2nd Draft, Here I Come!

I’ve had a lovely 3 weeks’ break from my manuscript, and I’m now ready to tackle the second draft.  I’m a bit nervous, to be honest with you.  I don’t want to read it and realise how bad it is!  Worse – I don’t want to read it, realise how bad it is and NOT KNOW HOW TO FIX IT!

It’s all very nervewracking.  Where does one start?  I think I’ll start with mapping out the point of view for each chapter, so I can see where I need to add more of one viewpoint or cut back on another.  Amazing how just developing that plan settles my tumtum!

J-A’s Writing Process – Step 3 – The Story Arc

This is where it will become obvious that I’m a planner (ie I plan before I start to write), not a freefaller (ie someone who just sits down and writes without any idea of where it’s going to go).  However, this is something that I think would be helpful for freefallers as well, so give it a go.

After I’ve done my characters, I’ve usually got some thoughts about how the idea I’ve had is going to develop.  At this stage, I’ll sit down and do some brainstorming about possible outcomes for the story.  Nothing too detailed, just general thoughts.  Who’s going to win?  What growth is my main character going to go through?  What’s going to propel them forward in search of whatever it is they’re looking for (and therefore, propel the book forward)?  What will they have to overcome and why?  I may not have a very specific idea of what will actually happen, but I’ll have a general feeling for what kind of resolution there’ll be.

You can see from the above that my stories are character driven, but the same works for plot driven books too.  In fact, maybe you have an even clearer idea of where things are going to end and how. 

Once I’ve got my end of the story, I then think about where my character is at the beginning of the story.  Are they happy or are they restless?  Why?  What do they value in life?  What have they got to lose?   This gives me the two ends of the story. 

The next question I think about is:  how does my character get from the beginning to the end?  My character details will help with this, because some of the key events will fall out of who they are.  I tend to think of story developing in a ‘things get worse’ way, that the protagonist has to go through the wringer before coming out at the end.  Each key event is followed by a lull before the next event to give everyone a rest, but each event is followed by another that makes things more difficult for the protagonist. 

And that gives me the main plot events.  These aren’t very detailed at this stage, just a sentence long.  I like to keep them brief, because then I can maintain maximum flexibility for my writing.  It also doesn’t mean that I’m locked into this structure.  It just means that I don’t panic about drifting and not having a story.  When I actually start writing, I tend to put this away and only look at it every now and then.  Sometimes I find I’ve missed something important but I’ve discovered it just in time to redirect.  Sometimes I decide whatever it is I’ve missed isn’t important or the story has led me to something better, and I may redo my story arc.  I can have flexibility provided I don’t tie myself into my plan too much.  I still get that edge from the unexpected and the unknown.

J-A’s Writing Process – Step 2 – Characters

OK.  I’ve got an idea, so it’s time to go on to getting the characters.  I tend to write stories that are character driven, so this step is important. 

I need to understand my characters in order to write them, and I often find that in doing a character interview or profile, I end up with important plot points or events as well.  There are no doubt lots of books out there that will help with character, but the one I found really useful was Write Away by Elizabeth George.  She has a list of character aspects that she uses as a guide, and gives an example of how she uses it.

Anyhow, this step is an essential part of my writing process.  Above all else, I need to know what the character wants in the book and who/what is working against them.    I also need to know why they want it – what psychological factors are driving them.  You can see how this leads to plot.

I am also interested in psychology, and read about it / watch documentaries about it often.  Biographies are also helpful here, particularly if they have that psychological analysis slant.  This is what allows my characters to ‘drive themselves’, so to speak.  I’ll start writing thinking they’re going in one direction, but next thing you know, they take me in another.  If you’ve done the work to understand them and keep that in mind when you’re writing them, it really can be that effortless.  The story almost writes itself, at least for a few pages.