Blind Draft

August 19, 2010 at 5:46 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )


I seldom read over what I’ve written immediately after I write it. Mostly because I usually hate every single word and delete it rather than giving myself the space I need to read it and see the good in it and preserve the good while carefully editing.

That said, I read a scene that I drafted the other day immediately after finishing it. Not so much because I wanted to delete it but because I had a nagging feeling that something was terribly wrong and the feeling wouldn’t let go of me until I’d read it. For once I didn’t reach for the delete key right away. Instead I started thinking through all the sensible questions. What was I trying to accomplish with this scene? What perspective was I trying to tell the story from? How did this scene fit into the overall story I was trying to write?

Then I reached for the delete key. Not because I hated what I had written but because I suddenly knew exactly what was bothering me about the scene.

The point of the scene was to introduce the character of a new player in the story and establish her relationship with an already established character. This relationship is going to be built out and has quite a history that will unfold throughout the story but at this scene just needed to establish where their relationship was and not how it got there.  So the question I was left asking was why exactly this new character’s family history was being explained in extremely dull exposition, meanwhile the relationship was so played down as to be non-existent within the scene.

Two rewrites later and I think the scene is now serving its purpose. It still isn’t good. It is very much in a rough draft stage and no doubt I will have to rewrite it many more times before I’m actually happy with it, but just getting rid of all the excessive and useless information that was cluttering up the scene and making it drag has made it that much better and easier to read. It’s also helped to highlight what is actually important within the scene.

I don’t think I’m going to do this with every scene during the first draft stage. I’d probably never finish the first draft and end up in an endless cycle of rewriting, but an occasional surgical look at specific problematic scenes definitely served its purpose.

What’s your drafting process?

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10 Comments

  1. Tooty Nolan said,

    My life-style has enforced a regime upon me that is laboriously slow, but seems to work. I write approximately two pages during the time that I manage to steal from any given day. Then just before sleep claims me, and I’m all tucked up in bed, I put on my spectacles, get out my red pen, and start scribbling all over the pages. Well it looks like scribble, but it’s actually corrections. In the morning I replace the original with these corrections – and that will do until the first draft of the entire manuscript is complete. That’s when I really go to work…

  2. Laura Diamond said,

    Great point! Thinking about the purpose of a scene can definitely help detemine whether or not it stays or goes.

    For my first draft, I tend to write whatever comes into my mind…makes the story kind of wander and feel random at times, so I will keep this thought in mind when I work on my next novel. After the first draft, I do review the necessity of the scenes and how it moves the plot forward. If it doesn’t, I reach for the delete key. Hard to do, but feels better after.

  3. Lynn Rush said,

    I’m with Laura. First draft, I just write whatever comes. . . if I don’t know what color the eyes will be or the characters name, I just put a line there, so when I go back after the first draft is done, I can fill that stuff in. 🙂

    If I went back right away, I’d never get a story down. Then, I set it aside for a few weeks.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. Carol Ann Hoel said,

    Something in a writer’s mind causes the writer to create a scene. The reason for the scene, unclear at first, may be revealed later on as foreshadowing of an event to follow or whatever. You wrestled with your troublesome scene until you figured it out. This was better than deleting it. I tend to delete too quickly. If I were to remove an imperfect scene to an inactive folder with some note at to where and why I first envisioned it, I would still have the thoughts to examine and consider later on. The delete button is so final, isn’t it?

  5. Carol J. Garvin said,

    I find it’s way too easy to write information dumps into the first draft… descriptions or backstory, etc. I think it’s because I need to know those things, not because they need to be in the story. When I take time to think them through before I start writing, and maybe put the extraneous info into a separate reference file, I’m less inclined to try and pack too much into the actual story. Once I’ve written something I seldom delete major sections until I get into the revision stage. By then I have the overview of the whole story to help me see what to cut and what to leave. I also use a spreadsheet to list scenes, and that makes it easier to identify which ones aren’t needed to move the story ahead. (It also makes it easier to see the results ahead of time if I think I may want to move scenes around.)

  6. Agatha82 said,

    I tend to write whatever comes to my head, and then, I fix it later. At least that is what I’ve done so far. This approach has stressed me out deeply and so I will try a different one next time, do an outline, organise better and then see what happens.

  7. Carol Ann Hoel said,

    Excuse me for chiming in twice, but I love that spreadsheet idea mentioned by Carol Garvin. Cool! This seems like a great organizational idea! I am going to try putting scenes on an Excel document on my next novel, if there is a next novel. 🙂

  8. Smander said,

    Hi Cassandra. Thanks for sharing the intimate details of your drafting process. I’d be really interested to actually see the first piece and then the final piece to compare…if you’d be willing to air your dirty laundry for the world to see. My drafting process has evolved. I used to write a paragraph then spend the rest of the day agonizing over it. Ive come to realise that, like you, this ends up in a lot of deleting. I now write by hand. Record my work with my iphone and then listen and type frantically (I find it faster). I then wait for a few weeks and come back to it when its fresh.

  9. Miss Rosemary said,

    It’s so sporadic I can’t even reallydescribe it well! It’s all about my feeling/mood at the time. If I’m feeling good about myself or happy, I generally write more. If I’m upset and agitated I usually need the editing more to help me focus or calm down. Basically if I feel like writing, I write and if I feel like reading but not someone else’s work, I’ll edit my own stuff.

  10. Cam said,

    I like that you asked yourself what the purpose of the scene is as you reviewed it. It’s something i don’t do often enough.

    Generally, I have in mind what is supposed to be the outcome of the scene, write it and, immediately, do a quick read through to make sure that I’m using complete, real sentences (instead of, say, “Julia thinks something here”).

    Oddly, I don’t do major edits until I’m working on different scenes. If these new scenes relate back and something isn’t meshing between them, I’ll back and take a harder look at the original scene.

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