1. CGB
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    CGB Active Member

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    Tell method for 1st draft

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CGB, May 18, 2014.

    What do you guys think of this method?

    Basically its when you write the first draft by simply writing a very brief description of what is happening. I.e.:

    Initial writing:

    He shoots back, misses. Enemy is drawing closer, almost upon him. Bullets hitting close to him, too close. His shots find their target, shadowy figure falls. He moves forward to the body.

    Later expansion:

    Something moves back in the shadows. Between the trees, in the distance, a shadow against the backdrop of the hillside. He stilled himself even more, and waited. Silently, he raised the rifle from the ground, bringing the sights up to a steady aim. He waited. The shadow lurched out, and there was a flash of light. The bullets slammed into the ground next to him. He squeezed back on the trigger and felt the rifle buck against his shoulder, over and over. The shadow leapt one way, the another, as it grew closer. Finally, the shot hit its mark, and shadow fell to the ground. He moves forward…

    ^ just an example from this book I recently read that outlines this (called Tell, Don't Show by James Lofquist).

    Just curious if people do something similar/think this is a good way to write a first draft...
     
  2. CGB
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    CGB Active Member

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    Also just wanted to say I've been trying this, and as a newbie it is really helping me progress a lot faster. I also feel like editing is much easier and don't feel like I get into those large periods of completely wasted time where I write a few paragraphs then delete, then write a few more, delete, etc.
     
  3. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Never done it but I can see how it works. I prefer to write the whole blog out and let it sit. I edit it later.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Seems to me like it's treating your first draft like an outline. That's okay, but it's not the way I work. ;)
     
  5. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    It seems somewhere in between an outline an actual manuscript. Too detailed for an outline, too heavy for a full fledged work.
     
  6. CGB
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    CGB Active Member

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    Yeah, I would say this is pretty much a good description. I think the biggest benefit I see to it is its faster than detailed writing but doesn't take me out of rhythm.
     
  7. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    I think if you get bogged down in detail (or trying to work out detail), then it might be a good idea to occasionally outline what is happening just to keep yourself on track. As a tactile person myself, I often need to write things down in order to remember them (rather than see or hear), so if you operate that way as well I could see where this approach might work.

    Basically it comes down to doing what is most comfortable. No two people process information the same way, so find what works and go with it:).
     
  8. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I did something like this, but I considered it an outline or a summary of the chapter. I ended up changing much of it while writing my real first draft. Writing everything quickly helped form my plot without losing steam.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Ditto.
     
  10. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    If you think you can work this way I suggest that you google for snowflake method. That helped me a lot understanding how I could construct a story from the shapeless mist swirling in my mind.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I would get bored with this method personally - because once I get down to it I'd wanna write the detail. It's part of the fun. I sort of tried a similar approach recently - namely just getting everything down without looking back. Now I'm going through it, and I find it's harder to get into the story and therefore also harder to edit, cus it's hard to tap into that emotional thread you've left undeveloped. From this, I know that from now on I would look back and edit a little before moving on during my first draft. The "just write and don't look back" isn't working that great I feel.

    Anyway, keep using it if it's helping you, but it's not for me.
     
  12. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    @Mckk : You should find the balance. Find the joy in planning the plot and even the list of scenes (I really enjoy it, but we are not all the same) but don't plan too much details as it will ruin the fun later when you write the actual scenes.

    Develop characters in advance, learn how they react in a given situation and build up the story based on this. Do not let your characters behave against their personality because you want to turn the story to a new direction.

    If you want to throw your main character into the deepest trouble one can imagine first find out how he will get out of it and construct the "trouble" accordingly. This way you can avoid to write yourself into a corner and write a lame survival like a deus ex machina (I don't say it can't be written good. James Cameron did a great "God saves your ass" in Avatar but he prepared it in details well in advance)

    Long story short : planning is crucial, the amount of it depends on your style. More planning = less review :)
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Vandor76 - Thanks :) Yeah I do plan, I've learnt that I can't actually write without planning because I start thinking it's all ridiculous pretty fast when I don't plan. Fleshing out characters is not my strongest point - my characters seem to get fleshed out a little more on each rewrite. They do eventually become more and more 3-dimensional, but to do it without having to go through the rewrites... not got the hang of that yet! I like your cheat method of planning trouble accordingly, rather than just letting trouble happen :D Yeah I could definitely see myself doing that.

    So far I'm stuck wondering why someone might want to pose as the queen and not the king...
     
  14. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    I tend to be more detailed in my first draft. I add more when I edit the first time but eventually prune out what I don't like. The final draft is always longer than my first draft so perhaps I indeed use a bit of this style.

    It definitely keeps you writing quickly when the ideas are coming spontaneously. All I can say is "If it is working for you, keep it up!" You will modify your style as you go along but if this gets you writing a lot then by all means... do it! :)
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto the ditto...

    a first draft is generally considered to be the full-out writing of the entire piece, before doing any editing... what you're describing is more like starting with an outline, then fleshing it out, in stages... it's not a method i would recommend, as a writing mentor / tutor, but if it works for you and results in a marketable polished piece of writing, it won't matter what i or anyone else would do, will it?
     
  16. Xueqin-II
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    Xueqin-II Member

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    It works, though, I personally would not do it.

    It actually would work a lot better for my writing style, but still, even when I'm dry for ideas I choose to sit there and grow the paragraph anyways. I couldn't think to leave such skimpy things on paper.
     
  17. CGB
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    CGB Active Member

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    To clarify - I was thinking this method could be used while writing the first draft, but once you go through with the short descriptions presumably you'd go back and write the full scenes out in all their detail. This method is just step 1 of 2 in writing the first draft.
     
  18. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    @Mckk :

    If not done already read about Myers-Briggs personality types and Maslow's hierarchy of needs. You may not craft a character directly using these but if you understand them you will build better heroes. In addition read "The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression" from Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.
     
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  19. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    If it works for you go ahead. Personally I could never do this because although I can spit out the plot quicker in that manner without writing detail I lose steam because I'm not involved and don't love writing it.
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If it work for you, go with it. Personally, I prefer to write each draft as if it;s the final one, even when I know it won't be. It makes it easier for me to see what needs the most work, and I just don't like to deliberately lay down disposable content.
     
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  21. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well it's expanding versus cutting, isn't it? Some would recommend that you fast forward with an outline and then expand from it (pretty much like the "Snowball method" if you think about it); others would recommend writting 300% of the story and then cut it down to 100% :)

    Personally, I pretty much do both - makes for a dynamic writting process, which suits me. My first drafts usually contain both pieces that will stay, pieces to expand, pieces to cut and pieces that may expand themselves in completely different stories.

    Writting methods and approaches to the creative process are personal and subjective. There are technical things about the craft that you should learn, of course (how to hold a pen, type on keyboard, use grammar and master the syntax of you language, basic narrative constructs etc), just like the painter needs to learn how to mix colors and apply them as well as what is perspective and what is composition (and how to mess with them).

    But anyone selling you "one best method" in writing is just doing a sales pitch. It may be a faster and more economical approach for me, but it may be just the opposite for you...
     
  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Finally had a look at the Emotion Thesaurus. Just wanted to say, it's not realistic character emotions and emotional arcs that I feel weak at - those are fine actually. However, I did see on the "also recommended" section on Amazon the Negative Traits Thesaurus - now that one I think I probably need! For me, the reason why I feel my characters are not always realistic - certainly not on the first round - is because I fear so much to let them out of what I want them to be. They do eventually become realistic through rewrites, thankfully, but I do still struggle to let them be as bad as they should be, I think. Hence my attention on the Negative Traits book :D

    Anyway, good books, either way, and definitely one good to have on the bookshelf! :) Thank you!
     
  23. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @CGB I think you've hit upon something that works for you. However, the danger comes if you get so used to 'telling' mode that you have a hard time shifting into a more emotional and flowing kind of prose later.

    How about this? What if you did essentially what you're doing now, but instead of writing it out in 'telling' mode, just write it as a list of must-do's for the chapter:

    He enters the room by the side door because the front door is locked
    (he needs to have his sword already drawn, make sure he's carrying a dagger as well, maybe he touches it for reassurance—before he goes in, or just afterwards?)

    can't see because the room is too dark
    he's annoyed because she'd said she'd leave a fire lit for him to see by
    wonders why she let him down— Has something happened to her? Is she a traitor?
    he trips, and knocks something over
    maybe a metal tool that makes a racket?
    maybe some kind of liquid that makes the floor slippery?

    He reacts by swearing, but he's really scared now

    a tapping noise he can't identify comes from the direction of —?—the fireplace, or the window ledge?

    ...........................

    In other words, make a note of everything you think needs to happen. Put in questions where you will need to make a decision. Insert what you already know must be there, so you don't forget important details. A list of to-dos is not as formal as an outline, but it won't tempt you to just leave your words as they are, either.

    Anyway, whatever works for you. And you won't know what works till you give it a go! Good luck.
     
  24. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it works for you, great. I could never do it (boredom would be huge factor). When I'm writing a story, that's precisely what I want to do - write the story.
     

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