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hawkedup

Drafting Process

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I was thinking that knowing everyone's drafting process might help me when reading and providing feedback. 

Mine's pretty straight forward but overly time consuming.

1. Outline Draft - Extensive bullet point outline listing every important story and character scene in the story. 
2. Rough Draft - Using 1.0 as a loose guideline, pants out about 100k words in as little time as possible even though you should be taking your time. Get further and further away from the outline until the entire draft is deus ex machina and plot devices to fill in the holes you dug yourself into.
--- Throw 2.0 into a trash folder and never look at it again.
3. Character and Structure Draft (this is the one I'm submitting) - Rewrite the book from the beginning but try to make it halfway readable this time. Now having done it completely wrong, return to a revised outline. Still hate it but acknowledge the fact that it is significantly better than 2.0 so you might as well keep going.
4. Five Senses Draft - Add in all the details you were too lazy to put in 3.0. Turn excess tell into show.
5. Polish - Make the words all pretty and such. Dialogue actually needs dialogue tags. Adverbs are not always your friend. Sprinkle in some foreshadowing so it looks like you knew what you were doing from the beginning.

What's yours?

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Lol, I like your synopsis, very amusing :) 

I would be something like this.

1. Have idea, flesh out idea possibly writing sample scenes between characters, open a Notes file and write character outlines/sketches.

2. Outline the plot to somewhere around 50-75% of the story, possibly have an end in mind, possibly not. Probably develop 10 to 20 pages of notes pre-writing.

3. Start writing from the beginning. Write about 30% then start submitting to RE. Stop writing, go back to the beginning and revise with RE comments.

4. November comes around: start Nanowrimo, write 50-70k words. This might finish the first draft, it might not.

5. Continue writing until first draft is finished, target 500 words a day, finished first draft around Spring time.

6. First draft is finished. Edit for everything, because life's too short, then resubmit second draft to RE (see my latest post!!)

 

I don't have your Stage 2, I don't have that kind of time. I would say I was 1 > 3 > 5 in terms of your level of draft. I don't mean that to sound pompous, I just spend more time on the first draft, but I think it's worth spending that time when you're in the story to raise the quality of the writing, not settle. I would suggest that will come with experience and you will find that 2 and 3 start to merge as you get more words under your belt, and your skills increase. How many novels have you finished?

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1 hour ago, Robinski said:

How many novels have you finished?

I've mostly written shorter fiction. Short stories to novellas. I've never FINISHED anything longer than 50k words. I've written 100k+ on a few different projects but this is the first time I've moved into 3.0 with any confidence of pressing forward. This is by far the longest I've stuck with a single project. For all intents and purposes, this is my first novel. I think that's why I want to test out so many things all at once. I'm trying to really shoot for publication down the line. I'm aware that my first novel won't be picked up, but I'm hoping to make a name for myself as someone who produces consistently and gets better with each book. 

1 hour ago, Robinski said:

I would suggest that will come with experience and you will find that 2 and 3 start to merge as you get more words under your belt, and your skills increase.

God, I hope so. I had a false start 2.0 and the regular 2.0. with this story. In the end it feels almost like wasted time since I'm still struggling with some fundamental issues that should be ironed out by now.
 

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13 hours ago, hawkedup said:

God, I hope so. I had a false start 2.0 and the regular 2.0. with this story. In the end it feels almost like wasted time since I'm still struggling with some fundamental issues that should be ironed out by now.

You'll get there. Keep going!! :) 

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So I just finished the first draft of my 7th novel and am starting on my 8th. However, I've never sent a full novel through this forum, so I'm not 100% sure how that will influence my process for future novels. The one I started sending through is shelved for now, but I think I will eventually come back to it. I also have one novel that I've started but not finished. My process evolved a little with each novel, but 4 and 6 more or less followed the same process, and I've been offered contracts from small publishers for those two, so I think I'm getting closer to a process that works. My long term goal is to get an agent and be published by a larger publisher. 

Here is my process:

1. Start making up bits and pieces of the story while I'm driving or walking.

2. Start writing the first draft. Here, I write as much as I can as quickly as I can. If the plot comes to me quicker than I can write the book, then I make a very rough outline of what I know. Sometimes I follow that outline, sometimes I don't. Usually it's a fluid thing that changes as I get to know the characters better. Sometimes I doesn't exist much at all. Novel 4 had a fairly detailed outline during this stage that I stuck to. 6 had some outlining, but I really didn't follow much of it. The one I just finished had almost no outlining (but it was middle grade, so it was a lot shorter than my YA and adult manuscripts). This phase usually takes between four and eight weeks, but the end product can be a big mess.

3. After letting the draft rest for a week or two, I print it out and read it. I mark it up with colored pens. This involves making notes like I would if I were critiquing someone else's story, crossing out pages of text and rewriting them between the lines and in the margins, and sometimes doodling maps, rooms, weapons or characters. I also make a chapter by chapter outline of the story as I read. When I'm done, I write a letter of overall comments I had on the story like I would if I were beta reading someone else's novel, and then I make a list of revisions I need to make.

(Note: With novel #5, I did not do my usual step 3. Instead, I'd edit a couple chapters, submit them to this group, edit them more, clean up the next ones, send those and so forth. I got very bogged down and overwhelmed with all the feedback and ended up setting that book aside.

4. After letting it rest for about a week I go through and make all the necessary revisions, rewrites, edits, and additions in the computer. I don't retype the whole thing. I just save as a new file name.

5. I get feedback. This is the part that varies. Sometimes at this stage I send the whole book out to beta readers (though some people might call them alpha readers) and I don't allow myself to look at the ms while they are reading it. Other times I've worked with a cp, swapping a set amount of pages each week. If someone is reading the whole book, then I don't look at the manuscript at all while they read. At some stage, I need to let it rest for at least a month or two. Unless I am working with a CP, then happens here.

6. I read and annotate my feedback before making a list of revisions to make. 

7. I make the revisions on my list. 

8. At this point, if I am confident with the content, I let it rest for a couple weeks then put the draft on my kindle, make the font really big, and read it out loud, highlighting errors and commenting on sentence level things.  As soon as I finish, I make my changes in the document. If I am not confident with the content, I repeat 6 and 7 until I am, and then I do the editing phase. 

With novel #4, went through 6 and 7 three times. With novel #6, which was a sequel to my published novel, I only had one round of feedback, though I did have a lot of false starts with that book. I found I couldn't really finish the first draft until book 1 had gotten through two rounds of editing with my publisher and was out with their copy editor.

Now, I find I can go from a first draft to a polished manuscript in a year. However, it took me almost ten years to do that with Power Surge, which was the first novel I started with any seriousness and the second I finished. I'd start it, ramble off into plots that made no sense, back track, and sometimes leave it alone for years at a time. I did have quite a few false starts for the sequel, which was novel #, but with one exception, those false starts were only ever a couple chapters long. I found I couldn't really dive into it until Power Surge was with it's publisher's copy editor. 

 

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Posted (edited)

Oh, cool idea! I've broken mine into three, because it has definitely evolved as I've moved into the professional writing world.

1) Before RE

Pretty straightforward. I'd start with a pairing, usually. I tend to write relationships and build fantastical worlds around them. Figure out their entanglements, then build the world around them. I'd do a few chapters and send them to a group of alpha readers while doing the next batch of chapters. I've always been a discovery writer. Never been able to outline. This has not changed at all.

I'd receive feedback, edit the chapters, then send out the next batch. Repeat until the book was done. Then I'd have someone with deep editorial experience and a much better background of speculative fiction (*cough* @industrialistDragon *cough) comb through it with me. Line by line, word by word, painstakingly getting it into a real draft. 

The first book I wrote had ten versions before I started submitting it to agents. 

 

2) Finding RE

I joined RE after my first revise & resubmit from an agent on my first book. I needed new eyes and a larger group that was actually critical, not just my friends who kept saying 'this is great!' (note, @industrialistDragon will never blow smoke up your rear about writing. Invaluable). I ended up turning down an agent in favor of small press for that book, but I stayed with RE to develop the last three in the series. 

For these, I drafted the entirety of book before beginning the submission process. Due to publishing timelines I never made it through a whole one, I don't think, but most issues in books are in the first half anyway. I'd submit a chapter, then do the edits to that while the next chapter was submitted, making a full new draft each week as the edits got streamlined into the new work. 

Still only discovery writing. 

 

3) agented

The fifth book I subbed through RE got me an agent. And that... is a very different world. It has changed how I interact with this forum and my entire drafting process. With agents, you have to pitch next books to them, not just write it and send it. They tend to want an editorial hand in developing the work, too. 

This meant that the book couldn't be completely drafted. I needed a strong first few chapters and a reasonable idea of where it was going without being married to the outcome. I trust RE a lot though, so I went ahead and subbed those chapters (as you've seen) without necessarily the full content they'd eventually have. It makes for a more disjointed narrative but at the same time, some feedback is better than none. 

My process will stay like this in the future. Sketch out the first few chapters, run them through RE just to make sure I've not run into some landmine, then it'll go to my agent. He likes a faster turnaround so likely I won't be able to do whole books through here again unless I'm working way ahead of him. 

 

Generally, my books take 7-8 drafts before they are ready to go to an editor. I usually have 2-3 more passes with a professional editor before copy and proofing and publication. I'm traditionally published with small and mid-sized presses (no big five...YET) and at this stage do about 3 books a year. As I become a better write the number of drafts are decreasing, and my first drafts resemble less of a dumpster fire. RE remains an invaluable resources in terms of people never afraid to call you on your bias and crappy plot devices, as well as great group of core friends who are all working through the publishing journey.

Edited by kais
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13 hours ago, kais said:

note, @industrialistDragon will never blow smoke up your rear about writing

Ha <sharp intake of breath>, that is very true.

13 hours ago, kais said:

Invaluable

Also very true :D 

13 hours ago, kais said:

as well as great group of core friends who are all working through the publishing journey

Shud-up, will ya? I'm tearing up here...

But honestly, I should have added too that this place is just THE best: it had transformed my motivation, my worldview, my starting point; it's laid my biases bare, cut them out and ground them into chuck, casting them into the currents of diversity to be dispersed by the winds of change (too much?). I'm still working on growing better replacements.

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