The Making of a First Draft, Part 1

I thought it’d be fun to document the process of writing my new novel (aka WIP or work in progress). At this stage as an unagented and unpublished writer, I’m what’s known as a #turtlewriter. I have no real deadlines, so I take my sweet little time writing (and procrastinating).

With my past novels, I’ve written in the pantser-style, meaning I write by the seat of my pants. The other camp of writers is called plotters. As a pantser-writer, you clack on your keys until a story begins to develop. You use words and words (and words) to learn about your characters, and when you’re done you have a pretty, ugly first draft you then have to rip apart and rewrite into something not crap.

After going through #PitchWars, I’m now trying a system combining both styles, and incorporating the following three new-to-me tools (also gleaned from my #Pitchwars experience).

All with the hopes of speeding up my writing, streamlining my revising, and saving some sanity along the way,


From Seed to Story

Story ideas come and go, but it becomes a seed once it’s planted in our heads and won’t leave us alone.

May 2, 2017

This is the earliest record I can find for the story I’m now writing. During a chat with a critique partner (CP), I hinted I had an idea*, but it was still too new to talk about.

*The idea came from a time in my own life when I got divorced in 2008. A close friend recommended I take a year off from dating. Nursing a broken heart, I couldn’t conceive of dating anyone just then, so it seemed a fair bargain.

May 23, 2017

I have a super, rough-draft query for my new WIP. I’ll use this as a guide while writing to make sure I don’t fall down any rabbit holes. Then I posted in my favorite Facebook group for some group-think.

June 7-9, 2017

With the little help from a friend, I have an idea for the Inciting Incident (an “event” throwing the protagonist on her journey throughout the rest of the book), along with bare-bones plot points–what will happen at the 25%-50%-75% marks and a glimmer of an idea for the ending. I used the story board and beat sheet to get to this point.

Words on a Screen

June 18, 2017

I’m about 3,000 words into my WIP. It’s officially begun. I’ve written my opening scene.

June 22, 2017

I’ve loaded my laptop into my luggage with high hopes of getting some writing done while we’re on our cruise. I can’t think of anything better than sitting in a lounge chair with the ocean breeze around me, and clicking out a few thousands words.

July 6, 2017

I didn’t write one single word while on vacation. I never even opened my laptop. I could’ve saved four pounds in my backpack. I’m back at my computer, adding two more scenes to the opening, better setting up my Inciting Incident.

*A side note with no specific date: After I drafted the beginning, I immediately wrote the ending. In one sitting, I had another 4k in the books. From there, I bounced back to a pivotal scene happening around the 50% mark–and boom–another 4k.

August 12, 2017

Some decent drafting completed up to this point.

August 16, 2017

Even after planning and plotting, a minor character is barging in on the story and wants a chance to shine. Do I want to let this happen? Will it muddy up the central story line? How much is too much?

Brainstorming with a CP to the rescue. After some constructive feedback and encouragement, I’m letting the character have his moment(s).

As I now have several characters to keep up with and what they’re doing throughout the book, I found this little tool called the 7 Point Story Structure. Magic!

September 7, 2017

I have about 40K into the WIP. I’ve sent off the semi-revised first 25% to my CPs to get feedback on the following:

  • POV in first person, present tense. I completely new POV for me to use. All my previous manuscripts have been third person, past tense. I have no idea which POV I’ll end up with, but if I decide to revert to my usual, I dread the transition.
  • Romance stories employ a basic formula: girl meets boy, have obstacles to overcome, perhaps some great sex along the way, and end with a HEA/HFN (Happily Ever After/Happy For Now). I am going off-formula. Some of my CPs have hinted it may be more Women’s Fiction than Romance. We’ll see.
  • Because I’m going off-formula the first 25% spends some time with a boyfriend who’ll soon be an ex-boyfriend, but who shows up later in the book. I need him to not come across as a jerk in the process.
  • And I’ve giving more page time to the minor character who was demanding more attention.

I’ll share the continuance of my journey, including feedback from my CPs in Making a First Draft, Part 2.

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