Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Before I Draft.

Happy WWO Wednesday. Today I am talking about drafting. You know, writing that dreaded first - or in my case, zero - draft. As I've stated before, I am a thinker. I plot and plan and stew long before I can write a single word. That said, I am not at all rigid in my writing process. It's very fluid, allowing me the freedom to change direction or plot based on the whims of my characters.

I know what you're thinking - those two things, plotting and freedom, don't really go together. For me the freedom is IN the plotting. By having a loose structure, my mind is able to go where ever the character wants it to without worrying about getting lost in the muck.

So, what do I actually DO before I sit down to write that first draft. How do I instill a little structure in which my characters can play?

Here is a brief, and NOT all inclusive list of my typical pre-draft activities:

  • Premise - I always start here. What is the basic situation and problem in the story?
  • Theme - What are the BIG themes in the story?
  • Plot Points - Once I know the basics of the premise and theme, I sit down and sketch out (very loosely) the major plot points. For me, this means I use Blake Snyder's beats. For others, this could be a basic plot line. The point is that I need to have some sort of structure for the story.
  • Music - yea, I know, music. Soundtrack music to be exact. See, I can not write without music. Period. And for me, the music I listen too has to emulate the mood of the scene(s) I am writing. So, I spend time searching for just the right music. 
  • Time -  Once I pull that together, the book will start unfolding in my thoughts. I'll see snippets of scenes, get a feel for little pieces of the characters. At this point, I stew. And stew. I obsessively listen to the "right" music and steep myself into the vibe of the story. This process may last a day, a week, a few weeks.
  • Characters - During my period of stewing, I begin to have mental conversations with my characters. I get to know them in my thoughts. I may start doing some character writing exercise, asking them questions about love, anger, rage, hope - all the base emotions. As I write their answers down, I usual start to feel the story
  • Once these things are done - and the process varies highly for every book and every project - I start writing. And writing. I prefer to get the zero draft done FAST, though up until recently, I was not good at FAST. Now, I draft in 10 - 15 minute increments, and I get through the book in nothing flat.
There you go - my process. It's weird, maybe even wacky. But it works for me. 
What do you guys to pre-drafting? Anything?


  1. This is EXACTLY what I do too.

    I usually do the planning (and the pre-planning)while giving my current wip space. This allows me time to let the ideas unfold without feeling the pressure to finish and write the first draft. And that gives me time to realize something needs to change.

  2. I actually am trying to have a process, so I hope you'll forgive me but I plan on borrowing a few bits from yours. I just had an idea pop into my head as I drove into the parking lot at work and I think I'm going to use a lot of what you outline here to get started. The struggles I'm experiencing in my editing is due to not having a process, so this is a good place to start. So thanks a bunch :)

  3. Hi Christine! Your process is a lot like mine. I donn't do the pantsing... but I enjoy the free thinking during my plotting stages.... outlines, timelines, character interviews, world building.... once I write the first draft it does take some of the fun out, but I never know how I'm gonna get exactly from one point to another til I do the first draft.

  4. I'm a very linear writer. I might jot a few notes for things that could potentially happen later, but everything is in flux. Like I'm taking a journey with them, and none of us know what's about to happen. Most times I don't even know until about 30 seconds before they do. However, I'm also a very "need the first line" kind of writer. Not that the first line won't change, but it helps me set the tone for the whole draft. Take NaNo last year as an example, I didn't start until late into the evening on November 1 because I just couldn't get that first words to come to me. When it did, I just went running until I hit 50K.

    This comment was much longer than I anticipated, but as per usual, I didn't think it through before I started.

  5. I'm taking notes here! This is great stuff. I'm an outliner and plotter too. I didn't used to be but it saves SO much time in revision that I'm a huge believer now!

  6. Excellent pre-writing! You're an old pro. :)


Thanks for your input!