Thursday, October 18, 2012

Crafting vs. Drafting

So as some of you know, my process of writing my books usually looks like this:

1. Come up with a vague idea.
2. Come up with detailed characters to execute the idea.
3. Sit at my computer and let the characters tell me what they're going to do to make the idea happen.
4. Type maniacally for several days, ignoring all family/friends/bathing rituals.
5. End with a rough draft that is anywhere between 20-40k.

This gets me to the point where I have the bones of what is going to be my book. And actually, this has been a fairly successful process because I rarely have things like saggy middles or overly long denouements. And because my background is theatre, I usually have fairly decent dialogue.

However, I also don't have setting. I don't have beautiful metaphors. My scenes are clipped and generally read a little like Glengarry Glen Ross.

So I have to spend the next several months after my "bones" draft layering. Which, in fact, is a bit hard for me. Not the actual layering, but feeling like I'm trying to "add length". Because the draft is written, I already know what's going to happen and what my characters are thinking and all the subtext, so it often takes my outstanding CPs to say "Christa, you aren't inviting your readers to the party here."

A good solve to this has normally been to sit on these drafts for a few months and go back to them later. It's amazing what 3 months will do to your perspective. But even when I go back to them, I still struggle with setting or creating a sense of environment. This is definitely a theatre major issue because in my world, setting didn't fall in my end of the swimming pool. Someone else was working on that while I was working on lines, emotion, subtext.

But now, in an effort to try something new, hone my craft and actually not have to spend months on a revision, I am doing the 750 words a day thing. The thing where I don't power draft, but instead sit and spend time on a scene, building a world around that. Describing what things look like, and maybe even a little what people look like (I tend to avoid this). I shall keep you posted on this experiment!

What about you all? Do you power draft or craft your scenes and go back to them? What works best for you?


Anonymous said...

First, I love the picture. :)

I think my first novel came like yours--the whole story was there, and I knew what would happen and it came so fast that some chapters were little more than sketches. The details came later. I definitely wrote in layers. And it seems to have worked-my agent and editor did not have huge edits.

But the second novel is comimg so s-l-o-w-l-y. I can't figure out why yet. I have this sense that I'm not letting myself write a "bad" first draft this time, even thugh I totally did last time. It's messing with my head, for sure.

I'll be curious to see how your current experiment works for you. Do you feel like you're pressuring yourself too early, or does it end up saving you time on the next pass though.

Best of luck with it!

Morgan said...

NO way... I haven't met anyone else who writes a short first draft first and then adds. All my friends write the other way (as far as I'm aware)----where they mass vomit a manuscript out and then have to chop away at it. I TOTALLY prefer to add, layer, polish afterwards--it helps me see the big picture better.

Fascinating to read more about your process, Christa. :)

Stephsco said...

I take forever to finish a first draft (which really ends up like a third by the time I write an ending). I'm aiming for an outline and a lot of prework first before I plow ahead with my new idea. I think we just have to try out new ways and see what works.

Suzi said...

I've known for a while that I'm horrible with description/setting. I always have to add it. But now I've recently found out, I'm a little low on the emotion. So I need to layer that in too.

So my general process is:

Delete unnecessary crap. (This may take a while to even figure out what that is. Or a good CP.)
Add in setting and emotion.

I kinda like your way of doing it though. I'm gonna try NaNo, so maybe I'll try keep that unnecessary crap out on the first try... save myself some editing time.

roxanne s. sukhan said...

I've decided that letting the characters drive the story works best. As for crafting vs drafting, I am definitely a crafter.

M.J. Fifield said...

I start with the characters, usually dialogue, and then work my way out, adding layers to the bones as I go. I struggle with setting too which is bad because I primarily write fantasy.

Elodie said...

So apparently I´m more on the short side when it comes to my first draft and then I need to layer in or as Mandy put it in class "add the shadows and lights to the structure".
It´s still about 50000/60000 of words the first time around, but this includes some backstory that afterwards I distill in the book.