At the beginning of this year, one of the things I promised myself was that I was going to learn and analyze my writing process in order to cater my goals and what I can realistically commit to around the way I create. Sounds worthy, yes?
So, the other day, I was sitting at a meeting of Critique group, feeling bummed as usual, cause I’m still chasing that illusive perfect first draft, which my Crit partners were pointing out (accurately, I might add) just wasn’t happening.
Ha-ha! Laugh, if you want. I deserve it. On an intellectual level, I KNOW a perfect first draft is much like living a sin-free life. We strive in that direction, but yeah, typically we fall short – sometimes woefully short, as in my case. And like a Class-A Dumbass, I get bummed about that.
Hold those thoughts for a minute, and permit me a few seemingly random points.
- Since early childhood, the manner in which I form friendships has been that over time, (sometimes, quite a bit of time), I slowly allow people into my inner circle. But once there, those friends have been solid and lasting.
- A truth for me is that I don’t like writing first drafts.
- While I know the core of my characters when I start a new MS, more often than not, I do not know precisely how these characters will react as conflict assaults them or as they are confronted with a deepening emotional challenge.
- A common remark I tell myself about my characters is that I need time to get to know them – just like how I behave in real life with real people.
So, let’s return to this idiotic notion I have that I should be able to write a fairly clean first draft. So, there I was, listening with dismay to my Crit partners talk about places where I might have missed an opportunity to flesh out my characters or places where the way they reacted was perhaps a tad unheroic – things like that. And out of the blue, a couple of things became clear to me and I smiled.
To you, these “things” may seem elementary, almost to the point of being self-evident, but I was born with a thicker skull than most. The simplest concepts often elude me. So what were these magical Ah-Ha moments? Two things about my process came into sharp focus.
- For me, my first draft needs to be all about the Action Plot. I have known for some time that one of the reasons I so dislike writing a first draft is that I’m trying to do too much, and my tiny little pea-brain doesn’t handle that very well. Figuring out how to get from point A to point B. Making sure world building and setting are making it into the draft. Trying not to forget about sensory details – yada, yada, yada. It sucks, and I suck at it – in first draft, that is.
- When listening to advice and suggestions from my Crit partners during first draft, I need to hear where I might be falling short on my character development and try to modify their behavior going forward, but I no longer need to feel bummed about not nailing that. When I reach “The End” on the first draft of the Action Plot, I figure I will have a pretty good handle on how I want to my characters to behave. Sure, that might require some rewriting and editing in order to adjust their reactions in certain situations, BUT rewriting and editing is exactly what I LOVE about the writing process.
Whoo hoo! Talk about a win-win-win. Win #1 – I no longer have to feel bummed. So what if my characters fall short in first draft? That will no longer be my focus. First draft (for me, anyway) will be about the “what’s happening” stuff. Win #2 – eliminating character development as a focus in draft one will allow me the time I need in order to get to know my characters, and then (or so my thinking goes) I will be able to write them with the authority of one who really knows them. Win #3 – Narrowing my first draft focus to one element of story development (namely the Action Plot) will hopefully lead to a faster turnaround. Since first draft is not my favorite part of the process anyway, makes sense to bang that out as quickly as possible so I can jump right into the “fixing” part, which is what I enjoy.
So, there you go, and there I go to a hopefully happier, more productive, and more focused writing process. Peace out, babies. I’m off to conquer my first draft.
Lorinda Peake wrote her first ditty when she was ten on an English seashore while visiting her British grandmother. From then on, her family either acted in or were treated to plays, skits, or commercial spoofs. In school, she wrote poetry, fables and short stories.
Years later, she tossed down a particularly bad novel and thought, “I could do at least that well.” She’s been pursuing the elusive published novel ever since. Recently, she joined a group of fellow writers who decided to cajole, bully, encourage, and sometimes baby each other along towards the publishing goal by setting real and measurable writing objectives with “motivational” consequences for non-attainment.
Lorinda loves a good romance – all the more if it is wrapped in a great fantasy setting. She lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband of 34 years.