Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Drafting, Drafting

Okay, so I recently started drafting another novel, and for me, it's equivalent to a race. A sprint. When I draft, I draft.

Usually I can fly through a novel in a matter of days, but the amount of work it takes to clean that up later is astronomical.

This has kept me from drafting anything of length in quite a while. See, recently I've wanted my writing to be perfect when I draft it. I don't want to have to go through the pain of revisions to fix it. (Which makes no sense, because I really like revising!)

Anyway, I'm trying something a little bit new for me during the drafting stage.

Balloons.

In the past, I've highlighted things in yellow that need more thought/attention. That's it. So I draft, writing writing writing, and anything that needs more thought than I can give it at the time gets highlighted.

Well, in addition to that, I'm ballooning myself too. So I have some highlighted things (like the name of a city that needs more thought) and this time I'm also writing notes to myself.

So on page 97, when I realize that I need to spend more time in the previous pages mentioning a character I've forgotten about, I balloon myself a note.

Or when I've written a previous scene completely wrong because I've forgotten about someone's ability, I balloon it so I can go back and fix it later.

See, I'm all about drafting a whole novel before fixing anything. In the past, I've merely noted it mentally and moved on. I'm sure you can imagine how that's ended.

So balloons. It's my new drafting technique. So far, so good.

What tips and tricks do you have for drafting?

51 comments:

Leigh Ann said...

The WIP I'm currently in revisions on was TOTALLY pantsed. I just kind of wanted to see if I could do it, didn't expect it to go anywhere, and after a few months of an hour a day of writing, I suddenly had a NOVEL.

Which was cool, until I realized that half of it made no sense. There were previous ideas that remained firmly embedded in plots that no longer matched, character arcs that broke and picked up again in a totally different place, and nefarious intentions left to fizzle sadly in thin air.

So I guess what I'm saying is I drafted the same way you said you used to, and I'm staring at my ideas for the sequel, and I'm terrified.

My plan was to try Anne Greenwood Brown's advice on Kicking out a Fast First Draft from Writer Unboxed, but I'm even finding that terrifying. Too many plot points I can plan that far ahead.

I'm trying the balloons next. The balloons sound good. Thanks for sharing, and good luck! Can't wait to see what happens.

Natalie Aguirre said...

You draft WAY faster than me. I tend to draft a few chapters and give it to my critique partners to look at and then go back over them before moving on. Your method might get a book drafted faster though.

Laura Pauling said...

I don't think there are any tricks. If pantser or plotter it still has to be written. Butt in chair. Have fun with it!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My trick is that I have an outline. I'm not a super fast drafter, but I don't need to be. I don't have to get my story down before I forget it. And I have a little problem called ADHD. I'm easily distracted and need to take lots of mini breaks (which aren't long enough to do something useful like clean the house).

Miranda Hardy said...

I like the balloon ideas! I semi-outline ahead of time. If I write a sentence or two about each chapter, it helps keep my on track from getting to point B front point A. I also do small character sketches, physical traits, type of person they will be ahead of time. Of course, I end of creating characters I didn't realize would be in there and I often deviate from the outline, but it works for me.

Elanor Lawrence said...

I've had very different styles over my past few novels, from having a 45k OUTLINE (with everything from a detailed plot synopsis to character charts to descriptions of locations) to having just an idea and trying to pants it.

For my most recent WIP I got to about 40k, and then realized that it made no sense, I was just churning out wordcount and it wasn't going anywhere. So I went back, changed little things in almost every chapter, cut about five chapters, added new ones, made drastic changes to others and ended up with the novel making so much more sense (I'm at 56k right now, and have a loose outline for the rest of the book.)

So, my tip about drafting is that if you're getting bored with the story, if you feel like something isn't working, figure out why. Whether you want to go back and change it right away, or if you want to balloon, that's okay. Just don't keep struggling through because of the all-important wordcount. People have different drafting methods. But if you find yourself getting bored, then soemthing's wrong.

Sofie Bird said...

I outline the arc, split that arc into blocks, and those blocks into scenes. Then I draft as fast as possible. I use scrivener, which has a little 'notes' panel on each scene for me to leave the big "talk more about X here", and "need to mention Y here somewhere so I can use it for the fight scene later". I'll write notes to myself as I go, or go back to an earlier scene to put notes in when I realise I need Joey to have been there for the past three scenes.

When I'm really on a roll, I use [square brackets] as inline notes-to-self for things that I would otherwise get stuck on, like the name of a place, or some science explanation, or sometimes even how my character gets themselves out of a fix.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I've used highlighting, too, to make sure I didn't forget about an area that I know I need to come back to. Comments (unballooned as I hate the way they shrink the rest of the page) are an excellent suggestion.

John Waverly said...

I use "CCC" any time I need to put in a note for myself (just like your balloons). When I first started using CCC it stood for something, but I don't remember what it is anymore. The things I like about using it are that I don't have to take my hands off the keyboard to make a note and they are still easy to search for and find.

Mary said...

I'm always impressed by those who can outline their entire novel then write. Like you and most of your commenters, I'm a pantser and my first draft is always a complete disaster. Which can be incredibly difficult to clean up and is, at times, discouraging. Lately, I've tried to flesh out my characters first (after I have a germ of idea about a plot) then send them on their journey. I'll let you know how it goes!
Good luck with your balloons.

Krista said...

My day job is computer programming. There is a key word in coding: "TODO" - which basically means to do. The programs I use to code even search for these and compile a handy list.

Alas, I use Word which does not have this function. But I still use TODO and then just search for it.

Of course I am also not a pantser. I tried it once and got half a page. :)

Lydia Sharp said...

Good idea! :D

I will highlight something in a different color, usually, so it pops out on a quick scan. But I also take a bit longer than "a few days" to draft a novel. Go, Elana, go!!!

Melissa Dymock said...

I am a total throw words on paper and know that I'll come back to it later. The hard thing I have is that my books take so much research and I never balance it correctly.

Miriam Forster said...

Go you! You can do it!

I don't make any kind of revisions until the first draft is done. And I also write notes to myself, tagged with a #sign so I can search them out later.

First drafts are such a pain. I'd much rather be editing....

lynnrush said...

When I'm drafting, I just keep writing. When something strikes me, I'll put in bold between a bunch of stars reminding me what I need to go back and fix. Or I'll put a big, long line where I need to fill in a few things so when I'm going through it again, I can remember. :)

It's fun seeing/hearing how other writers do their drafts!!!

Heidi Windmiller said...

I also draft without doing any sort of revisions. I never get it done in a matter of days, but usually a few weeks.

I started leaving myself notes two novels ago, but now I'm trying to cut back on the notes I leave. I've found that when I do a first read through, I either have changed my mind about the notes or I remember the good ones. So I basically just spend a lot of time deleting notes. For my current novel when I am drafting, I try not to leave notes unless I think the idea is absolutely stunning.

I use Scrivener, so I just add the notes in the "document notes" section that is attached to each chapter/scene. One of the reasons I adore Scrivener is because it is so easy to leave yourself notes, and I don't have to search for them in the text.

Sara McClung ♥ said...

After my first WIP--which took about four months to write--I spent DOUBLE the time revising. It was painful for me. So now I revise (some) while I write. I send chapters to CPs in chunks. But I'm noticing this time, it's actually keeping me from finishing my draft, so I may change tactics midway through (aka almost now) and just bang out the rest of it and deal with the mess of revision later...

Marisa Hopkins said...

Oooh, great system!

I have a highlighter system, too! Mine is pretty elaborate, filled with bolds, and every color of highlighter, and sometimes even text colors. But when it's time to sit down and revise, it seems a million times less painful, for some reason! But then, I'm a SLOW drafter and a slow reviser. I'm finishing up draft two of my WIP and ... well, I'll probably finish this draft as I hit the 2 year mark from when I began. Yikes.

Elana Johnson said...

All great suggestions, people. You guys rock. I use Word to draft, revise, write, whatever. My husband thinks Scrivener would really work well for me, for my style of regurgitating-writing. I see that some of you use it, and now I can see that I need to do some further research.

Stephsco said...

I'm defnitely going to try a few of these ideas. The notes will help keep my forward momentum and narrow in on what needs fixing in the first revision.

I did everything pretty much backward the first time around (and still working on it), but with my new story I want to use organization like this to be more efficient (instead of editing for grammar sections I removed entirely later on!)

Peggy Eddleman said...

I am totally the opposite-- it takes me months and months to draft. The sprinting / ballooning method sounds way funner than my way! I may have to try it.

Matthew MacNish said...

Are you talking about leaving a comment in Word's Track Changes function/tab/menu? If so, that's awesome. If not, I want your imagination.

Heidi Windmiller said...

You can get a free month trial of Scrivener on their website. I think they only have it available for Mac right now--but it is coming out for PC at some point.

It took me more than a month to really start to feel comfortable with it. It wasn't the easiest program for me to learn, and after about six months I'm still learning. But I love it. I saw the glory of it within the first few days of using it even though I didn't completely understand what I was doing yet.

I wrote a post about Scrivener once...

http://thenshewrites.blogspot.com/2011/05/scrivawesome-my-venture-into-scrivener.html

There are a few screen shots that might give you an idea of how it functions.

Christine Fonseca said...

Ughh....you are such a great drafter. I make notes in the drafting process too. But since I am decidedly NOT a pantser, I only draft 5-10K before I HAVE to stop, do a quick (read brief) outline and then I jump back in, making "edit" notes on a separate doc as I go...
I do use writing software to organize scene - that way I can move them around more easily.
Enjoy the drafting rock star!

Stacy Henrie said...

I try and just write it all out, though I do have a list of scenes or ideas at the end of my manuscript to help me remember certain things.

Good luck with the drafting!

LReneeS said...

Good luck with drafting, Elana!

When I draft I tend to outline as many ideas as I can that are essential to moving the book along. Of course I don't have ever last detail or idea, but the main picture is there on the paper. Once the entire book is written out I can go back to it, mark down important notes I need to remember, and begin revising.

Always,
Lindsey

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Ha--that's too funny because I've started doing the same thing. And then I still have my: "things I need to fix" which is kinda like a revision checklist. Really helps me keep track of all the suckage I need to fix.

Also: WOO HOO FOR NEW DRAFTS! I can't wait to read it!

Susanne Drazic said...

I like the balloon idea. May have to give it a try. I'm not big on outlines, but trying to work on changing that.

Sarah Allen said...

Ok, totally using this idea. I don't know why I haven't thought of it before :)

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Michelle McLean said...

LOL I'm a big fan of notes to myself, though mine take the form of Post It notes strewn around my desk. If I didn't write things down, I'd never make it through revisions...or even just regular life LOL

RaShelle said...

Elana - ballooning a note for yourself is a great idea. Good luck on your draft.

HelenL said...

Balloons - what a great idea! I always try to draft without fixing anything, too, but I usually just trust that I'll notice the problems on my first read-through. But having notes in the margin to prick my memory would be way helpful. Thanks!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

That is a GREAT idea - wow. :) I'm drafting right now too, and this is a fantastic way to not get bogged down by compulsive revisions. :)

Marsha Sigman said...

What color are the balloons? I have absolutely no idea how to do this. I would have to type it in help to figure out.

I do a bullet outline now. It helps to stay on track even if I change it part way through. And I usually do. But I cannot stop editing as I write. Kills me!

Krispy said...

Yeah, I need to learn this "make a note & leave it alone" trick of yours. I can't, which is why I draft so slow because I have to do at least a LITTLE revising as I go. -__-

Balloons are brilliant though! I've used them when looking over people's papers but not for writing. Hmm.

Pam Torres said...

I really think anything that gets you to move forward is a great process. I find if I don't balloon, or note and move on I'm easily distracted by the research. Great dialogue today! So many inspiring writers out there.

Laura Barnes said...

Recently I came across someone who called a panster combined with an outliner is called a pantyliner. LOL! Wish I remembered where I saw it so I could give her credit...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I just go for it, knowing I'll need to add a ton of detail and description during the first edit. I get the basics down and work from that. I'm a perfectionist, but I learned quickly there's no writing like that that.

Carol Riggs said...

Balloons--you mean, like comment balloons? I use those too, to make notes to myself! Funny; I just did that very same thing this morning while puttering on my Shiny New Idea, page 2 (that's about all I have on it, too)! Yep, works well. I highlight words I'm not sure of in red, too. Then I can move on and leave the fiddley stuff for later. :)

Jessie Humphries said...

Did u think of this balloon thing by yourself? Or is this a technique you heard of?

NiaRaie said...

I've learned to use the balloons and highlighting during drafting to satisfy my inner editor, and console her with the fact that "we CAN fix it later,see?"

Jeff King said...

Your style sounds like mine, except I lack your ability, I wish I was polished enough to give adequate advice here. But for now, I’ll just listen and learn.

thx

Angie said...

Balloons. That sounds like a great idea. Especially for me and my notebook. I tend to be a slow drafter, trying to get it right the first time. There are good and bad things about that.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I use a lot of ***** for parts I need to work on.

Jemi Fraser said...

Good idea! I put things in brackets and highlight in blue so I see it easily.

Jodi said...

Am I the only one who views "balloons" as colorful, orb-shaped thingies that float into the air? Help! I am a painfully slow drafter/editing junkie, and I would love to try out Elana's balloon suggestion, but I have no idea what they are or how to use them.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I do the highlighting thing when I need to research something more or change it. :) I hadn't thought of doing revisions on my own work in track changes. Very clever!

Michael Winchell said...

This is the first time I decided to outline, and I must admit, it has worked well as I now write the first draft of my WIP. I did it using my own way of outlining, basically calling on a spreadsheet I created. It has helped tie everything together and I find that it's making the writing process a lot faster, and I was already a fast writer to begin with.

Paul Greci said...

My tips and tricks for drafting: do a little outline after you've written the first quarter of the book--a rough outline, more like a guild---you don't have to follow it completely or at all, but I've found it's nice to have something to refer to. I haven't done this for every book I've written but the couple of times I have it has really helped. Thanks, Elana!!

Deb Marshall said...

I like this, thanks for sharing. I am trying to be an outliner this go around, thinking it might not be the way I write, though...this weekend I am going back to the old...fast draft it. Will try the balloon thing, too!

Ishta Mercurio said...

GREAT IDEA! Why has no-one mentioned this before? It's the electronic version of sticky notes.

I do a similar thing - write notes to myself as I go - but I do it within the text, in italics and surrounded by a double asterisk **likethis**. Balloons is way better, though; it's less intrusive and doesn't interrupt the flow on the page.

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