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Drafting a Novel
Just the sound of this is daunting. Or it can be for some of us! If you think getting that first draft down is something like this:
…then you’ll probably want to move on to another blog on the blog hop 🙂 If you think writing a novel is overwhelming, then read on to learn my process and who knows, maybe some of it will work for you!
Plotter vs. Pantser
I’m here to tell you that I’m a plotter. Like a super plotter. So my process is a very calculated step-by-step journey. I’m knee deep in a WIP right now, and I can honestly say that there’s no way I’d be at 37,703 words without my super-plotting! So here is my (un)magical, super-nerdy recipe for drafting a novel.
Step 1: The Movie
Long before anything ever gets written down, I create a movie in my mind of how I want my idea to develop into a story. This can take a week or months or a year. It just depends. (Mostly on how much other crap is littering my brain! haha). This current WIP, I worked out in only about a month. I visualize it bit by bit. First the opening, then what conflicts could arise. And on to all the characters and how I want them to develop. By the end, it’s as if I’ve seen a movie version of the story I want to tell.
Step 2: The Summary Outline
I don’t really know what to call this. I take a spiral notebook (I have one dedicated to every WIP) and scribble out this movie that I just created in my head. It’s like a very shabby, poorly written synopsis. This is also the point where I map out my characters, their characteristics, family trees, ages, relationships…
Step 3: The Post-It Outline
Seen here, this is where I expand in greater detail on that shabby outline. I create a Post-it Note for each chapter. I am sure to include 3 main actions/scenes in each chapter. This achieves two things for me: helps me make sure there’s some sort of cliffhanger or drama in each chapter (beg, middle and end to each chapter), and it helps me make sure I don’t write an entire chapter that doesn’t move the plot forward and eventually will have to be deleted. I don’t like to delete entire chapters after I’ve written them. It demoralizes me. So I try avoid that from the beginning.
Step 4: Drafting
Only now do I think of opening up that Word document (or insert whatever program you use). I feel way more at ease knowing I have a direction, but I’m still feeling that I’m — as the great Lorelai Gilmore would say — “doing the splits over a crate of dynamite.” It’s painful, those first words. And even though I tell myself they don’t have to be beautiful, sometimes I just don’t know where to begin. And after all that! Can you imagine me without all these steps? LOL. So I still need sometimes to zone out on the couch and visualize how I want the chapter to be written. Or take a shower. Geez, anyone else out there have a shower that’s like a portal to brilliance??? Everytime I’m stuck, I get the answers in the shower. I’m very clean when drafting.
Step 5: Stop and Review
I don’t like to get all the way through a first draft without refining. Sometimes when I’m refining, little details change. And I’d hate to get all the way through 70,000 words and then have major rewrites. So I edit as I go. I write two chapters, print them out and edit by hand. Yes, by hand. With a Dr. Seuss pencil. Then I type in my changes. This by no means indicates it’s a finished product. I still will go over the whole thing to refine word choice etc probably two more times before sending it out. But what it means for me is that I’ll have a fairly polished novel to have someone read when I’m finished with this first (er maybe you’d call it a 2nd) draft.
And that’s how I roll. It might be too strict for some of you. (I do make changes along the way. For this WIP, I combined two Post-its when I saw there wasn’t enough action to cover two chapters. See, I can be spontaneous and crazy, too!) But maybe some of these steps could help you if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Good luck!
I love hearing how others write. Share with us your writing process in the comments! Please! 🙂
I am a YA writer and middle school teacher. I have a B.A. in English from UCLA and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and currently reside in Los Angeles, California, with my dog Mr. Darcy.
When I’m not living in fictional worlds inside my head, I run all sorts of distances, torture my body at CrossFit, and DVR entirely too many television shows. I dream of one day returning to the Midwest to live on a farm. Or perhaps owning a cookie delivery service.