October 14, 2011

Writing the First Draft

Several people have asked me how I write a first draft. And so in honor of finishing the first draft of my new project, I shall tell you all. Don't get too excited though, it's not a magical formula. It has changed a bit every time I've embarked on a new novel. I think every story is different, and so needs to be treated differently.

While writing my first novel (you know, the horrible one no one has read, the one no one will ever read, the one I think I've lost thank goodness), I used an outline. And I clung to that outline for dear life. It was my life line while writing that novel, and I can definitely say the story suffered because of it. There was no creative give or take. It was the outline or nothing.

From that experience, I decided to write Dragon Sister without an outline. I knew what the beginning was, what the ending was, and then the middle was a nebulous haze that I solidified as I wrote. It was refreshing and fun to write it that way, just the words spilling out as fast as my fingers could go. But it did require quite a bit of reworking...okay, a lot of reworking...to get the flow of the story where it needed to be.

Then onto The Burn. That novel was interesting to write because I had an outline created for me. Since it's inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's A Little Mermaid, the main plot points are there: Terra comes from the bottom of the ocean, she goes up on land, she falls in love, etc. (I don't want to put too many spoilers since it's still such a new book, but if you're familiar with the original fairytale, you'll know those plot points, and the ick factor involved in a couple of them) And so I had that basic skeleton for the story, and I added the flesh to it. But the final version is very different from that initial draft. The initial draft was boring. But I think the process of rewriting should be its own post.

And now my new project. I liked the way The Burn came together with having the main plot points and then rounding out the story. So that's what I did with my current novel, and it's been a lot of fun working with it that way, tweaking the basic outline along the way. It was a good way to get the story arc put together and not meander in the middle.

And that's how I've done a first draft. Like I said, no magic formula. I've changed it up for every novel. For me, the most important part of a first draft is to get the words out. All the perfectionism and beautiful language and story tweaking can come later. And you know what? It's been a blast every single time.

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