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These are my writing posts from my former blog, spanning 2009-2012. To see new writing posts, click on the blog tab above. To see these archived post organized by topic, click "For Writers" above.

Entries in rough draft (3)

Friday
Mar042011

Permission to Suck

I'm deep in the throes of drafting book two in my erotic romance series. The hero in this book is one of the secondary characters from my first book and, according to those who have read book one, someone that readers have really connected with/fallen for. He's been one of my favorite characters to write as well.

 

However, knowing this has added another layer of pressure to this process because I feel like if people are really going to be looking forward to hearing his story, I don't want to let them down. I want this story to not just be as good as the first, but better. Add in that I'm on a deadline with this one and all that anxiety can be suffocating--at least for my neurotic self.

Part of the problem is my process. I write linearly (is that a word?) and I edit as I go. So if I decide to change a motivation or a thread, I go back to the beginning and change it before I move forward. Part of this is because I'm a perfectionist by nature--a B was never acceptable to me in school. It's how I'm built. On top of that, I'm also unable to jump ahead of a tough scene to write later parts of the book because I need to know where I've been in order to know where I'm going.

I'm working on all these things. I'm trying to convince my pantser self to learn how to do a rough plot ahead of time. (More on that in another post.) But I'm also giving myself a new mantra: You have permission to suck.

The conference I went to this past weekend had a class given by author Anna DeStefano. She talked about how every time she draft, she's in a constant state of anxiety. That she prefers revising. It's the first time I've heard another writer voice how I always feel. Most of my writer friends are the ones (yes, I'm looking at you Julie Cross and Tiffany Reisz) who can bust through a first draft at a crazy fast pace. Their joy is in the drafting then they worry about editing or rewrites later. It's an opposite process from mine. I'm always happier once words are already on a page.

Then today I came across Kiersten White's post on drafting and realized I'm definitely not alone, there are lots of us out there. I'll use her quote because this is exactly how I feel when I'm drafting:

Every book feels impossible.  Every single time, when I start a book and have that huge weight and balance of words pending, I think, how the CRAP do I do this?  And every single time, when I am in the middle, I think, I am never going to finish.  This will be the story I can't do.  I'm done.  How on earth did I ever manage to finish those other books?  I literally can't remember.  Maybe I didn't.  Because I'm sure as heck not going to be able to finish this one.
And then, somehow, word by word, impossibly, the book gets written.


That pretty much sums it up for me. But what Anna DeStefano said gets her through that anxiety is to give herself permission to write junk during the first draft. She said she put a sign above her computer saying "You are allowed to write crap." So basically, giving herself permission to suck.

 

This is what I'm going to try to do. The first draft doesn't have to be great. It just has to have bones to work with. Once I have those bones I can hone this bad boy into the story I want it to be. Letting go of the perfectionism won't be easy for me to do--my internal editor tends to use a bullhorn to get my attention--but I'm going to give it my best shot. I'm at 52k words now. I want to get to 90k in the next 6 weeks. The only way I'm going to be able to do that is to give myself the permission to suck. I'll keep you posted.

So what's your style? Are you a fast drafter and hate revising? Are you like me? What is your mantra when you're writing the first draft?

Wednesday
Jul072010

WIP Wednesday: Typing THE END

 


So I'm doing a happy dance because this weekend, I was finally able to type THE END on my current WIP!  Woo-hoo!  I know that there is editing to be done, scenes to add, threads to plant, and holes to fill, but there's nothing like reaching the end of a rough draft.

 

As I've mentioned before, I live in a harried state when I'm drafting.  My mind is buried in the book, I'm frantic when I hit a wall because I think--is this going to be the one that I can't finish?  It's and exciting and creative time, but also pretty stressful for me.  This is why I wish I was a plotter--the unknown scares the bejeebers out of me, but alas, no matter how hard I try, my brain doesn't work that way.

And I have the unused scene file to prove it.  This book landed at right under 84k (I anticipate it will grow as I revise because there are some scenes I know I need to add), but my cut file--17,000 words.  Ugh.  More than fifty pages of stuff I can't use because they were scenes that led me in the wrong direction or weren't working.  It is what it is.  Apparently, this is my process.

Anyway, I'm now jumping into revisions.  My awesome beta readers are going over the first three chapters now and the feedback I've gotten back so far has been really positive.  So perhaps I haven't totally screwed myself doing the dual timeline structure.  *breathes sigh of relief*  Although, I'm diligently ignoring the fact that I'm going to have to write a synopsis for something with two timelines, two story trajectories, separate character arcs (for the same characters but at different times).  *grabs paper bag, breathes in and out*

What were we talking about again?  Right.  Unicorns and butterflies and rainbows.  Nice, happy positive things.

So, how's your WIP going?  What do you do to celebrate when you write THE END?  Am I the only one who gets panicked every time I hit a wall, convinced that it's going to be THE wall that kills the story?

**Today's Theme Song**
"Maybe It's Just Me" - Butch Walker
(player in sidebar, take a listen)


 

Tuesday
Nov102009

Story Layers: Finding Your Guacamole

 

7 Layer Dip
Photo by erin.kkr (click pic for link)
Many of you brave souls are deep in the trenches of NaNoWriMo crafting that fast draft at break neck speed, hoping to reach the finish line. But after the calendar clicks over to December 1, what's next? Revising sure, but what kind of revising?
You're going to need more than grammar fixes and word cutting. What most of you will have is a skeleton of a story with characters and conflict holding it together--a solid base on which you can create something great. But you're going to have to add some meat (and guacamole), layers--like the dip above--otherwise, you'll just have a big pile of bland beans.
Layering Your Novel after the First Draft
 
1. Put movement into each scene to give bodies to the talking heads.
--People don't usually just stay there and talk and sigh, they do things.
2. Insert the senses into a scene.
--We often rely too much on vision in that first draft. We experience things in the world through all five senses, make sure your character does too.
3. Pump up your setting descriptions.
--This is always a trouble area for me. When I'm writing that first draft, I don't want to waste time describing how a house looks, but it's necessary (in moderation) to ground your reader and enrich the scene.
4. Inject emotion into scenes
--Many times we get so wrapped up in A happens then B then C that we forget to put in those internal reaction and emotions. Ever read a love scene that read like an instruction manual? Ugh. Without emotion the scene will fall flat.
5. Beef up your dialogue
--Find places where you just got the words out and layer in some character voice. And make sure your dialogue reads realistic.
6. Sneak in backstory
--In first drafts, I tend to info dump backstory. Go back, chop up the chunks and sprinkle it throughout. (like the olives in the dip)
7. Foreshadowing
--Sometimes when your start, you don't have the end in mind. Once you're done with draft one, you know the secret. Now you can go back and tuck little hints to foreshadow.
8. Tighten tension
--Tension is an art of pacing. In the first run through, a scene that was intended to be tense may fall short because it was rushed. Go back, slow it down, stretch the tension until taut.
9. Add humor (if appropriate)
--There are usually moments you passed up that were great opportunities to elicit a smile from your reader or strengthen your character's voice with a little humor/sarcasm.
10. Weave in subplots.
--Now that you have the main plot hammered out, enhance your story with a subplot here and there.
11. Break out the thesaurus
--I usually can't think of the exact write word the first time around--especially with verbs. So I use my favorite goto words and some adverbs. Then, during revisions, I find/search those words and replace them with something that is stronger and more fitting.
--Words I use ad nauseum in a first draft: walked, looked, stood, smiled, pulled, pushed, just, back, eyebrows, hand/s, sighed, sat
--If you're not sure what your addiction words are, go to Wordle and paste in your manuscript, your drugs of choice will be the biggest words. Here's my revised novel's Wordle:
As you can see I still have some work to do with a few words, but you should have seen it before, "just" was like a billboard, lol.
So what ingredients does your first draft usually need most? Do you typically finish the first draft and then do these layers? Or, do you do it smaller chunks--going back after finishing a chapter and pumping it up? What other things do you do to elevate that humble rough draft?

**Today's Theme Song**
"Elevation"-- U2
(player in sidebar, take a listen to do it old school)