A friend of mine asked via Twitter: “Mrs. @mbweston, what’s your writing process?” To answer his question, I’ve been writing a series of blog posts about how I go about my personal writing process. So far, we’ve covered:
- The Writing Process: Part 1 – Getting Your Inspiration
- The Writing Process: Part 2 – The Conflict
- The Writing Process: Part 3 – Plot: Your Story’s Skeleton
- The Writing Process: Part 4 – The “Pre-Draft”
- The Writing Process: Example of a “Pre-Draft”
You’ve had your initial inspiration. You’ve figured out your central conflict. You’ve got a basic idea of your plot points, and you’ve finished either your Pre-Draft (pantsers) or your outline (plotters). Now it’s time to begin your First Draft.
First things first. Get down on your knees and say a quick thank you to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates for making the computer available to individual idiots like us. Otherwise you’d be retyping the whole darn thing!
Now it’s time to get that First Draft ironed out. Before you can start, you need to know what you’re dealing with. This means you’ll have to re-read your Pre-Draft. Grab a red pen and a legal pad or your 5-Subject notebook dedicated to this particular manuscript and start reading. When I find a problem on a manuscript, I write a number next to it and enter notes with the corresponding number in my notebook. Examples: 1) make sure Gabriella doesn’t seem so ditzy. 2) Marcus is too angry here. It’s not in his character. Tone it down. 3) Picante’s bow is currently in the human dimension. Gabriella can’t grab it in her dimension. Fix this. 4) This is the 4th time on this page that Davian has crossed his arms and frowned. He needs a new way to express his anger. 5) The nickname “stinkers” is sounding really childish for RSO’s. Change it.
While you are reading, this is what you will be looking for:
- Logic Loopholes. Real Life Example: In A Prophecy Forgotten, I originally had Davian drop his knife up in the command bunker. He then chased the villain into the munitions cellar, got himself involved in a nice little wrestling war, and threw his knife at the villain. That’s right. The same knife that was currently lying upstairs in the command bunker. And I didn’t even catch that one. Someone else did. That’s a logic loophole. These will plague you even after you send the thing to the editor, but try to catch as many of them as you possibly can.
- Character Development Issues:Character Development is in a tie with Plot as the most important part of the story. If you character doesn’t stay in character, your audience will sense it. If you are like me, your characters will become more clear to you as the story develops in your Pre-Draft. You need to make sure 1st Chapter Marcus is the same as 30th Chapter Marcus (aside from Marcus developing and changing through the story). You also need to make sure you have rounded your characters out and given them time to show themselves.
- Storyline Issues: Maybe you now realize your prince needs the help of the frog to find the princess. Maybe you’ve decided that the climax will be much more fun if you disable the spaceship. Pay attention to your story. Does it make sense? Does it flow? Did you leave something out? I’ll give you an example of a huge storyline issue that I discovered in A Prophecy Forgotten: Marcus didn’t exist. Yep. No Marcus. I read through my pre-draft and figured out that I needed to develop more of a team with Davian, Eric, and Snead, and I created Marcus and Josephi. Talk about a re-write. This is the toughest part of turning your Pre-Draft into a first draft, but be glad you’re doing it now with just the skeleton of the story than with a full-length manuscript.
- Scenes that don’t make sense or need to be deleted/added: Now that you’ve looked through your pre-draft, you will see things that are missing and things seemed really cool when you first started but now don’t really make sense. Check out your scenes and make sure they work. I could take an hour just talking about how to know if you should keep or delete a scene, but I am running out of words. Here’s the cardinal rule: Each scene should 1) move the plot along and if possibly 2) show character. If it fails in either one of those areas (especially plot), fix the problem or eliminate the scene.
What you aren’t looking for:
- Grammar Mistakes. You will find and fix those later. If you see them, fix them, but don’t avidly seek them out. You will spend a week just finding grammar mistakes at the end of the process. You’re not there yet.
Once you have finished taking notes, now it’s time to start wading through that pre-draft, fixing the brackets, filling in the blanks. Your Pre-draft (or outline) was stage directions, emotion, and dialogue. Fill in some of that prose. Other characters may be in the area. Let them chime in. Flesh it out. Fix the dialogue to make it sound more realistic. Get rid of cliches. Make it read like a First Draft.
Note that this process might take you three to four run throughs. That’s okay. I have two storage boxes devoted to old drafts of A Prophecy Forgotten and two for Out of the Shadows in my garage. Editing is what makes your writing sparkle.
You are still missing one vital part of the process: sensory details, description, and landscape. I add those in once I’m comfortable with my plot, and we’ll be talking about that next.
Fantasy novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. Weston speaks to children, teens, and adults about writing and the process of getting published. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. Find out more about The Elysian Chronicles at www.elysianchronicles.com.