It has been over a year since I finished the first draft of my novel and I would really be humbled to say I have a very clean, ready-to-be-sent-draft. I don’t. The reason most likely stems from the fact that I wasn’t really sure where to start with revision. It’s an overwhelming beast, as I am sure you know if you’ve been sadistic enough to do it. Most days my brain hurts just thinking about it. I began the process by doing a complete read through and then going chapter by chapter rewriting and making more notes in the sidebar until my Word doc looked like a flippin’ Norton Anthology.
Let me tell you a secret: I’ve been informed there’s a better way. Continue reading
I’m five days into one of the biggest personal challenges I’ve ever taken on as a writer. Like thousands of other writers across the globe this month, I’m attempting to write a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days during National Novel Writing Month. To hit the target, I need to write 1,667 words a day. I’ve either met or come close to that goal all but one day. On Nov. 2, I only wrote about 400 words. I’d love to say that life got in the way that day. I had work to do, children to mother and other responsibilities that needed my attention. But the reality of the matter is I spent four hours working on my novel that day. So, what happened to result in such a low output? I got sucked down the research rabbit hole. Continue reading
When it’s time to tighten a scene, study your characters’ thoughts and feelings and ask yourself what purpose they serve. If they don’t help your readers understand the character’s motivations, consider cutting those lines.
A few years ago, I remember reading that Ruta Sepetys did two years of research before she began writing her books. If she is the sort to keep a planning journal or story/idea wall, I like to imagine how pristinely organized it must all be. I don’t know her, so of course this is all speculation. But I can imagine these novel planning tools and they must be beautiful. Mini works of art.
I have actually attempted the plan-before-you-write method. For me, making story maps and sketching visuals in my journal are enjoyable planning activites. At the recommendation of my fellow WriteOwl, Stacey, I read some of Truby’s book and got excited to take my novel planning up a notch. It’s a great book!, but I confess I got as far as doing the activities in Chapter 1, before I began to feel anxious and had to put Truby down. The planning stage began to feel less creative to me and I wanted to “discover” my story as I wrote it.
So I did. With general plot prompts and a whole lot of sidebar notes to be dealt with later, I “discovery wrote” the heck out of my first draft. In doing so, I discovered a few things. One, that I have a lot of rewriting to do, because, two, as I wrote I realized new things about my characters and that began to change the course of the plot. I also learned that writing this way made me insanely happy and excited to work on my book.
There is a reason I like the “blank page” and the question “what is possible?” I live for the part of making something that is purely creative, exploratory, imaginative. But any form of art requires tweeking, editing and revision. That is where I am. The backdrop I’ve created, the first notes I’ve written need details, need depth.
In the aftermath of discovery writing, I can see the advantage of thoroughly planning one’s novel; I am sure I wouldn’t have as many notes to sort through. But I also believe we create in different ways. I need to be guided by whim at first so I can carve out the details later. For another writer, they may need the opposite. To each their own.
What say you? What method do you use to write a first draft?
Megan Norris Jones
When I was a kid, my parents sent me to piano lessons. I had a vague notion that it might be kind of neat to play a musical instrument. That vague notion, however, did not translate into me actually practicing the piano. Most weeks, my thirty-minute lessons were the only practice I got. Which is how I became the musical genius I am today.
Kidding. My entire piano repertoire is pecking out “Twinkle Twinkle Little a Star” with one hand. I didn’t practice, so I never got better.
When it comes to writing, however, I have more than a vague notion about scratching out a story. I have serious goals, and I’ve put in the time to develop my skills, strengthen my weak points, and push my writing ability to its limit.
I wrote about the value of deliberate practice in an earlier post as a means of improving a skill. The things that sets deliberate practice apart from regular practice is that it requires me to constantly operate at the edge of my capacity in an effort to continue expanding that capacity. Continue reading