Everyone works differently. I’ve said before I can’t outline and I can’t. But I think my first drafts are becoming more and more discovery drafts. I don’t even pretend anymore that I’m writing something close to finished.
I think part of this is because I realize that for me, in terms of structure, something I find out about a character on page 57 is going to change that character and maybe the story on page 3. Because a first draft is so much about discovering character and story and trying to integrate all the elements of fiction, I think it needs to be fluid.
You’ve got to be open to changes, big changes, at a structural level, not just changing words in sentences or moving sentences around in a paragraph.
So these days my first drafts are filled with places where I just mark what is going to happen.
My first draft is also filled with notes to myself. But it is a draft—not an outline. I have to try to muddle my way through the world I’m creating to feel like that world, however sketchy, exists.
But I know that my first draft is like an out- of- focus photograph. It’s impossible to see how it will be when it sharpens. There will be many choices ahead and there will be many chances to make connections. It’s kind of exciting and frightening. Finishing a first draft means both less and more than it once did when I believed my first drafts closer to a final version. One great thing about knowing my first draft is kind of a discovery draft is I don’t have high expectations, and I think that makes it easier for me to keep working when I face difficult moments in that draft.
OR SO I THINK TODAY.