Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Exploratory Drafts

So right now I'm in the middle of plotting a rewrite, and the endless brainstorming accompanying that process. To keep my creativity high/save me from going insane, I've also been writing a New Book. And for the first time ever, I called the first draft the Exploratory Draft.

It has been a very, very freeing experience.

For me, the point of this draft was to do what the title implies - explore the world, conflicts and characters with the goal of finding the right story hidden somewhere between the lines. I plotted a rough outline, sketched out a couple of beat sheets (I'll post another time on why these are great writing tools) and had both my pitch and skeletal query set out. But because it's fantasy, and the world is perhaps the most complex world I've built, I figured I'd need a bit of space to test whether or not my outline was heading in the right direction. It *sort* of was.

I called this draft quits around 65k in, at the start of the third act. The ending I'd planned no longer felt right, but through the draft itself I have found the Right Story. I can still use a lot of what happens in the first 100 pages, so I've printed them out to assemble into the new draft. The real first draft.

This was freeing for me because instead of feeling the pressure to complete the draft and wrestle it into submission like I normally do with first drafts, I am letting a lot of it go. I'm listening to my writer-y instincts, and following the characters to where they want and need to go (more on that another day). I'm free to pretty much re-imagine the whole concept and the importance of the secondary characters, and it's a GLORIOUS feeling. I'm not nearly as stressed as I normally am when I have to tackle the first round of revisions.

I have a revised outline/beat sheet/pitch, and this time the ending feels urgent and RIGHT. It has also opened up the possibility of a book 2, and perhaps a book 3. So from now on, I will call my first attempt at a new story the Exploratory Draft. Maybe it's psychological, maybe it's because it takes me a while to actually find the right story and this is how I roll, but it has worked well for me. Feel free to let things go and rewrite. EXPLORE your story. Your book is a little baby at this stage - let it grow into what it wants/needs to be.

I'll post an update as to how this goes in the end!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Writing Lulls

For the last couple of weeks, my writing has stalled. At the moment, I don't feel in a position to write so much as a sentence. I've been brainstorming potential solutions to a WIP plot problem, and coming up with nothing. I've also hit a brick wall with this new project I'm outlining - I can't for the life of me figure out a plot.


I might have figured out the reason why. It has something to do with a simple problem - forgetting why I write in the first place.

Recently I've been SO obsessed (and I mean seriously obsessed) with finding a fresh and original story to write. Something that's never been done that I might have a chance of selling. It's proving, right now at least, pretty much impossible. The reason - I'm trying too hard. Instead of focusing on making my characters as interesting and relatable as I can, I'm stressing out over plots, twists and hooks.

There's also another grim reality. Let's face it, plot structures, tropes and dare I say cliches exist because they work. The best writers put new and exciting faces on these things so we don't even notice they're operating (at least to my mind that's what they do, lol!). Whether it's new settings, twists, digging deep to mine possibilities of each and every trope we know and love...we shouldn't 'sense' the formula, but it's there. They also employ characters we can't help but love, or love to hate. Characters we haven't read about, who have a unique take on life. There are SO MANY books I love - but the plot details are hazy in my mind. It's the characters and their wants, needs and choices I remember.

So with that in mind I'm spending time reminding myself why these characters excite me. Why I'm compelled to explore their journeys. Even as I write this post I'm brainstorming a potential plot for them, all because I took a step back. And if it turns out too 'unoriginal' to query? I'll play with it until it's fresher. But from now on it's character first, plot second.

Here's to a successful writing week, everyone!