1. penelopecarax
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    penelopecarax Active Member

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    Your drafting process

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by penelopecarax, Feb 16, 2015.

    Hi there,

    I'm a strategist by day and writer by night, so I'm trying to find a drafting process that works. By 'works' I mean something that makes me come back to my work, break things down into layers, and focus on one aspect of the text at a time rather than immediately despairing that I'll never write anything good.

    Obviously I will need to test this out, refine and adapt depending on what I'm writing, but so far I have...

    1. Initial writing on paper
    --- Break ---
    2. Draft onto computer
    3. Initial research
    --- Break ---
    4. Re-read and re-structure the plot (filling in plot holes)
    5. Rewrite important scenes on paper
    6. Combine with digital version
    7. Edit for plot holes
    --- Break ---
    8. Further research
    9. Edit for research
    10. Edit for dialogue
    11. Edit for description and grammar
    12. First round of feedback
    13. Research/edit based on first round of feedback
    14. Second round of feedback
    15. Research/edit based on second round of feedback

    Anyone care to share their editing process? Or do you just do what 'feels right'. Rewriting is what I seem to find hardest at the moment, so I'd like some training wheels to prop me up until I'm ready to scoot off on my own :)
     
  2. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Normally with scripts I smash out a few key scenes and then pretty much build it start to finish, and then keep making revisions start to finish after a paper edit. I can go through and revise the writing, or change scenes, or change the dialogue. It's actually pretty easy.

    Novels are chaos. They always look like a construction site and a 'draft' is never actually finished. I usually go back and forth editing, adding, removing, changing etc. It's a shit method I highly discourage.
     
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  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    We can share, but honestly, I think this is going to end up being something you have to work out yourself, mostly through trial and error. I've written more than twenty novels and I'm still experimenting and changing as I go. And it's not just going to be different for different writers, it will also be different for the same writer working on different kinds of stories.

    But, for what it's worth, I do a lot less "research" than you do - that may be down to genre? Are you writing historical, or something else that needs a lot of factual connections? Otherwise:

    I type up story ideas as they occur to me and save them in a file on my computer. Probably a paragraph or two, just getting down whatever I find most intriguing, usually characters and setting, with only a rough idea of the plot.

    When I want to write something new, I read over the ideas, find one I like, and go for it.

    "Go for it" means starting at the beginning of the story and typing until the end. Obviously I take breaks, and think about the story as I'm not working on it (usually when driving, showering, falling asleep - all the 'nothing else to do with my brain' times). If I get stuck I might draft out a sort of flow chart or table with pen and paper - depends what kind of stuck it is. If I realize I need to change something I've already written, I type a note at the bottom of the MS and leave it.

    Once I've gotten through the first draft, I go back and make whatever changes I had typed at the end of the MS.

    Then I leave this MS and work on something totally different. Usually I go through my second draft process for another MS, and maybe write a whole other first draft, before coming back to this MS.

    The second draft involves a read-through in which I catch any little errors as I go and look for big problems. If I find big problems, I type it at the end of the MS. When I get to the end of the MS, I do what I have to do to fix the big errors (rewrite, or whatever).

    Then I send the story to my betas. If it's in a genre for which I use an agent, I send the MS to her at this point, too. Not for her to send out right away, just so she knows what's coming, and also b/c she's a good editorial agent and often has useful suggestions.

    I work on something else while waiting for comments, and usually try to wait for ALL the comments to come back before I make changes. (Nothing worse than deleting a scene your first beta didn't like, and then having the next two readers say how much they loved that scene!) Then make the changes, and send off finished version to agent or publisher.


    But, again, this is what works (more or less) for me. My personality, my writing style, my genre, and also, I guess, my experience, b/c this isn't how I wrote when I was just starting. Back then I got a lot more feedback way earlier in the process, and that was really useful at the time, both for the writing and, I think more importantly, for my attitude. There's nothing like having someone say "This is fantastic! What happens next?!?" to get your butt in the chair to start writing.

    Do what works for you. But I'd give up on the idea of a perfect process that's going to make all of this easy. Having a good process helps, but sooner or later, you've got to just write, and at that point it will probably get messy, no matter what your process is.
     
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  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It sounds like you might be trying too hard to pin everything down. Stories are pretty organic things - for example, point 5 was "rewrite important scenes" and point 10 was "edit for dialogue" - so what if there's a dialogue in an important scene? I don't get how you're splitting all this up and it honestly looks fairly pointless to me...

    Or for example, point 5 was "rewrite important scenes" but point 7 was "edit for plot holes" - so what if fixing your plot hole means your perfected important scene actually gets deleted? It does happen - whole chapters get deleted. 50,000 words at a time can get deleted. Why on earth would you get down to the details of rewriting scenes before you've fixed your plot holes? Plot holes can render the entire manuscript obselete.

    And how is it possible that you've got writing it down and drafting it onto the computer before you've done any research? Initial research, at that. If research was necessary for the story, then that should be done first, and any other details researched as you write, according to the needs of each scene. Why would you write everything - and an entire manuscript can take years - and only then go and do research? Research that might mean so many changes and may even show you that certain events can't even happpen and still make sense - meaning you'll have to delete God only knows how much and write again from scratch.

    And if research wasn't necessary for your story, then what on earth does point 3, "Initial research" mean?

    To me, your list makes no logical sense.

    And how is it possible you're only rewriting "important scenes"? Technically you need to rewrite absolutely anything that's not up to par in terms of quality, structure, significance etc. What's "important" scenes supposed to be? Most scenes are important - if there's a scene that doesn't serve a purpose, then that scene needs deleting, merging, or changing. I'm also curious how come in your list you seem to indicate you essentially rewrite things just once. Some parts will not need rewriting, other parts may need rewriting even 10 times - it just depends on the quality of your work.

    In my opinion, you're gonna get yourself in far more trouble because of this pretty illogical work process than if you just wrote without planning. Planning is great - some of us are planners and write well when we plan - but the plan's got to make sense. Right now it looks like you're creating more work for yourself, not making it easier.

    All you need to know is this: write, reread, rewrite, edit, reread, rewrite/edit as needed. Repeat process until work is polished. If it's a genre that requires research - then research before you write and get everything you absolutely need to start your story, then start writing and research for the details as they come up, and then rewrite/edit as needed.

    Whether you edit after everything's written, edit as you go along, it doesn't matter so long as your manuscript gets done. Writing isn't like maths - it's not like if you do things in a certain order then things are bound to work. And your gut instinct will often know better than your brain - trust me on this one. Listen to your gut and screw the list. As long as you're writing and improving, and you're able to finish, it doesn't matter how you do it. Writing really is one of those things where the means matter very little as long as you achieve your goal.

    As for breaks - take one if you need one. Who cares when you do it? Sometimes you need rest, sometimes you need a break to get inspired again, sometimes you need to get some distance so you can see what's wrong with the scene or plot etc. Sometimes you may need only a 10min break, other times a few days, still other times you may take a break that lasts for several months. It all depends on why you're taking your break and at which point of the process you are.

    So take a break if you need one. It's like going to the bathroom - just go when you want lol.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2015
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Btw, having a planning/drafting process won't necessarily mean you won't despair or that it'll draw you back to your work - the only thing that will draw you back to your work is whether you want to finish it or not. That's just a choice you've got to make.

    I think writing confidence isn't built by having a better plan per se, but by surrounding yourself with the right people who can give you constructive feedback on your work and who you know adore your work. Stay close to those who enjoy your writing and seek encouragement from them.

    In terms of focus, you want to make sure the story works first. Some people reread their manuscripts looking for particular things - the first reread might be for plot holes, the second reread might be for structure and pace/flow, the third reread might be for whether each chapter or each scene work in their own right. The fourth reread might be then for atmosphere and description. The fifth for characters and dialogue, as well as character development. The sixth for the overall quality of the book. You want to go from the overview and zoom in, not the other way around.

    For me, I find it more manageable to edit as I go along, and I tend to take a break and reread, edit, rewrite at the end of every scene and/or chapter. About 10 pages at a time. It feels like less work because at the end of the manuscript I'm not left with thinking, "Fuck I've now got a disaster to fix." I know it's fine, because I've been editing and I don't move on from the scene until I'm happy, so when I get to the end I'm like, "All right, now the real work begins but it won't be that bad, because what I already have is pretty good."

    But to some extent, you just got to believe in yourself. Having a bullet point list of how to draft might help with organisation, but not necessarily your confidence.
     
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  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    So often I read people's 'process' for writing and I can't help but think OMG - how do they keep track of what they're doing, let alone write anything?

    Write, edit, research, break - do those when they need to be done, whenever that happens. Don't get so involved in the process - readers don't give a damn about that anyway. You'll eventually figure out what works for you, and develop the flexibility to tweak it when needed.
     
  7. penelopecarax
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    penelopecarax Active Member

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    Thanks everyone... This was really helpful, and was kind of what I'm looking for:

    In terms of focus, you want to make sure the story works first. Some people reread their manuscripts looking for particular things - the first reread might be for plot holes, the second reread might be for structure and pace/flow, the third reread might be for whether each chapter or each scene work in their own right. The fourth reread might be then for atmosphere and description. The fifth for characters and dialogue, as well as character development. The sixth for the overall quality of the book. You want to go from the overview and zoom in, not the other way around.

    I'm not looking to write novels, just short stories (under 3000). I really don't think the above would work with a manuscript at all! Guess the best thing to do will to be crack on, see what works and find a rhythm.
     
  8. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tap out 500 words [purist and best version, draft 1]
    then using preposition filler and conjunction paste turn the 500 into 2000 words
    drafting towards SENSE, eliminate all those passive verbs: 'was' + 'ing' + 'I' issues, maybe, the other thing I can't remember - 'he saw...the girl eat chips.' THE GIRL ate chips.
    THINK it is really good.

    Return a month later
    draft turns to 3000
    THINK it is brilliant

    return a year later, write a better ending, edit out all the failed humour, dead end sentences.
    drafts down to 2500, kill 'and's'
    Submit and fail.

    Return six months later, change the beginning, edit down
    to 2000
    Narrate out loud to self
    submit draft 94, published in magazine nobody reads.
     
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