Ah, drafting. You either love it or you hate it. Or, if you're not a writer, you probably don't care one way or another. Perhaps you think I'm talking about a sports league or beer. (Spoiler alert: I'm almost never talking about those two things.) Let's focus on the writer-crowd. I've found it's pretty evenly split, those who prefer drafting to revision, or the opposite.
It's no secret which side I'm on.
Drafting is literally my least favorite part of the writing process (well, the parts that are in my control anyway), and I'm pretty vocal about my distaste. As a perfectionist, it's really hard for me to get the words on paper without polishing them up, tweaking certain elements as I go. However, as an experiment, I decided to write an entire draft, start to finish, without going back to edit. I went into CampNaNo (the spring/April edition of National Novel Writing Month, which occurs in November) with around 20k of a new WIP, with the goal to write 50k (the standard word count for NaNo) so I could end with a 70k draft. Did I achieve this? Yes and no.
I learned pretty fast this type of drafting is Not For Me. If you're on Twitter as much as I am (I'm sorry if you are, please step away slowly, it's a time suck!), you'll see a lot of writing tips and hashtags. Everyone throws their two cents into the writing well, especially when it comes to drafting. From "draft start to finish without editing" or "don't revise while you edit" to "write every day", the Twitterverse is full of advice. Most people seem to think it's best to power through a draft until the end. Which is one of the reasons why I wanted to give this type of drafting a shot. So many authors and my fellow writer friends think highly of this method, therefore, it must be foolproof, right? Wrong. Okay no, it's not wrong, it's just wrong for me.
A draft is an organic monster. As someone who isn't big on plotting, I prefer to go back and edit (not line edit, but big picture), especially as I'm narrowing in on the plot and story. Often, I change the setting, a minor character, or whole subplots as I draft. This April, determined not to revise, I just . . . kept going and changed as I went. The result? An utter mess of a draft. Since I didn't see the point in writing something I knew I'd change in the next draft, I tried to mold the manuscript to my liking as I went. The end result is nothing short of chaotic. (Now I have a low-key fear of dying before I can revise because it's so bad and someone might share my word vomit with the world.)
Did I get a full draft done by the end of April? Nope. Because I tend to overwrite and didn't have a compact scene-by-scene outline, I hit 70k (which is amazing) but I still needed another ~10k to reach the end. Yes, I almost had a complete draft at the end of April, but it's such a roundabout way of drafting.
I'm glad I gave this type of drafting a serious attempt, but I'll probably stick to my usual drafting methods. I'd love to remind all the other writers out there who suffer from Twitter Peer Pressure that it's okay to edit/revise as you draft! Or not! If getting the dirty draft done ASAP is how you write, then more power to you. The most important thing is finding out what works best for you as an individual.
If you're curious as to how I draft, I'll elaborate. I set a deadline, which is almost always arbitrary ("Write this book before your birthday!" or "Finish this draft before going on vacation!"), with the goal of writing at least five days of the week. I usually end up writing every day, though, but that's not feasible for everyone. Without the goal of winning CampNaNo, I can still completely draft a book in less than two months. I think I wrote the initial draft of BIGMOUTH in five weeks. I use Story Genius (mostly for revision, if I'm being honest) along with a super-basic three act outline. That's it. Generally after 20k or so, I'll mock up a synopsis to keep me in check. I'll figure out the turning points, the midpoint reversal. And more often than not, I change these elements completely in revision. I'll occasionally work a scene-by-scene outline into my Scrivener files. During this marathon drafting I completed(ish) for CampNaNo, I created a master list of all the things I changed--or wanted to change--in revision. This kept me partially sane.
In conclusion: I didn't write a draft I'm head-over-heels for because of how fast and careless I blasted through the process. Luckily, I still adore the concept and can't wait to dive into revisions. The truth is, I usually don't fall in love with a manuscript while I draft. Revision is where the magic happens.
That being said, today I finished the trashy draft zero of this new project, which is always worth celebrating! When you spend most of your time with other writers (and often writers more "accomplished" than you are) it's easy to forget that finishing a book is a huge deal! So this is me, patting myself on the back. And taking a week-long writing hiatus before delving into my happy place: revising.
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