Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Zoom draft, part 2

 In my recent zoom post I wrote about a new strategy for writing a novel that I think might help me and might help someone write faster and maybe even better, particularly if they happen to be a panser rather than a planner, a discovery writer rather than an outliner. 

I suggested that you write a very quick draft, one that takes under a week and is 10000-15000 words long. I did this and had a draft of my novel, from beginning to end, in that time. In the past, I felt like I wasted a lot of time writing a longer first draft since often my discovery draft ended up being something I revised throughly anyway. My thinking was that if I wrote a first draft much faster maybe I would speed up my writing process without losing quality since, in my experience, most of the work of creating story came in later drafts, just as improvements in language and theme did.

Now I am working on the revision. I've spent slightly over a month and have increased my word count to about 45000 words. I am about half way through the second/third draft of the novel. However, I'm not just filling out what I had written with additional development. I've made several major changes to the plot as I've tried to develop and deepen the story.

So in that sense, I'm still feeling around in the dark a lot. However, in spite of this, I'm much farther along than I'd normally be because of the short time I spent on the first zoom draft. I don't feel like the road blocks and diversions are any more than on former novels. I had hoped that writing the draft so quickly might make me better at plotting; I don't feel that happened much. I still need a first draft to start working into the story. However, and this is key to how long the writing will take, I didn't spend several months on a first draft. I spent five days.

So far, I'm pleased wit this new strategy.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

When Characters In Your Story Act Out

 My characters get very cranky when I try to make them do things because of plot. Worse than rebellious teens. They will mess things up just to get back at me. They will lead me in all the wrong directions. Solution: you need to give characters real motivations for what they do, say, think. 


Too many formulas tell you to have your characters do things at specific places in the novel in order to follow a certain plot strategy. That can’t work for me.


You tell a character she has to act a certain way on page 33 because 3 is a lucky number, and if you have two 3’s well, double the luck, and you’ll for sure write a bestseller according to some advice.  

Your character says “I wouldn’t act that way.”

You say, “I need you to because I’ve been told you need that need on page 33.”

So after some argument she does. Then she falls into an identity crisis. She becomes a bad actress. Then she acts out or shuts down. This has a domino effect on your other characters in the story. They lose sight of their motivations.


Your characters aren’t going to seem real because they’re doing the wrong things at the wrong time and your story is going to seem forced because it goes in the wrong direction at several turns and pretty soon you’re lost in the swamp.


You know where I’m going  with this.


It’s not a pretty ending.




Work on plot, always. Story is important. But be true to your characters. Give them clear motivations. Readers will read even if they’re reading about terrible characters doing terrible things if the readers feel like they know and feel why they’re doing what they’re doing. 


Try to figure out what your character wants in a scene and why they want it and then put something in their way and be true to the character. If you can get these right you will have plot and character working together and you will pull the character in.