Drafts of a novel
You’ve probably all heard of Nora Roberts’ first POS draft that she writes. She’s a “pantser” – she gets an idea for a book, allows it to gestate in her brain for a little while, thinking of who the characters might be and what they want and then she sits down at her computer and writes. No outline, no knowledge of how the book is going to go, no pre-determined ending except for the fact that if it’s a romance the hero and heroine will end up together if it’s a mystery it will be solved.
After she gets the story down, she goes back and refines it, makes sure that all the threads are worked through the fabric of her story, adds in foreshadowing, builds things up and takes things apart as necessary. She makes it a complete story.
That’s amazing and I am in awe of people who can look at a blank page and just write a story.
I am not one of those people. I need to examine in depth who my characters are, how they need to change and grow, and figure out what they need to do to get to their happily-ever-after. But as I sit here figuring out the plot for my next book, I’ve come to the conclusion that this—plotting—is actually my first draft.
I’m creating a story very much in the way Nora does, or Stephen King (another famous pantser) does. I don’t sit down in front of my computer and write. I sit down with my worksheets and my notecards and decide on scenes. I know generally what will happen in each scene and I know how it moves my story forward, how it moves my characters toward their goals.
I’m not writing dialogue and description, but I am, in a very real sense, writing my story—it’s just a general description on a notecard, but once I’m done with these cards and figuring out the entire story, then I’ll sit at my computer and write my “second draft”. That second draft will be the actual writing of the story—the descriptions and dialogue, action and reaction. It is in the second draft that my story comes to life.
Nora has said that she loves the second draft so much more than the first. Once she’s got the story down, then she can play with it, refine it. I’m very much the same way. Once I’ve got my notecards written and my scenes plotted out, when I finally sit down and write out that dialogue, my characters begin to speak to me. They move and make decisions—sometimes decisions I hadn’t foreseen, or they do things or say things I hadn’t anticipated. I go with the flow, allowing them to dictate the story and make adjustments to my scene cards as necessary. Rarely do I force my pre-determined story to be enacted because it’s usually what the character wants which will make a more interesting story (sometimes it just doesn’t work, in which case I’ll stop the flow and redirect my characters to do what I want them to).
But it is the “second draft” where the fun can be had. That is the true crafting of the story.
One more pass through my book to add in more five senses and description and then it’s off to my editor who will tell me everything I forgot to do and correct my grammar. A proofreader will find all my typos and move some more commas around.
I’m currently at these final stages with my newest book that will be coming out in mid-April, A Hand for the Duke. Sadly, my editor (who I love with a passion) is having some personal stuff going on that’s making it impossible for her to read and edit my work as quickly as I’d hoped. So, I’m sitting here clutching my hands together eagerly awaiting her comments, seeing if she liked it and waiting for a list of things I’m going to have to change and fix.
To keep myself occupied while I wait, I’m plotting book #4 of the series. Thinking about a new book, figuring out my new characters, developing new plot lines, conflicts and finding those wonderful romantic scenes will keep me from worrying too much—I hope.