April 4, 2012

How I Write A Novel Post Three: Drafting

Once I've done my research, I'm ready to start the drafting process. Since I'm now writing full time on this novel, I've scheduled out my drafting goals by the day and week. This is to make sure that I'll meet my deadline for the next book which I've set for a little less than seven months from now. Based on how I wrote the last book, I think this will be more time than I need, but I had to take into account the fact that I'll be doing editorial revisions on the first book in tandem with this one. Here's where personal preference comes into play. I've made the decision to try not to draft on weekends. This is mainly because I'm a mom and am trying to put aside this time to hang with the family, but if I get behind on my weekly goals, this could change. Since I can be an erratic writer: one day filling up to thirty pages, another struggling to write five, I have made a daily goal of 2 thousand words,, 10 thousand per week. Some days I go over, in fact, most I do, but by keeping it realistic at 2 thousand I've almost built in time for unforseens such as sick kids, days where I'm blocked, etc.

I try to write at the same time everyday. My kids are at school and I'm back home by ten, so that's when I start. I will draft until I've made my goal, usually two to three hours since some of that time will be me staring into space, trying to figure out what comes next. I write on legal pads long hand for the first draft. It looks like this:

When I've gotten to my goal, I'll usually try to type in whatever I've drafted the same day. As I've mentioned before, I'm a notoriously slow typer and letting the pages pile up will only frustrate me. Plus, my head is still in the pages I've just written and so it's easier to read them (they are always pretty messy) and easier to revise them a little as I type them in. Sometimes I actually end up rewriting whole sections as I type them in. This is really where my first revisions start. It's purposeful and yet it's not. I'm not analyzing as I go, it's more like I'm clarifying, distilling down what I mean to say in this first rough revision. Usually I've written the equivalent of a chapter or two in any given drafting day. I type them in as separate documents at this point. I won't combine them into one draft until I do my biggest revision, but more on that in upcoming weeks. For now, I just like them to stay separate so I'm not tied to the order that I've written them in. Plus, not all of these chapters or scenes will stay until the end. Somewhere in the middle of the draft, things will begin to change and I'll have to adjust the front end of the novel to accommodate those changes.

I will continue drafting this way until I've drafted the entire novel. I try not to get too hung up on tweaking things a lot until I've finished drafting, but it's difficult since I can sometimes get obsessive about getting things right up front. I am getting better at this every time I start something new though.

So, there you have it. My drafting process in a nutshell. I'll have a workable first draft in about three months and will spend the rest of my allotted time revising. Notice that I save the bulk of the time I've given myself for revisions. That's because to me, that is where the actual book begins to take shape, the writing to go from just words on paper to an actual story. My finished draft is never the finished product....it's merely a beginning. How about you? What's your drafting process like?


  1. I admire people who hand-write before they type. I can type almost as fast as I think, so it gets me through faster to do it that way, but I like the idea of being able to edit as you type it in. I'd never be able to read my own handwriting though if I did it that way. When I write fast, (like in my notes at school) I can't read a darn thing. "Swiggly tree you fin? What does that mean, self???" LOL.

    So glad you are sharing these posts with us! :-)

  2. Ha, most times I am squinting trying to read my scrawl! But alas, I am uncoordinated even in my fingers and so...long hand it is!

  3. Wow! I'm amazed you write your book long hand! My hand would get so sore!

    Very interesting, Amy. For me, I write my first draft in one document, doing anywhere from 500-2500 words a day (unless I work that day, then I do nothing). It takes around 4 months to do a first draft, a few weeks to edit.

  4. Michelle, you are infinitely quicker than me and I am jealous!! I used to draft all in one document, but then when I began working on Silo and I had chapters that were flashbacks mixed in with regular chapters, I ended up moving the flashbacks around a lot while editing...as well as a few plot lines to emphasize theme. Now I'm trying to keep it all separated until I have a good handle on the book's flow which only ever happens for me during my first massive revision. Crossing my fingers that somehow I'll get speedier though!

  5. Wow! All by hand! I write by hand when I am out and about (always have a notebook handy) but mostly I type.

    Have you tried Scrivener? It really helps when you are moving scenes around a lot. I tried it while revising my second novel and I can't imagine writing any other way now.

    I often revise as I go, too. My first ideas are never my best ones and as I think of better ways to do things, or realize something isn't working, I'll go back and change things around.

    You write a whole lot faster than me, though! It takes me about 6 months to write a first draft.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

  6. I wish Scribener would work for me, but I am a very tactile/visual person--I have to physical touch the draft (my that's sounds sort of dirty) and move my chapters around by hand. I'm weird that way;)

    Thanks for stopping by!