or to bitch about my feelings. Whatever. Stay tuned.

gus

Happy (Sad for me) Wednesday!

 

 

Processes

Lady Writer

I’m doing this workshop with author Nova Ren Suma. If you don’t know her books yet, or haven’t found her blog, you can follow my links below. She is brilliant, as a writer, and supremely cool as a person.

Nova stuff:

Blog

Goodreads for her books Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone 

Twitter handle @novaren

Someone in the workshop, which is also full of talented budding writers, requested we share our specific writing process. I was formulating my response, and decided it would make a great blog post. Or, a decent one anyway.

The writing process is as subjective as reading can be. There is no ONE RIGHT WAY, just as there is no ONE RIGHT OPINION. By necessity, not desire, I am a very flexible writer. Which is why my process must be discussed in two parts.

New York:

We lived in Brooklyn for close to two years. I began writing my novel sometime in October of 2011. At that point I was writing during my son’s naps. I made my goal 1500 words a day. I usually achieved that, and if I didn’t, I tried to make up for it. (FYI this may have contributed to by first draft’s utter shittiness.) But I completed the first draft at 72,000 words in April of 2012. Then the revisions began, or the rewrites, or the slashings. Over the summer I got a college student friend of a very reliable friend to come keep my son five hours a day, three days a week. Then my son would nap, so I could write more.

That writing took place at a cafe. I wrote, tried to decipher the wonder of Twitter, and blogged, in the bustle. I have learned to tune everything out when writing. (Like, right now, my son is jumping up and down beside me on the couch. I DONT CARE.) Unfortunately, people in my life seem annoyed by my single-mindedness. I have a sibling who now thinks my only response to life-altering news is, “Umm-hmm, that’s interesting.” Followed by the tapping of keys.

We traveled a lot during our time in NYC. I wrote on airplanes, library’s, the obgyn. This meant that I also had to write through my exhaustion, or boredom, or desire to have some fun.

Texas:

(Current writing process, most of the time. Only been this way four weeks.)

Monday, Wednesday, & Friday my son attends Montessori school. I write pretty much the entire time he is there. Sometimes, I make my dear husband go get him from school to eek out a few more minutes. I have a dedicated workspace that may be my favorite place in the world. I have written about it before on my blog here. It’s up a ladder on the thrid floor of our house which overlooks an exspanse of oak trees budding out for spring.

My productivity is shocking in this environment. My husband has recently asked me, (to my standard self-absorbed response) if make-up and showering had gone out the window in the light grand inspiration.

I can honestly say, though, that I consider each incarnation of my writing process to be worthwhile. Being able to write no matter where you are and what is going on is really important. Certain kinds of writing are better in certain places. Certain foods and drink can encourage certain words and emotions, just like music can. I drank moonshine once for character development. (Not reccommended.) But all forms, all processes, are valid.

I don’t plot. I spend a lot of time revising and mulling because of this. At this stage in revision I do plan scenes and subsequent scenes when a rewrite is in order. I do a lot of jotting, and going, “Yeah, that’s better. I don’t want to punch that scene in the groin anymore.”

To each his own.

So, what’s your process? If you care to share.