Thursday, January 15, 2015

Skeletons & First Drafts

This morning as I was writing in my daily journal, I was thinking on the first draft of book 3 of the XVI series. I'm bearing down on its completion and I was looking ahead to editing/reworking. All of which led me to journal about the convoluted structure of my first drafts.

I don't fit squarely in the middle of either the plotter or pantser model of writers. Upon this morning's reflections, however, I could refer to myself as the skeleton dresser. I may not be alone!



What I mean by skeleton dresser is this...

I generally start a first draft with my main character, the basic plot, and what I see as the end result. As I build upon the story, other characters enter/leave, subplots weave in and out, motives become murky, clear up, or change completely, etc. My first drafts are filled with highlighted and capped directions to myself, such as:
  • rewrite this
  • did (s)he really know this before
  • if this happens then you have to change that
  • oooh, I like this direction better, go forward from here...  
If I see my first draft as the skeleton of the book-to-be, then all these changes, about-faces, revelations are hung upon the bones of the story, embellishing it and making it fuller. Also made me think of when I played dress-up as a kid, I piled on an excess of ornamentation! Hats, scarves, jewelry (not just one bracelet, but an armload!), gloves, lipstick, perfume... whatever there was that seemed good at the time. And, it was always too much! 

Now, back to the skeleton analogy. When the first draft is done, it's time to look at the skeleton with all its adornments and start removing some, shifting some, maybe adding a little more here, and taking away a little more there. After I have it looking acceptable to me, I let someone else (my critique group) see the skeleton in all its glory. Then they get to make/suggest their adjustments, which I can (or not) accept and I go back in and adjust the skeleton's dressings.

When all is said and done, and I don't think it needs any more or less, the most interesting phenomenon occurs. The skeleton has transformed into a real person. The first draft has become a real book. And, along the way, I've had fun doing it! 

For my writer friends - is this how you approach first drafts? As dressing the skeleton? I'd love to know!


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