Why I Despised Drafting
My trouble with drafting began back in middle school when one of my teachers told my class to hand in the first draft of our essays the following week.
I wrote the essay, edited it, and handed it in—but at the end of class, the teacher asked us to have our final draft done and hand it in by the week after.
I went home that day and looked back over my essay. There wasn’t anything that I could think of to add or change, so I looked up a few synonyms, substituted them, and called it a day.
When I got my essay back, I got a B+ and a note from my teacher telling me that the grade was lowered because I hardly made any changes from my first draft.
At that moment, I decided that I despised drafting. I also decided that I would never do it again if I could help it.
Funnily enough, a few years later I decided to become a writer.
Down With The Draft!
Since my only exposure to drafting was the few times my middle or high school teachers told me to write a few different drafts for essays and papers (all of which I hardly changed since I wasn’t sure what to change), my view on drafting boiled down to “just write the thing, edit it, and you’re probably done after that.”
That half-formed view of drafting carried over into my novel writing, and it’s taken me years to realize that I didn’t understand the point of drafting.
There Can Only Be One Draft
The first draft method I employed came straight from my essay days.
I would only write one story draft—but maybe I’d do some editing if the story needed it.
Using this particular method of drafting led to a ton of partially written drafts.
Writing a draft that “needed to be perfect” overwhelmed and frustrated me. I found myself rewriting and editing the story as I wrote, which took a lot of time with no results. When I got tired of being stuck working on a particular story, I’d move over to the next idea and start the cycle over again.
I stuck with this method of drafting until I got fed up with the fact that I had never finished a story.
In Other Words…
My second drafting method revolved around dialogue.
I love writing dialogue—a lot.
It’s a lot easier for me to write dialogue than anything else, so for a while, I tried writing stories with only dialogue, and maybe a few descriptions here and there.
The problem I ran into with this method was how overwhelming it was to go back and attempt to fill in the descriptions, thoughts, and actions after the fact.
The next method I tried was writing scenes by inspiration alone.
I figured that excitement was what I needed to motivate myself to finish writing a story. So instead of writing my story from start to finish, I’d jump around through the story writing scenes as inspiration struck—which worked until inspiration was nowhere to be found.
I also noticed that jumping around through the story made it harder for me to connect scenes and make the story work as a whole (my last novel draft completely flopped due to this method).
Develop The Draft
The latest method I’ve tried is by far the best method I’ve used so far.
In one sentence, it’s “get the story down in whatever form it’s in—and fill in the blanks later.”
Basically, I combine all the drafting techniques I’ve ever used. Starting from the beginning of the story, I write anything I can think of (descriptions, actions, thoughts, dialogue) scene by scene—just to work through the story.
I skip a lot while writing. If I can’t think of how I want to write something, I don’t write it. I just mark it and move on. Some of the scenes may be mostly descriptions and thoughts, while others might have a lot of action or dialogue. Either way, I can see the story starting to form and develop on the pages.
In a way, it feels like as I’m writing I’m creating puzzle pieces (characters’ motivations, plot points/twists), and I already picture how some of them will fit together. Now, I’m really excited to work on the second draft because I’ll be putting all the pieces together.
Drafts Don’t Just Appear
I’m a developer, not just a drafter. It’s hard for me to write a scene list and write the draft out exactly like I planned, but I’m also not someone who can just start writing without a plan and expect a great story to just appear on the pages.
I’ve fully accepted the concept of drafting now—of understanding that yes, the first time I write a story, it’s not going to be good, or even readable—let alone publishable. And that’s okay!
Drafting Is Different
Looking back, I remember hearing a lot of people say stuff like “your first draft will never be perfect” or “your first draft is just for you, so you know what the story is”.
But hearing and understanding are definitely two completely different things. Most of the time, I need hands-on experience if I want to fully grasp a concept. So while I wish it hadn’t taken so long for me to understand why writing drafts don’t have to be the bane of my existence, I’m glad that I do understand now.
The drafting process is different for everyone.
Just because a particular method didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for anyone else. This drafting journey has reminded me that there are thousands of different ways to write a novel, and none of them are right or wrong. They’re just different, because we as individuals are different.
Before You Go…
How do you approach drafting when it comes to your stories?
Let me know down in the comments!
Read last week’s blog on short stories here!
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This was great! I also don’t often learn things until I get to experience them:). Glad you found a method that works!
Thanks so much, Melissa! It’s definitely been helpful!
I wrote scenes out of order when I was young and always ended up confused and lost in the revisions so I learned to take it scene by scene. I tried the out of order style again on my last draft and it did not work at all for me. So writing in order is my best ally, though sometimes I will write a scene if it starts playing in my head and add it/changing it to fit the circumstances when I reach that scene in the official draft. I find when I go out of order, I don’t know the emotional state or nuances of what each character is currently dealing with.
That makes sense! So far going in order really is the best method I’ve used.