Finishing Your First Draft

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Welcome to my first attempt at ADVICE FROM A WRITER!

As of late, I have had many discussions with writers about the complexities of finishing a first draft of a novel.  While my credentials as a fiction writer are still developing, I have learned that comparatively speaking, I have an exceptional pace with first draft writing and a good understanding of the revision process.

Many writers (me included) start with a fantasy scenario that their first draft is their book.  Over time we all discover that -THE END- comes a bit later. Completing a first draft is an extraordinary accomplishment, but no one is publishing first drafts. I heard somewhere that an early draft for the screenplay of Good Will Hunting included aliens and a space ship or something. That award winning screenplay was somewhat of a different animal. In my first draft of Circling one of my characters was almost a murderer. Who she ended up being, was very different. In my writers workshop, we discussed an average of six full revisions for a completed novel. SIX! Circling is on it’s SEVENTH revision!

Why?

Finding a story is one thing. Creating complex, interesting characters within a cohesive, well developed story is quite another. I can’t sit down and start writing with a fully formed character in mind. Some writers begin with a very formal character study before developing a plot – physical description, likes and dislikes, quirks, habits, car make and model, favorite ice cream, sexual preferences, etc. This is not my way. I like to feel my way into the plot and see how the character acts and reacts to the circumstance as they develop. My Book 2 male lead is exhibiting some unusual character traits. After 25,000 words, it became clear that his mother was abusive. This developed out of words and scenes written, not out of a preconceived notion of a character that I want to fit into a box. This is my way. You can find your way.

That being said, for successful first draft writing – that means letting the words out – THERE MUST BE A WILLINGNESS TO SUCK! This is the most important part of first drafting. I’d love for every word I write to be considered perfection, but it is far from it. Perfection (always a dicey word) comes from editing and revising and examining and rethinking and reordering and editing and revising. Rinse and repeat.  I could mull a sentence for thirty minutes in my head to perfect the word choice and the flow to communicate an idea, before letting those words onto my pages. But that doesn’t get a work written. Let it out. Let it breath in the open air.

I visualize my first draft process as a spiral. Here the story starts to unfold and then I discover something about a character on page 26 that requires and adjustment on page 12. Then a scene on page 40 explains what motivated an action on page 17 so I have to go back and expound on that there. It is a fluid back and forth of ever forward motion.

Remember, if you write you are a writer.  Completing a first draft requires you to forgive your writing the imperfections required to, in fact, be a writer.  Relax. Open a bottle of wine, pour a cup of coffee or whatever your are into.  Turn your favorite playlist on repeat. Don’t move. Just type and type and type. Leave perfection for a rose on a rosebush or a cloudless blue sky.

Write your first draft, because you are a WRITER.

 

Writing Process Blog Hop

A big thank you to Jennifer Austin for tagging me in the Writing Process Blog Hop! Jennifer is a YA author and a happily married mother of five! Read all about her at jenniferaustinauthor.wordpress.com.  Here goes…

What Am I Working On? I am about 98% done with Circling, my first novel. I am to the point where I could about recite it to you verbatim, so I have set it aside for a rest before the final final final read through. Currently I am working on Book 2. As you may have guessed, this is as of yet unnamed. Book 2 is theoretically the second of four novels in this series.

Circling is the story of John and Anna, two gorgeous, highly damaged people who like having sex in public places, yet are trying to work out their shit, to find a path to a future together. But there is a lot of shit to work out. I am fascinated by the average person’s ability to function with anxiety. We all have it in some capacity, whether we admit it or not. John and Anna have their share. I think we can all be funny, interesting, sexy, and brilliant yet still be a little immersed on our own craziness. Helping my characters to acknowledge their crazy and then learn to manage it, keeps the story writing process engaging for me.

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How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre? I am calling my novels Contemporary Romance, but I’m not entirely sure they are. I don’t follow the formula of two potential lovers meeting, suffering a misunderstanding and then detesting each other, all the while they can’t wait to get into each other’s pants. Oh just screw already! My story is a little more straightforward with less beating around the bush so to speak. I like characters who have sex before they should, make mistakes and lie and swear a lot. I like characters who lack introspection. I think sex is the easy part. Watching two characters figure out how to keep from moving on after the screw is much trickier.  All that being said, there must be development. That is no story without personal growth.

Why Do I Write What I Write? Writing, I mean really committing to it, is very new for me. I am in a place now where I cannot NOT write. This idea of starting from nothing and puzzling through it fascinates me. I also enjoy the freedom that comes with a first draft. The ability to allow it to suck a little, knowing there will be a second, third, fourth, etc. (Circling has been through seven drafts so far.) I’m a former editor and a very Type A girl, so I think freeing myself that way is very emotionally healthy. As for my subject matter – I am a romantic at heart. Ok that was complete bullshit! I am not at all a romantic at heart. I would prefer an oil change to a dozen roses any day of the week, including Valentine’s Day. I am a realist. But even in a world of brutal truths, there is still love. I like to wrap a nice dose of reality in a silken sheet of fantasy. Ok, that is bullshit too. I hate silk sheets. You get the point though.

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How Does Your Writing Process Work? I’m a lunatic. I write for hours at a sitting if possible. I put my hands on the keyboard and they hit the letters. Right now I have no idea what the next word will be yet there it is. I spend a lot of driving time, sleeping time, staring at the wall time away from a keyboard trying to better understand my characters. This understanding leads to the action at the keyboard. I do not outline. I am 16,000 words into Book 2 and I could give you a three sentence theory on where it is going, but I’m not sure. This was my method with Circling and I was pretty sure it would end in the shredder, but it came together nicely. Editing is key with this kind of writing!

I should also mention that this is all very setting driven for me. Note: Katinss Everdeen ran these falls located outside of Asheville, NC.  I walked them last week. Very inspiring.  I need a place, not my home, not even my state to land my characters. I have been doing a bit of travelling as of late and that has been a big help. Once I can see my characters in a place, they gel and develop voices and tell me what they are going to do and what they won’t do. They really do have the power. That sounds a little insane, doesn’t it? But it is a hell of a lot of fun!

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Passing the torch:

1 – Arran Bhansal (arranbhansal.com) – Confessions of a published author. Storyteller, Order of Merlin 1st Class, Master of Potions, Holder of the Golden Snitch, and Author of Infertility, Infidelity, and Insanity.
2 – Gary Bailey (garybaileywriting.wordpress.com) – Journey through the imagination of a new writer.
3 – Guy Hugo (confessionsofahollywoodnobody.com) – 19 year old writer from the Uk, who come out to LA after dropping out of university in his first year.

Check them out soon to see their posts on the Writing Process Blog Hop!

Sexy Lunching with a Writer

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I just had the most fantastic lakeside lunch! Romance novelist Isabelle Richards and I enjoyed a three hour, boozy, laugh out loud, sun-filled afternoon discussing our novels. Isabelle is an amazing woman and she has been the driving force behind my work. You might notice a credit to me in her Acknowledgements section. I had the honor of editing When Fates Collide and it really helped me to get writing. I fucking love her! Over the last months, we have spent an inordinate amount of time discussing which is more intimate – oral or vaginal sex. Our views do not align, but the discussion has been a hell of a lot of fun.

This week, we did a trade. She reviewed my manuscript while I reviewed hers. Today was THE MEET. Isabelle is writing the sequel to When Fates Collide. How fun to sit and discuss the motivations and complications of our characters like they are sitting at the next table. We covered their actions and reactions, their morality, their chances for redemption. Ok, there was more. We discussed their bodily fluids, the timeliness of their erections, and how they’d look naked. It was a very productive conversation. (Sorry for the backwash photo btw.)

I’m going to post this waste of a blog entry and then open the file for Circling. I have let it rest for a few weeks. I needed a little distance, but I am ready to get back in and finish it.  I am so close.

Maybe going dark for a while. I’ll be back…