Drafting Can Be Rough

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Drafting is the next step in the writing process. Whether you use a computer or a steno pad, whether you write with a pencil or pen, call it a “sloppy copy” or use another form of reference, you cannot escape this step in the writing process.

Using what you’ve accomplished so far in the prewriting process, drafting is the actual writing, chapter by chapter, of your book.

With a few tweaks here and there, all writers vary this stage of writing to end up with what works for them. Whether it is a program, such as Scrivener, or your own version of something else you’ve seen out there, now’s the time to get the old creative juices going. You can use a combination of approaches. After five books, I am still changing mine. 

What I am going to share, now, is how I approach the drafting stage of writing. If it is helpful as a whole, or only in part, use what makes sense according to your writing style, your organizational methods, and so on.

I use my computer at home almost 100% of the time. I found, early on, that using Mac’s “Pages” wasn’t the universally accepted format. You’ll need WORD. You can purchase WORD for Mac from the internet or Apple store, if you, too, own a MAC.

After closing my office door to insure quiet, I consult what I accomplished in my prewriting. I used to use giant Post-it’s of about 18” by 30” or so to keep my timeline,  characters and their descriptions straight. I have recently found it just as effective to use a spiral notebook and list these important details chapter by chapter. Clutter on my walls tended to make me nervous, whereas a simple notebook can be closed and stored in the closet for the next writing day.

Next I write … and write … and write …

I may finish and entire chapter or not, depending on the amount of time I have allotted. But, here is where I differ from most writers. After taking a short break for lunch or even overnight, I re-read my chapter, doing a quick edit of anything that stands out to me. These may be typos, mistakes in point-of-view, changes in scene order, or even sometimes deleting entire sections. These pre-edits serve two purposes: 1) Reading through the chapter gets my head back into the story so that I can continue my writing and 2) Just like the Post-its that previously cluttered my walls, it is a way of reducing what isn’t needed and getting down to story basics. 

(Most writers will tell you to keep writing all the way to the end of the book before going back to tackle any kind of editing. That would be ideal, if I could do it, but I just cannot…sorry, my mind just won’t get going unless everything else is cleared up, first).

Although I might do a little revising in the drafting stage, I find that it is wise to wait to do anything major until I have finished the entire book. Too many things can happen in the course of writing that might seem wise to revise early on; however, lots of difficulties will work themselves out in the course of writing. Save yourself a lot to time and work by sticking to your outline closely. Let your story “simmer” for awhile.

Before closing, I want to mention that I give my book, chapter by chapter, to my critique group. I rely on their comments heavily when editing. If there is something that these other writers do not understand (or like), then I am certain that my readers will not, either.

Next week- revising.

Relax and Refocus

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I sometimes get stuck in the middle of the day. My mind starts listing out any number of things I need to complete by six o’clock. This can lead to a near panic attack, I kid you not.

I always intend to go to an exercise class at the local gym at 12:30, but rarely take time for it because I’m too busy…you know, all those things I need to get done by six…

Yesterday, however, I unchained myself from my computer. I yanked on my tennis shoes and headed for the car. I arrived at the gym at 12:20 and perused the class listings for 12:30. (Yes, I knew there would be a class. But, no, I hadn’t a clue if it would be aerobics, muscle, or stretching.) It turned out to be Beginning Yoga.

How hard could that be?

Not hard at all, as it turned out. But, I was in for a few surprises.

The exercise room was dark, except for little battery-operated candles that were scattered on the floor throughout the space. Soft music played over the speakers. 

I stumbled to an empty spot near the back. I soon realized I couldn’t see the instructor from that location, so I moved to the front row.

Her soothing voice and the soft melodies soon pushed my myriad thoughts aside, as I focused on my breathing and sense of well-being.

Tranquility in the middle of a busy day! 

Stress that I carry in my neck and shoulders all but disappeared. My face relaxed. 

If there had been a bed nearby, I could have crawled into it and napped the rest of the afternoon.

Back at home, I grabbed a glass of iced tea and headed toward my office. My head was now clear of the “clutter” and I was able to complete four hours of more creative and productive work than I could recall doing in weeks.

OK. So, you’ve tried yoga and it’s just not your thing. I get it. Try going for a stroll, riding a bike ride, enjoying a massage, taking a drive up to the lake…

The point is: take a break.

Unchain yourself from your computer.

Relax and Refocus.

I’m betting you’ll find yourself doing the best work you’ve produced in a long, long time.

And, remember:  close it down at six o’clock.