Sunday, April 21, 2013

33 QotW: What's Your First Draft Like?


Hey everyone! It’s Clara Kensie, back with a new Question of the Week! Pretty much the only thing writers love as much as writing is talking about writing. So each week here at Adventures in YA Publishing, I post a question for you to answer. The questions cover all topics important to writers: craft, career, writers’ life, reading and books. Together we’ll become better writers by sharing tips and discussing our habits and practices.


Question of the Week for April 21, 2013:
What’s your first draft like?

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, most, if not all, writers complete several rounds of revisions on their material before sharing it with the world. Let’s talk about that very first draft of your manuscript. What’s it like? Do you whip through it, or do you carefully agonize over each word?




My answer: I consider my first draft to be a “discovery” draft. I write out of order, I have pages of backstory, I have incomplete scenes, and I have very few transitions and descriptions. I don’t care one whit about correct grammar or pretty prose. My first draft is what many writers call word vomit. And that’s a-okay with me. I figure, why take the time to craft beautiful prose for a sentence or scene I may end up cutting anyway? My goal for the first draft is to get it down to see what I have. After I finish that, I can see the “big picture.” THEN I go back in and make changes/additions/deletions and craft those grammatically correct, pretty sentences.

YOUR TURN: Tell us about your first draft. Is it “word vomit?” Or do you try to make your first draft as clean as possible? Why?

33 comments:

  1. I am what some term as a free-writer most of the time, so I tend to write a chapter or two and go back and do small revisions before moving on. So my first draft is a less crisp version of the final product.

    For the most part the whole story is there and right, but I have to tighten everything up and have it make its points better.

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    1. Wow, Brandon, that's great that your first draft is pretty much ready to go except for tightening. Good for you!

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  2. My first draft is definitely a discovery draft, but it's far from "word vomit." I clean up as I write (general tidying) so I can see where I've been and where I need to go. I don't think I'd enjoy the process as much if I didn't craft some creative things--even if I end up cutting those parts. :)

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    1. LOL Carol, if I cleaned up or revised as I wrote my discovery draft, I would be stuck in an endless cycle of editing and never finish the manuscript. Good for you that you can edit and then keep moving forward!

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  3. I don't consider my first drafts word vomit. But I've learned not to worry excessively about writing beautiful prose until the second draft. I got that fantastic advice last year and it has help me so much. Before I was worrying too much about small details when I needed to worry about getting the bigger picture on the page.

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    1. That's exactly how I feel, Inky Fox. I wonder if we heard that advice from the same person. :-)

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  4. I'm a word vomiter too. I write pretty clean drafts as far as grammar and sentence structure go, but need a lot of revision work on the quality of the words. And pacing and characters and tension and setting, etc. etc.
    Dialogue is probably the only thing I write well in my first draft. Everything else is vomit. :)

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    1. But at least it's down on paper, Jan! You can't fix a blank page (my favorite writing advice from Nora Roberts).

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  5. My ORIGINAL first draft was Role Played with a friend of mine about ten years ago. When I rewrote the novel, it became one massive word vomited wall of telling, world driven, craziness. And no one really told me to change it until I met my current (and super awesome) editing partner. She looked at it and told me to get rid of the first 11 pages. They were boring.

    The new draft is clean, beautiful, character and plot driven, and generally a much nicer read. Though it still needs ironing!!

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    1. Role playing! What a great way to "see" your story.

      Congrats on your beautiful new draft!

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  6. Since I'm not a huge fan of extensive revisions, I try to make my first draft clean as far as plot. I try to make sure there aren't any holes and GMC is strong. But I always skimp on description and I sometimes go crazy with dialogue. I don't mind fixing all those things later on, and I almost always have to.

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    1. I wish I could be like you, Cindy. But usually, no matter how much I plan ahead of time, I don't see some plot holes until I'm in the thick of it.

      Fixing things like description and dialogue is rather fun, I think. I'm glad that's all you have to do with your revisions!

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  7. I'd prefer making my first draft more of a word vomit but that darned Inner Critic and her need for perfection makes it very hard. So my first draft if more like word-vomit-clean-word-vomit-clean-some-more-and-more-word-vomit.

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    1. Ah yes. That internal editor. I wish there was an easy way to turn it off for the first draft! A member of my writing group recently adopted the motto "Progress, not perfection." That finally motivated her to finish her first draft, which she'd been working on for six years.

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  8. My first draft is far from word vomit but it tends to be lean. It's usually heavy on the dialogue, sometimes reading more like a screenplay than a novel. The entire plot is there, the characters are developed, but description is lacking. There are times when the ideas just won't flow, and I force myself to continue ahead anyway. Since I'm working so much slower (practically agonizing over ever word), these passages seldom need much in the way of revisions.

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    1. My first drafts are lean too, cymberle. Nice that your second drafts don't need much revision!

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  9. I did a lot of rewriting in my first draft and tried to get it way too "perfect." Now I'm learning to write looser--to still like what I'm putting down, but not worry about details. Trying to get the story out without it being too awful.
    I guess everyone has to find their own comfort level.

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    1. Exactly, Carol. I think we all go through a process of finding what works best for us. Reading everyone's comments is already giving me ideas on how to approach my next manuscript. Thanks for the comment!

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  10. I'm still developing my own style. I tend to get down first drafts fairly quickly ... except for those times I come to a complete halt. Then I'll reread and get to the point and fly again. Sometimes in order to fly I have to go back and delete where I went wrong. I'm trying to create a working outline with this first draft but they're not easy!!

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    1. Nice way to get yourself going again, Jemi! Going back to delete where you went wrong: sounds like a great plan. Thanks!

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  11. I used to work in TV and the writers always called the first draft the "vomit draft." I translate that as the "don't hold back" draft. I lock my critic in the cellar (or I would if I had a cellar) and ignore all the screaming and knocking.

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    1. Lovely, Leslie! Sounds like we're very similar on this. I love the phrase "don't hold back" draft. Thanks!

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  12. I do the word vomit thing, but sometimes things in the later story demand changes in the early story, so I make those before I forget. I jump back and forth a lot, trying to make sure I don't forget important details. My outline is my road map, and it gets changed as the story develops. I'm terrified of outlines locking me down, so it's more of guidelines than actual rules.

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    1. Nice plan, Kessie. I always have an outline, but I change it as I write my draft. Instead of jumping back to add details, I make a note of what I need to change next time around. Otherwise I'll get stuck in a spiral of revisions and never finish the draft.

      I'm glad your plan works for you!

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  13. Yvette Carol said...
    For me, the first draft has to be allowed to flow without any interference. I agree with Leslie, the critic/editor needs to be completely absent for this all-important process. Only later, can the "mind" be allowed out of the basement!

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    1. That's what works for me too. Although, it's hard to learn to turn off that internal editor!

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  14. I try to make my first draft as clean as possible. However, sometimes, I have a hard time starting a chapter, so I just go with whatever shows up and go, "Sure! Sounds good. Next!" Then after I'm done with the draft, I'll go back and rework the chapters I had trouble with until it works and it's as polished as it'll get. It works out so much better now that I have an outline to follow, too.

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    1. Starting a new chapter is difficult for me too. I know what I need to happen in the chapter, but figuring out that first line/paragraph is hard for me sometimes. I'll have to try your method of going with whatever shows up. Thanks so much!

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  15. I love writing by hand, and staying clear of the computer until necessary.
    My rough drafts remind me of the figurative clay sculptures I made--Messy. I get in there and write, and throw in any word associative ideas onto the paper.

    If I'm fortunate enough to be able to read it late, that is good. Sometimes I can't read my writing, and this helps cut away what i might not remember. I've started keep index cards to write down questions and alternative ideas, which can be shifted around giving me other ways of looking at things. So in a word: messy. And I like it. Until revision--then things get cleared up and cleaned away and reorganized.

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    1. Nice, Karen! I only write by hand when I don't have access to a computer. I usually only brainstorm or jot down a manuscript "to do" list, but I like that you actually write your manuscript by hand first. I'm sure it brings out different ideas than typing everything into the computer does.

      And index cards: aren't they awesome? I use cyber index cards on Scrivener. I also print them out so I can shuffle them around when I'm not at my computer. So helpful!

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  16. Lately, I have decided that what I laughingly call my "outline" is really a discovery draft. I've stopped obsessing and let myself include dialogue if it wants to come out that way, but otherwise, it really is just a very detailed description, scene by scene, of what I think is going to happen. I also include bookmap information, including scene goals for the mc and every other character in the scene, the outcome, what changes as a result of the scene, the emotional tone of the scene, and the date, time, and location. I'm flipping back and forth between doing this in Scrivener, One Note, and Word, and I haven't found exactly the perfect "tool" yet, but I've definitely settled into the basic information. It lets me play with structure without being too invested in words, and it ends up being much more efficient time-wise. The other thing that's changing is that I'm giving myself more time to think about characters and theme etc. before I even tackle the discovery draft. After that, it's a process of constant adjustment. :D

    I've never printed out the index cards on Scrivener. I really need to get more into that program. There are elements I love about it, but I can't really get past the mental block of knowing that I can't keep my notes and structural information together with subsequent versions -- once I export to send to someone for comments, I have to work outside of Scrivener. Unless there's some way to do that I haven't found yet.

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    1. Martina, you can import a Word doc with comments into Scrivener. I believe Word comments are imported as inline annotations. I'm going from memory with this next part: under Document > Convert, Scrivener will convert the annotations into comments. I'll show you how to do it next time we talk if you want. Yippee!

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    2. This is just one more example of how you rock! Looking forward to being schooled. :D Thank goodness you wrote this post!

      Hugs,

      M.

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