1. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    How do drafts work? What constitutes a draft?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Magnatolia, Mar 28, 2014.

    Hey guys,

    I'm writing my first draft for a zombie apocalypse story that came to me the other day. I've been plotting some basic big-moments and then coming up with sub-plots and small situations/scenes to populate in there.

    My understanding of a first draft is to just get the words down. I do go back and do some editing but this is usually when I want a break from writing.

    But what about changes to the plot? What if I decide half way through that I want my two main characters (boy and girl around 15-17) to come from 'different sides of the road' which would for my story make them not know much about each other? I originally couldn't decide if I wanted them to be siblings but I opted for friends with a few situations to test their friendship and their eventual developing relationship. Then, one scene took all that and threw it in the bin. I then saw them as different not really being part of each others worlds. She's rich, snobby (well that's his perception of her) and he's on the other side, doing what they can to survive.

    Do I still continue writing with the new plotline and as part of draft two, go back and change the beginning fundamentals to match that change? Sometimes I stick a note in to show roughly where I've deviated from the plot.

    Thanks heaps!
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    First, the first draft doesn't have to be just getting the words down. It can be as carefully crafted as the final version (and for many writers, it is the final version). Continuing on from that clarification, how you make revisions/rewrites is entirely up to you. There are no rules for how you make changes, or when. You could go back and make the adjustments now; you could just finish the first draft and then go back and revise. You could write up a short outline to show what you've done and where it needs specific changes. Whatever system makes the most sense to you is the one you should use. The only "rule" to follow is that however you do it, you finish.
     
  3. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    @shadowwalker Thanks for that. Which one is easier? I've heard a lot of people say it's best to just get the draft down that way you don't spend time jumping between reviser and writer if that makes sense. But at the same time I don't want to have to make lots of massive changes later on. Although documenting these things in the notes will definitely help.
     
  4. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I would carry on, personally. Just write out the story, but keep writing it with your changes in mind, otherwise you'd have to rewrite tons of it in the second draft. Also, it depends on how far you've gone. Are you half way through? Then carry on. Are you a quarter of the way through or less? Then consider the possibility of starting from scratch.
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    My own feeling - and everybody works differently, so this is far from universal—is that a first draft is done when you feel you've told your story the way you wanted to. It's done when you've reached the end and feel you said what you wanted to say.

    Of course it's okay to re-write stuff along the way, if you change your mind about plot or character somewhere in the middle of writing this first draft. This is all part of first draft work. However, in order to be a completed first draft, the story should be finished. Done.

    Done doesn't mean polished or perfect, though. Far from it. And it certainly doesn't mean your story is set in stone, either.

    You can still re-write entire chunks of it, if you look at it and realise large parts don't work. But at least you will be looking at the entire story, not just wee chunks of it. You can go back and shift things that maybe felt important when you wrote them, but don't actually contribute much to the conclusion. You can give your story to beta readers, and get their feedback. Then comes the fun of focusing all your intentions, making sure the narrative flows the way you intended, polish up the wording, sharpen the character development, if necessary. Craft your opening 'hook' - all that stuff that goes with editing.

    Without a completed first draft, however, it's very difficult to know what needs changing. That's why I always maintain it's best to finish an entire draft before overworking any particular bits.
     
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  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me, it's important to plan. I first write a synopsis, which gets changed frequently. After a lot of thinking, deciding and shuffling things around, I end up with a list of scenes I want to include and in what order. Each scene has a paragraph of the gist of what happens and how it advances the story towards the ending. I can have alternate endings, or plot points, nothing is set in stone, but eventually, I decide on the skeleton of the story, including all the subplots. Some people feel this would sap all their creativity. For me, nothing can be further from the truth. All the writing is still about to happen, all I have are writing prompts that ensure I'm not losing track, but they are flexible and can (and often do) change as I write further.

    By the time I start writing the first draft, I might have a body of work already. The quick snippets I wrote along the way if I got inspired (for example, I wrote the villain's confession in the middle of planning, saved it and included it in my first draft). I have most of the decisions out of the way, so I can really immerse myself into the story and the characters, unhampered by worry whether I went off on a tangent, created loads of plot holes, forgot about a character or wrote myself into a corner. When I actually write out all that I intended, I call it a completed first draft. Editing the entire thing will make a second draft, then again when I get various feedback and any re-writing based on that is a third draft and publishers and editors feedback plus re-write is the fourth. So the published version is the equivalent of the fifth draft in my sequence of events. But you need to figure out what works for you :)
     
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  7. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    @jazzabel Thanks for that detailed reply. I wrote out an A5 page of major plot points for my story, well at least 60-70% of the story. I then started thinking about the characters, although they changed along the way. Then I began looking at each major plot point and coming up with scenes, then I would have a scene idea pop into my head and I'll write it down. I'll often write out these little scenes and slot them in with some tweaking later. For instance, today at work I came up with an idea to put some stress on the farm. They have plenty of crops ready to harvest but when they go out they see that the carrots have been poisoned. They think it's one of them so tensions run high until they realize that someone shot a zombie in the middle of the crops and forgot to move the body so the blood seeped into the soil.

    So I wrote that out in full, although it was pretty bad as it's almost midnight and I'm too tired to think straight. I'll polish it a bit tomorow then see where that fits in and what work needs to be done. I'm thinking it will add to the drama because the farm owner (woman) is always having a go at the others when they make a mistake, yet this one was her sons mistake.
     
  8. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Magnatolia : That sounds similar to how I do it. I think the stress on the farm is a great idea, it ties the theme in, making it more real.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Easier" for me is to revise as I go, with each new bit having to fit in with what I've already written. By the time I finish the first 'draft', the story only needs polishing, no revising/rewriting. The mere thought of going back and starting all over, fixing things and hoping I don't end up having to fix even more things after fixing those - no way. But for others, revising as they go is the hardest method in the world. You just have to play with things for a while before you figure out the method that works best for you. More than likely it will be a combination of methods - and it could change with the next book, as well. The main thing to remember, as I stated above, is to finish the story - whether it's after one draft or ninety.
     
  10. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    For me it depends on how much of an impact the change makes later on.
    For example I've decided that I don't want to kill off a minor character because I need to use him later on. There were other characters that died during the same scene, so his death doesn't give much additional impact.
    I'm removing his death now because it feels too weird writing about him when I've stated he's dead. I'm also aware he may need to feature in a couple of other bits i've already written, now that he's alive. That can wait till after I've reached the end. It can go in my to do list txt file for now.
     
  11. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    If it's a big change, I'll either change it or add a note to the draft to change it in the next revision. This is part of why my first draft is taking a long time.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that your strategy may need to hinge on whatever factors trip you up. If you have a tendency to stop and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and eventually throw the thing out in a perfectionist freakout when it's not even half written, then try to keep writing without rewriting. If you have a tendency to hurtle through the whole story, and then be horrified at the amount of rework required and throw the thing out to start something new, then maybe a little more editing and tweaking while working on the first draft would help.

    Me, I think of the first draft as raw ingredients, and I know that I just stop dead when I feel obligated to know where a scene is going before I start writing it. I have yet to finish writing a novel, but I strongly suspect that when I do, I will find that I wrote half a million words to end up with a hundred thousand word novel.
     

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