Writing

Quick Drafting Tip: Make It Your First Priority

Hello, friends!

I opened up my blog today and realized I hadn’t posted since mid-February. Tragic!

However, it’s because I’ve been faithfully drafting as promised, and I’m up to 32,ooo words. I’ve set my target for 75,000 words, so that means I’m at about 43 percent. I feel pretty good about this as according to my outline, I’m three scenes away from the midpoint, so it looks like I’m on target. Of course, I won’t necessarily end up right at 75,000 words. I input it as my target for my last MS and ended up with a very short draft, but I think that had to do with writing in reverse. After my Pitch Wars revision, during which I added several scenes, it was 70,000 words.

Enough rambling, though. The reason I decided to post today was to give a quick tip about how I’m surviving the drafting stage. (Sorry to those of you who fall on the love-drafting, hate-revising side of the spectrum.) I mentioned in my previous post that I put an end date in Scrivener, and it then calculated how many words I have to write each day to finish. It comes out to about 1,800 words a day.

Really, it’s simple.

Drafting is my main priority, and I’m not allowed to do anything else until Scrivener dings that my project session target has been reached.

Which means:

 

 

 

 

For me the worst offender is Twitter. I can’t even open it until I’ve finished drafting for the day. So for those of you who follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed I’m not tweeting as much lately. It’s especially hard on a day like today, when there’s #PitMad going on. I didn’t make an exception. I scheduled all my pitches yesterday and waited to check on them until I finished drafting.

And to make sure I’m not tempted by notifications popping up on my phone, I turn it face-down on my desk.

The only break I allow myself is checking my email, but unless it’s something urgent or left over from the day before, I write it on my to-do list to handle after drafting is finished for the day.

Anyway, that’s how I get through drafting each day, and by mid-April, I will reach the end of this draft and go celebrate with a super-sized cupcake or some other delicious treat.

How do you survive drafting? Or are you one of those weird people who loves it?

Writing

It’s Drafting Time!

A few weeks ago I posted that I would start drafting my new project on Monday, Feb. 12, and I wanted to report that I have, indeed, started drafting. Anyone who’s been following my blog for a while knows this is my least favorite part of the writing process. I would much rather be revising words already on the page than staring at a blank one. However, I have plotted this project out in quite a bit of detail, so I expect to keep drafting at a steady pace.

I drafted my last manuscript, YOUR SECRET’S NOT SAFE WITH ME, completely in reverse. I started with the first last chapter and worked backward. I really liked that process and thought I would do the same with this new project. However, as I was plotting I found myself jumping around, throwing in a scene here and a scene there. So far I am drafting from the beginning, but it’s possible I will jump around a bit. That’s the beauty of Scrivener. Since I already have my scenes/sequels all planned out, I can pop from one scene to another.

Everyone has a different drafting style and mine isn’t even the same every time, but for those of you who are interested, here’s my approach this time.

1. I outlined in Scrivener using K.M. Weiland’s STRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL as a guide. She has a couple of posts on her website explaining how to do this, but she does much more extensive outlining than me. I basically make sure I’ve included all the major plot points, and then add the scenes in between. (There are more scenes under several of these flags that you can’t see.)

2. I follow Ms. Weiland’s scene/sequel structure. You may notice that of the scenes you can see, there is always an even number. That’s because there is a scene and then a sequel. I make a note card for each one.

These scenes and sequels have nothing to do with chapters. I don’t worry about chapters until I’m finished drafting. Sometimes they work great for chapter breaks. Other times I end up combining scenes/sequels into a single chapter and/or breaking up a scene into two chapters. It’s all about where the best break is to keep a reader intrigued.

3. After I finish deciding my major plot points and filling in all the scenes and sequels, I set my drafting goals. I do a modified fast-draft, meaning I set myself a deadline and draft a certain amount of words each day no matter what. In Scrivener, I select Project, then Show Project Targets. There are two sets of targets–the session target (each day) and the draft target (overall). I’ve set my draft target for April 12. Under Session Target, you can choose which days of the week you plan to write. In my case, I only write during the week while my kids are at school. Then I click OK and set my overall manuscript target. Each day, it automatically adjusts my session target depending on how many words I write.

4. I start drafting! As you can see above, I’ve drafted two days and went a little over today :). I’m not 100 percent tied to my outline. I have some empty scene/sequel note cards at the bottom of my Scrivener file in case I decide there’s something else that needs to happen. There’s also the possibility I’ll get into it and something I’ve planned no longer makes sense. But having this road map gives me direction. I feel so much more confident drafting with an outline than I did when I used to draft with no idea where I was going.

I’m excited to be working on something new. What’s your drafting strategy? Do you work with an outline or wing it?

 

 

Writing

Procrastination, Thy Name is Michelle – Part Two

I titled this post and realized it sounded super familiar. Well, that’s because I wrote it in August 2016. And before that, I wrote a post about how procrastination was the first step in my drafting process. That being said, the August 2016 post was very effective in motivating me to move forward on brainstorming and ultimately drafting what would become the manuscript I’m currently querying, YOUR SECRET’S NOT SAFE WITH ME. I honestly can’t believe it’s been that long since my last first draft, but in the past year and a half, I also completed an R&R (more of a write a whole new book and resubmit than a revise and resubmit) for another MS and participated in Pitch Wars for SECRET. So there’s a reason it’s taken me a while to get to a new project.

In any case, I actually have started brainstorming, so I’m not completely ignoring the fact that I should be focusing on a new project while I’m waiting to hear from agents on the existing one. However, in my usual fashion, if there’s any excuse to do something else–volunteer work like Girl Scout cookie mom or library coordinator duties, make new charts in my query spreadsheet, scroll through Twitter–I choose that over my brainstorming and planning.

I really thought I’d be better about it this time. As much as I hate drafting, I planned my last MS out so well that it wasn’t as much of a trial as usual. I think now maybe the problem is that the planning is sort of like the drafting. But I need to get over that and get moving because I am excited about my new idea. I’m not quite ready to share what it is here other than to say it is YA and will involve a touch of the unexplainable.

As in 2016, I’m using the blog as my drafting accountability. Barring anything that might arise with my existing project, I will finish brainstorming and plotting this sucker out and start drafting on Monday, Feb. 12, which should result in a draft by early April.

So now that I’ve distracted myself with this blog post, I’d better get to work. Please do hold me accountable!

Critiquing, Revising, Writing

The Benefits of Weekly Chapter Swaps

First of all, there’s still time to enter my fifth blogiversary giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card, so if you haven’t done so yet, check out my post here (ends at midnight 5/11)!

While I’ve been blogging for five years, I’ve been writing for many more years. The beauty of this journey is that I’m continually learning something new. My process with gathering feedback in the past has always been to carefully revise the full manuscript and then send it to critique partners and beta readers. I’ve never sent first drafts to anyone–probably because I’m too much of a perfectionist :).

However, when I participated in WriteOnCon this year, I was in a unique position timing-wise. I was finishing up a revision of the project I’d been querying and getting ready to revise the first draft of my new project. I met a writer in the forums whose writing appealed to me, and we started a conversation about swapping chapters weekly.

Now, I have to say that this has never appealed to me in the past because it is a sloooow process. And I’ve mentioned before that I am not a patient person, right? Added to that, I’d be sending off chapters when I hadn’t even revised the chapters that came after. This was a bit intimidating to me–the idea of sending off unfinished work. But here are some benefits I discovered from going through this process. I should mention that we didn’t stick with one chapter per week as that would have taken fooorever. My patience only extends so far :).

It prevented me from rushing the draft. I finished my regular pass of revisions through the draft about five weeks before I sent my last chapters, so I started checking the manuscript for repeated words. Normally I don’t do this until a later draft, but it’s mainly because I’m in such a hurry to get feedback. Since I was already getting feedback, I could take the time to do this really well. See my initial post on checking chapter by chapter for repeated words. I’m actually not finished with this (six weeks later!), so I may post more about it.

I received detailed feedback on each chapter/section. I have excellent critique partners and readers who often give me line edits and detailed chapter notes. However, it’s different when someone’s reading a short selection every week. Whereas in an overall manuscript a chapter that flows well might get skimmed, in this setup it still gets special attention and thought because it’s the only thing the reader has to critique for the week. The reader is looking for areas that could be even stronger.

It weeds out all the plot points that don’t make sense. Obviously this type of critique happens when someone does a full read-through, but it’s nice to have someone point out an issue in chapter two and you can fix it before she reads chapter six.

The reader knows your characters almost as well as you do. After so many weeks swapping chapters, I feel like we know each other’s characters really well–because we’ve been going through it so slowly and methodically. It’s different from when you read a manuscript within a couple of weeks and send it back. You’re revisiting them every week, so when they act out of character–as mine did–the reader notices.

Overall, this has been a great process, and I’m glad I went through it. My manuscript is much stronger for it. Have you done weekly chapter/section swaps before? What did you like/dislike about it?

Revising, Writing, Writing in Reverse

Writing in Reverse: The First Draft Read-Through

When I finished drafting this manuscript in November, I said I intended to let it sit until after Thanksgiving. That plan changed drastically when I received an R&R (revise and resubmit) on another manuscript the same day I wrote that post. I think it came about an hour later. Talk about timing! I don’t know what will happen with that project, but I do know the longer you let a draft sit, the better.

So, instead of a few weeks, this manuscript stewed for more than ten weeks. I finished re-reading it yesterday, and I’m very pleased with what I have to work with as a first draft. It’s by no means ready to send off to readers, but I expect it won’t take me long to get it there, and I’m giving credit to two things: writing in reverse and advance planning. Here are a few things I noticed in my first draft read-through.

The first chapter still needed work. I said before that I hoped writing in reverse would making writing my first chapter easier, and it did in many ways, but from the first words, I was still mentally polishing it up. I’m not sure it’s possible to nail a first chapter in a first draft, no matter how you approach it. I do think, however, that I started the story in the right place this time. Of course, that’s ultimately up to my readers to tell me :).

The pacing feels on target. As I was reading, I felt like the pacing moved along well. In the past, I had a tendency to start meandering around the middle (is that just me??). But writing in reverse, I was always looking at what had to happen right before that scene to get there, so there’s nothing extraneous. If anything, there are a couple of scenes that might be a bit abrupt and I need to add.

I will be killing many darlings. I mentioned in my 25,000 words from the end post that I’d decided to add a twist I hadn’t planned for in one of the early chapters. Reading through again, I know this twist is the right call for the story as it will greatly increase the tension throughout. However, when I got to the later part of the story where it wasn’t incorporated, there were so many great lines that I now won’t be able to use. So I guess that’s a downside to writing in reverse, since if you’re writing forward, a later twist might not affect what you’d written earlier. But it’s ok. If I managed to write such fun dialogue how it was originally, I’m sure I can switch it around to accommodate this change :).

Overall, my first draft read-through left me feeling very pleased with the results of writing in reverse. I will definitely be using this strategy to draft my next project as well. Now on to the revisions!

Writing, Writing in Reverse

Writing in Reverse: The Beginning

I’m finished drafting!

Cupcake

I treated myself to this cupcake after a draft a few years ago. I really wish I had it now …

Anyway, my draft came out at 55,716 words, which was not quite as low as I expected. I had set an initial target of 70,000 words, but as I stated earlier, I’m fine with a sparse draft. I know I’ll add when I revise as I tend to leave out important parts like setting descriptions.

If you missed my first two posts in this series, you can find them here:

I realize the way this panned out, I’m only writing this a week after my last post, but I still feel I have some worthwhile lessons to impart as I finished the draft.

I no longer feel the need to jump right into revisions. Last week I was riding on the high of a brilliant twist I’d decided to implement in the first plot point. And I do still believe it’s brilliant and will greatly improve the tension throughout the rest of the manuscript, but since I forced myself to move on, I no longer feel the burning urge to jump into the revisions immediately. So it turns out that was a short-lived fury.

If I hadn’t outlined so completely, I would have rushed to the first plot point much too soon. As I’ve been drafting, I’ve been reading a lot, and much of that reading has been on my Kindle. It’s so handy to have that little percentage marker in the bottom left-hand corner. And I’ve noticed something. I can actually pinpoint an inciting incident around twelve percent and a first plot point at twenty-five percent and a pinch point around thirty-three to thirty-seven percent and so on. And working backward has given me a unique perspective on this, being able to think about what is happening in each scene and then go to the scene immediately before and make sure what happens then provides the right framework. I can tell that if I hadn’t done it this way, I would have a first plot point around fifteen percent, and the problem would be that readers wouldn’t care enough about my character yet, or they wouldn’t be meeting the important secondary characters at the appropriate time. I am sure this method is going to benefit me in the long run.

I had to remind myself to insert backstory in the early chapters. By the time I got to the first couple of chapters, where the characters were being introduced, I had to remind myself to insert bits of description and backstory to ground the reader in the world. Because I’d been writing about these characters for six weeks already, I knew them so well that I definitely wasn’t putting too much in. But I was right about knowing the voice and mannerisms. That part is good. As to whether it means I nailed the first chapter more quickly? Well, that will be up to my CPs to determine.

I still spent more time on the first chapter than the others. I just wrote it today, but whereas I drafted the other chapters quickly and wasn’t as worried about the first lines, I carefully considered every word of this first chapter, even in draft form. But I do think it was easier writing the first chapter last. Because I not only knew how their stories played out but had already written the details of them, I had a much better sense of what needed to happen at the beginning–who the readers need to meet and what they need to know about my main character and how she’s been shaped by the people around her. I wasn’t feeling my way into her the way I have been in the past. Because I already did that in the last chapter :).

So what’s next? I’m going to let this manuscript sit until after Thanksgiving. I usually do a month, and depending on what else lands on my plate, I may still give it until mid-December, but I definitely need to let it settle. Either way, I’m definitely glad I decided to write in reverse. Drafting is always a struggle for me, and although I still had to sit and force myself to do it some days, I had better direction this time around.

How about you? Have any of you tried drafting in reverse? Did you like it or not?

Writing, Writing in Reverse

Writing in Reverse: 45,000 Words from the End

I’m actually getting pretty close to the beginning of this draft. (I apologize to those of you just starting NaNoWriMo, but I did start a month before you.) Here are a few more things I’ve learned since the check-in at 25,000 words.

No matter how much you plan, you’re as likely to come up with a new twist writing in reverse as you are writing forward. This actually just happened to me, and what I find interesting about it is that it will require the same amount of revision either way. The difference is that instead of the twist occurring to me later in the story and having to go back and plant seeds in the revision, it’s something that occurred to me to change early in the story and I now will have to deal with all the ripples throughout the rest of the story. But having already written what comes later, I can see how this early change will make the middle stronger.

When you make a change early on, it’s so much more tempting to fix everything that comes after in the draft. Usually when I’m drafting I just want to get to the end. Occasionally when I make a change I’ll be tempted to go back and fix something it affects earlier in the story, but it’s usually just a twinge. I’ve had a different mentality drafting in reverse. I’ve been going through and adding to the later scenes–still not revising the existing text–if something in an earlier scene calls for it. This twist I just added in the first plot point has me itching to go through the whole manuscript and revise–because everything that comes after is already there waiting. But if I do that I’ll never finish the draft, so I’m putting it in writing here so I will keep moving forward to the beginning.

I’m probably not going to be able to let this draft sit. Because of the above point, I have a feeling this first draft will turn into a draft 1.5 before I’m able to let it sit. But if the reason for that is an inconsistency I already know I wrote in that I can fix before I set it aside for a month, I can live with messing up my usual system. Then when I return to it after that month, it will be a stronger draft to attack.

I think that’s it for today. Probably my next post in this series will be Writing in Reverse: The Beginning!