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June 11, 2013

Does Drafting Terrify or Energize You?

Woman leaping above a field with text: Does Drafting Make You Feel Free?

Last week I started a new work-in-progress (WIP). Yay! I love drafting but I know others don’t.

Some people call the first draft a “discovery draft,” and that description certainly holds true for me. My first drafts are all about discovering the story. Literally. I’m a reformed plotter and now write mostly by the seat of my pants.

With this new WIP, I know the hero and heroine and the basic premise. I have ideas for what some of the story beats might be, but those often change during drafting. I have no idea of how things will play out, what the specific goals, motivations, or conflicts will be, and I’m totally clueless about the ending—other than the fact that it will be a happy ending. (I do write romance. *smile*)

On some level, that uncertainty can be terrifying, but on another level, it’s exhilarating. Like an adventure through a never-before-explored secret cave filled with treasures to behold.

Years ago, I wrote a post about my love the drafting phase, and I thought this would be an appropriate time to dig it out. I give you…

The Joy of…Drafting

Most of my past year has been spent editing and revising, but for the past two days, I’ve been able to write fresh stuff for a shiny new project. Oh, drafting, how I love thee.

Really, is there anything more freeing than starting with a newborn idea and exploring? Every scene, every line, every character’s reaction is a discovery. Everything is sparkling and new.

This isn’t a post about plotting vs. pantsing, but I’ll just mention that I’m somewhere in the middle of those two approaches to writing. I have a general idea of the plot and story arc, but what happens within scene is a complete mystery to me until I start writing it. So when I write a scene, I have to listen to my characters to figure out what’s going to happen.

Some may find the blank page intimidating. Not me. All that white space lets me more easily visualize that movie in my mind that my muse is creating.  I often feel more like the person taking dictation from my muse than the actual author of these stories. The next morning, I’ll reread what I wrote and think, “I wrote that? I don’t remember writing that.” (You have to imagine that in an impressed voice and not the horrified kind of voice that follows drunk texting.)

But that’s why I love drafting. It’s when I feel closest to my muse. It’s when I can take risks with my writing and see where they lead. It’s when I feel most in touch with my dreams.

That freedom of drafting is why many of us choose to write. It might be the hard work of editing that separates the hobby writers from those who want to make it their career, but how many of us started writing because we just couldn’t wait to revise our work? None? I thought so.

For me, drafting is like the initial excitement when you start a new relationship. There’s no baggage, no exes or in-laws to worry about, no socks left on the floor to ratchet up your pet peeve meter. It’s more like when you first stay up until 4am talking because you suddenly want to know everything there is to know about this person and want to hear their entire life history. And no matter how mundane or trivial the information, it’s all fascinating.

So I’ll get back to the work of editing soon. But for now, I’m enjoying the lust of this new relationship—and the rush of drafting.

*****

Did you notice my previous description of myself on the plotting-to-pantsing scale? I’ve obviously become less of a plotter over the years. That’s why I call myself a “reformed plotter.” But we each have to find whatever method works for us to get words on the page—because even better than the “starting a new draft” feeling is the “finished a first draft” feeling. *smile*

Does drafting thrill or terrify you? If you don’t love drafting, why not? Is it because of the blank page, writer’s block, pressure to capture your ideas onto the page, self-doubt, or something else? What are your favorite things about drafting? What are your least favorite things about drafting?

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Angela Quarles

Yay! I’m excited you’re starting a new WIP! Can’t wait to hear about it (and Beta read)! I find it exciting too, though I wait until the end before I reread anything I wrote. I’m so afraid of waking up my internal editor if I look over what I’ve already written so I tiptoe by it each morning and write. But yep, I’ve been surprised too (in a good way) when I’ve finally reread it for the first time. I used to enjoy revising, but now not so much. I think that early joy was because I was discovering new craft tools I couldn’t wait to apply. I’m still learning, but it’s not the same as it was early on…

Amanda

I LURRRVE drafting! My favorite part of the whole writing process, the part where I get to create. I’m a pantser as well, and not knowing what my characters or the story is going to do until the words end up on the page is so much fun. The best part is when the story just keeps flowing and a half hour’s flown by and there’s a thousand words on the page (yes, that’s happened!)

Now if I could just find someone to edit all my work for me… 😀

Buffy Armstrong

So excited that you are starting your new book! Can’t wait to hear all about it.

I actually love drafting. I go in with a basic idea of what’s going to happen and then I just jump into the story. Things sometimes go the way I planned and sometimes they don’t. Okay, most of the time they don’t, but I’m okay with it either way.

The most difficult part I find is getting up the nerve/courage to start. But once I’m started, I really have a good time. And then comes revising. It’s really never ending.

Derek Hawkins

Pantster/Plotter? I’m that hybrid – I do both. At the same time. 😀 Metaphorically speaking I know which star to steer my ship by to reach my destination, but I don’t always know which ports I’ll drop anchor in along the way. I like the discoveries I make along the journey. One idea might spark a plot line later in the piece. Another idea might cause me to jump backward and insert something else, setting up this new idea. (I was using Chekov’s Gun long before I knew the term or what it meant) I find if I know to much ahead of time, I’m less interested in writing it.

So, I’d say, yes, I do like drafting. Put me on Team Energize.

Derek Hawkins

Plotter – I know I want A and B and C to happen. I want to have this fight scene..” ect.
Pantster – What happens between A & B, and B& C… lol
I’ve got a foot in both worlds, and since they are 10.5Wide, I’m covering a far bit of ground. 😀

Widdershins

I used to be a complete pantser, now I’m more of a plantser!

First drafts! How do I love thee? Eleventy squillion lots! Which isn’t to say I don’t love the rest of the process too, but there’s just nothing like that primal flow of words onto a page.

Shain Brown

Congratulations on starting your new work. I know how empowering and how scary it can be, just remember to explore and enjoy because your time there is limited.

To me, I can relate to Derek the easiest. A hybrid, both a realist that that will direct me to B, C, and D. But also that wild unbridled passionate person that will seek to open up and answer those questions I have.

In a nut shell we are both- some controlled by our freedom, and others by our reserved organized inner-self. Does it matter- so long as we are having fun?

Thanks for sharing.

Tami Veldura

Lol! I’m probably the weird one around here. Drafting is nice, I get a certain thrill from it, but my true love really is revising. When I’m slogging through the middle, it’s the thought of digging back into the story after the structure is already solid and ripping our what’s not to code/polishing the awesome gems that I really enjoy.

Given a decent timeline, my process alternates stories so that I draft story 1, draft (unrelated) story 2, revise story 1, draft story 3, revise story 2, draft 4, revise 3, etc. That gives me plenty of time away from the inital draft to get some clarity and really get out of that world. Then I can dive back in and really see where things are weak.

So drafting is nice, but revision is where it’s at for me.

Serena Yung
Serena Yung

Haha, as you already know, I DEFINITELY find drafting exhilarating and not terrifying! In fact, the drafting, the sense of not knowing where you’re going, the constant discovering of new things, and the “Oohs” and “aahs”, and occasionally “Amazing!” or “How brilliant!”, are what primarily make writing such a magical process to me. 😀

And I also really love how in the process of writing, it feels like you’re in an altered state of consciousness! I love that feeling so much! ^^ It’s like being in an “intensified world”, or a “truer, deeper reality”! If you get what I mean. ^^

Teresa Robeson

Hooray for your new WIP! It is exciting to start something new. 🙂 Regarding drafting, I remember your Pantser class fondly…and I hope that by mid summer, I’ll be ready and able to take you up on my critique-winning!

Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

Hey jami!
I’m with you. I love drafting. And I love it for the same reasons you do, it’s new and exciting, there are things I learn about my characters along the way. I get bubbly just thinking about it.
I’m deep in edits right now, and I’m not knocking that aspect of writing, but drafting is fun. No doubt about that.
Sorry I’m late in commenting. I enjoyed your post!
Have a great day 🙂
Tamara

Taurean Watkins

Jami, I can’t say drafting’s always “Energizing” for me, as far as books are concerned. But it’s not “Terrifying” either. Query letters are terrifying, synopses are terrifying, drafting books is not terrifying to me.

That said, it’s hard to enjoy drafting because I try to improve with every book, things I bombed on the last book, so I have problems writing blind now than when I started ten years ago, sometimes all that publishing knowledge, however vital to learn, does the writer a disservice in terms of being able to “LOOSEN UP!” as you sagely describe.

It’s hard for me in that respect to write a “Just do it” stream of consciousness draft because I know where my weaknesses are and I’d like to not have to revise EVERY book for ten years. Period.

Since I can’t write in shorter forms all that well, being able to draft semi-readable books is important so I can better balance quality with quantity.

Hope that makes some sense,
Taurean

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[…] mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’ve started drafting a new story. The first week, my word counts were rather lame, but this past week has been going much better. […]

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