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Monday, July 26 2010

I'd forgotten how refreshing first drafts can be. The limitless possibilities, the wide open page, the sense that the story can move in any direction. Once I put words to paper (or e-document) and go back for the rewrite, it's an entirely different experience. The words already exist and I must fix them. I'm boxed in by my previous decisions.

Not so with a first draft. Oh, sure, I outline a bit. I sit down and decide on a basic plot, who's going to die, and how the story will open. From there, I start to write, and as I write the story unfolds before me. I might see where Gwyn is headed in the next chapter or two, but the end of the book is far off in the distance, a hazy image that won't come into focus until I'm at least two-thirds of the way through the book.

Of course, that lack of outlining has its drawbacks. More than once I've found myself staring at the computer, at a loss as to where to go next in the book. Should Gwyn head home for dinner with her family? Stop off at the store, where she accidentally overhears a clue? Trip on a step and break her neck, solving the murder from her hospital bed? On those days, I'll just save my work, close Microsoft Word, and take a break. Sometimes the answer will strike me within a few hours. Other times, the solution might take days. But eventually, the story rears up and points me in the right direction.

On the flip side, I know of writers who create a synopsis and then sit down and outline every chapter of the book before they begin writing. And I doff my hat to those people (you know, if I wore a hat). Because that method is not easy. I've tried it, discovered it doesn't work at all for me, and gone back to my more haphazard approach. But a major advantage to plotting the entire book is that it saves you a lot of time. You don't have to backtrack and fix what you've already written when you figure out where the book is really going. I'm only a third of the way through my book rewrite and the text is already littered with reminders, such as, "Go back and mention note in chicken scene" or "Make sure the assistant refers to the ring near the beginning." At some point, I'll need to return to the early part of the book and fix these issues.

But I'm ignoring that for now. I'm solely focused on moving forward, curious to see where the trail leads and if it will all make sense in the end. Then I can go back and work on what's missing or broken, rather than fix it now and fix it again when the story takes an unexpected turn. If only I was better at plotting!

Posted by: AT 04:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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