Monday, May 16, 2016

Preparing to Write Your First Draft

I'm about to begin the first draft of my sixth book.  Before you think that's an accomplishment, I should advise you that:

a) the first book I wrote, It's a Mystery, Pig Face! took YEARS from draft one to publication (oh wait, it's not published YET...)
b) the second book I wrote, three years ago, is only being revisited now, thanks to my abject fear that it probably sucks
c) the third book I wrote is a sequel to the first book. No one was actually looking for this book and it is clear now that it will NEVER be the sequel to the first book. It's only chance of seeing light of day is if I suddenly become rich and famous and my fans clamor to see it. Yuh-huh...
d) the fourth book lies abandoned on the side of the road in the dark world that is my computer
e) the fifth book is currently out on submission, which makes my stomach hurt.

I can say, unequivocally, that I only started getting the hang of preparing to write with the fifth book.

Prior to that, I got an idea and started writing. Those were happier days, but ultimately, less satisfying, because I always ended up trapped in the middle of the book looking for a way out.

And the revisions? Brutal. Total rewrites and clean-ups.

The process I'm using for this YA novel is similar to what I used for the fifth book:

1) I have an inspiration

Light Bulb Clip Art

2) I have no idea what to do with that inspiration

Me, having no idea...
This is how little vanity I have left...

3) I research. I read things to help me refine the idea - in the book I am about to start, one of the characters has a brain injury. I am reading about brain injuries, watching documentaries and will soon do some interviews, all to make sure what I put on paper is as true as it can be. I take copious notes.


4) I stare out the window a lot and go for long walks. If it's Spring or Summer, I might garden. This is both to assist my imagination and to procrastinate

5) I may or may not surf the net endlessly (see #4 above)


6) I write and rewrite a one page synopsis, so I know where I'm going (which will bear almost no resemblance to the final product, I'm sure)


7) I write a three or four page summary (see #6 above)

8) I do some more pre-plotting and character analysis. One of the tools I have found very useful is Kristen Kieffer's She's Novel website (which is full of great supports for writers) Pre-Write Project Tool. It was worth the money ($7) to buy, because I can use it multiple times and it makes me think about my plot and characters. You can get yours here.

Shes Novel logo

9) I read really good books. I love reading award winners before I start draft one - the excellent writing inspires me and reminds me of what I am aiming for.

What I'm reading right now. Brilliant!

10) I outline. I do a spreadsheet that breaks down every chapter and every scene, flags who is in the scene and the point of them being in the scene, how it relates to the theme, tracks my date and time and how it relates to the overall story arc. Then I draw myself a picture and track it using a plot planner.

The plot planner is something I picked up from a course I did with Martha Alderson, whose book The Plot Whisperer was very helpful in getting my seeing my story from the hero's journey perspective.

If you want to see some examples, visit my Pinterest board here.

As well, Jami Gold has some awesome worksheets on her website that are helpful at this point.

11) Finally, I get so itchy to write, I begin. And the first draft is always sloppy, but hey, that's what revisions are for, right?


It may seem like a lot of work, but I find that with preparation, my writing process is SO much easier!

How about you? What's your first draft process? I'd love to hear about it!

Until next time: Keep writing!


Melyssa Mercado said...

Thanks for sharing all this info, Wendy! I love seeing the different ways we grow our inspiration! (-:

WendyMcLeodMacKnight said...

Thanks Melissa! And the funny thing is, I may use a completely different process for book #7!

Michelle Leonard said...

This is great Wendy! I like to read great books just before I begin a draft too! Love the links!