My Drafting Process

When I write I have a tendency to agonize over wording to the extent that it slows me down. This is great for polishing a near-finished product but terrible for drafting. It’s probably the number one reason I haven’t written anything beyond 30k words or so. The thought of writing a 100k novel is daunting to say the least.

I get around that by…just straight up skipping parts.  Phrases. Paragraphs. Entire plot lines. It doesn’t matter. I’ll get to it later. What’s important is that I put something on paper, and clearly mark what parts are meant to be part of the final product and what parts need to be replaced. I typically use brackets for this purpose. If it’s in brackets, it doesn’t “count” and I can ignore minutiae like specific wording and anything that needs to be researched.

I can get to it later.

Here’s an example of something that’s sitting in my (top secret!) drafts page right now.

[trip time] For those I left behind, the wait was more like fourteen years. [Because I was leaving again], I made a rule: no new friends. So it should come as no surprise that I [fell in love x years before departure], because life has a wicked sense of humor.

[I was eating dinner with my dad when…] “Remember that hiker who helped us find the trail at Narrow Hills? I ran into her again, and apparently she lives near me. So we started talking about our favorite places. I’m taking her to Graves Trail next Saturday. Remember that one?”

“Of course,” he said.

And then, against my better judgement – “I think she [likes me.]”

“Hmm, you might have to wait until she makes a move before you tell her you’re not interested, or stay away entirely.”

“No, but that’s the scary part.” [separator] “I think it’s mutual.”

He gave me a devilish grin. “Then go for it!”

Clearly he didn’t understand the meaning of “leaving Earth in [x years],” so I [finished my food and didn’t bring up the subject for the rest of the night.] Later that night, when my car pulled up to take me home, he hugged and kissed me and said, “don’t be afraid to live your life. [Odyssey/Ilion] doesn’t own you.”

I looked at my car, at him, and back at the car. A thought crawled up my throat. I swallowed it. No, I’m still going. But he’s right.


Of course, that’s not to say I won’t touch the unbracketed parts. They’re not immune to the red pen, or to the machete. They are simply a low priority at the moment.

Is this a normal way to draft? Is there such a thing? Who knows. But if the nanowrimo-style-word-vomit method doesn’t work for you, perhaps this approach will.

It’s like sculpting. There are two fundamental types – additive and subtractive. You can build up your forms with clay, or start with an ugly block of wood and whittle it down to something elegant. Personally, I never took to carving.





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2 Responses to My Drafting Process

  1. keenir says:

    Makes sense; excellent advice, thank you.
    I tend to write in scenes – or i try to – and I put “…” when I can’t think of what goes in an intervening space, and {this-ish thing} when I can’t think of the word, or its a note}
    {I have a feeling the fellow hiking person is also on the mission – maybe as a backup in case one of the main people finds themselves unable to go?}

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