Monday, June 25, 2012

Rehearsal notes for Your Rough Draft

Have you ever been in, or watched a play rehearsal? The actors have their scripts and pencils in hand, and as the director calls out his suggestions, the actors take notes. Perhaps, an actor delivers his line in a bold voice and the director decides the line should be spoken soft and sharp. The actor scribbles his suggestion in his script. Sometimes the director will have the actors repeat the scene with the new notes, or sometimes, the director's comments and suggestions will be taken and performed at the next rehearsal.
 If every comment from the director is expected to be hashed out by the actor at that very moment, then opening night would be pushed back further and further. Actors take notes so they can apply them to their next take on that scene.
And this is how we as writers should consider our rough drafts. When we write our stories for the first time we should focus on developing our character arc and plot. Any reworked scenes or added ones, holes in research, loss of words, should be noted for later.
It's easy to get caught up in perfection and continually go back and edit and fill in and rewrite, but that opening night (the final "the end" or the agent appointment) will fade in the distance.

Here are a few ways I prevent my momentum from stalling as I truck along on my rough draft:

Holes in Research: Whether you need to research an Old West saloon or a pyschotherapist's office in upstate New York, most novels need research of some sort to maintain their believability. Unless your research is key to moving character and plot forward, I suggest listing out your research needs as you go. In my rough draft, I put them at the top of Chapter One, so the first thing I will do in my edits is fill in the research gaps. (Blogger cuts off some of my files, but you'll get the gist)

 Loss of Words: It's hard to believe a writer would have a loss for words, but please tell me I am not the only one! I could pour out wonderful sentences and type deep pov, but without fail, I'll have a word here or there that just doesn't feel right, or is not coming to me at that moment. Also, I might need a proper name (like in my example) and I don't want to stop my pace to search for it. This is where the highlight tool in Word-like programs comes into use. It's a great way to point out repetative words or cliches to be touched up in the next draft round.
 Scene Ideas: When you are trying to hash out characters, you might realize that you need another scene to give the reader insight into something specific...Or, if your plot jumps in an unnatural way, say, your heroine falls in love with the hero just after she learns something awful about him, you'll realize a scene might need to squeeze in to enhance your story. My problem is, if I have gotten to one part in the story that I am pumped about where it's going, I may not be in the mood to go back and write THAT new scene at that moment. So, I make a note (like below) and save that scene for later, but giving myself enough of a note so I remember what I wanted to write.
 Future Chapters: Some of you plotters might think this next one is ridiculous. But trust me, for this wanna-be plotter who just gets carried away with writing ahead of myself, this has helped me immensely. At the end of my rough draft, I always list out my future chapters with a snippet of what is going to happen. When I go on to the next chapter, I have a reminder of what's to come (I include the page numbers to help with my pacing).

 For example,  

105-115- Chapter 13- Leanna confronts Stavi about his's not the same. Stavi says you were angry with him for all this time...anger... 

Yeah, I usually change it around, or come up with something different, but it's nice to have the future laid out so I can purposefully move my novel forward. I usually tweak these as I think and type, and as my characters inevitably take me in new directions.

Your turn. What do you do to keep your momentum in your rough draft without getting caught up in editing? Do you think this is different for plotters vs. pantsters?

Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across cultures. She is an ACFW member and CEO of a family of six.


April Gardner said...

I'm an avid plotter, but I still write out a paragraph of my next scene at the end of the current chapter. Or I'll copy and paste a few paras from my plot notes. At the end of the writing day, I always look ahead to get my brain in gear.

Great post! Happy writing...

Anonymous said...

Great post, Angie. I write notes to myself about what I need to research also. I am an extreme plotter, writing out a paragraph or two of each scene in a document before I begin writing. Then, I sit down and find myself able to write pretty quickly because I know where I'm going.

When a word doesn't come to mind as I'm writing, I asterisk it and come back to it in revisions.

As long as I don't re-read my already written words, I can stay away from editing during the rough draft. :) Loved your ideas!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I totally get this. I'm usually a plotter but there are certain stories I plot WAY less, and either way I always fill in blanks like, "She walked over to (name of street)" to go back and fix them later. I also write notes at the end of my page to look at for the next time I sit down and write.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Angie,

Great tips!

I've started writing this way too and it's great. It allows you to keep forging ahead. Then as you edit, you see the asterisk and remember what you wanted to change/fix.

Also, when I have spare time - after I've finished writing for the day - I can indulge in Google searches for research. I've found one can waste HOURS doing this! LOL.


Casey said...

Kind of like foot notes you can't as easily forget or ignore?

I love the visual aides you gave, great tips! My next book requires a lot of research into the nature of mold infections, since my heroine contracts one. It's been interesting and giving me much to work with in conflict, but it takes a lot of work!

Have a great Monday. :)

Becki Badger said...

:D I'm almost completely a pantser. I know where I'm coming from and I know where I'm going, and I have a vision for some scenes in between. Other than that, I just write the scenes as they come to me.

For editing, it really varies. Usually I just keep a mental list of what I need to fix, and keep reading through the book to fix it. But I usually get to the end and realize I want to completely rewrite it, because something drastic has to change. After I've drastically changed it, I just keep reading through and adding things, subtracting them, tightening them, etc. :)

Angie Dicken said...

Hey Everyone! Thanks for giving your techniques for the rough draft stage. It's always a learning process isn't it?

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Great post Angie! I love writing the first draft, but tend to trip up on needing to know something that I have to research. I always think if I get something wrong at the beginning, it might make the rest of my book I need to get it right from the very beginning! lol I'm weird.

Angie Dicken said...

I think that is what's tricky with historical...if it's too substantial of a mistake, it could cause a lot of editing (taking out elements, putting them in, changing an entire scene because it would never have happened).
I've decided with my novel, to write the first draft as best as my initial research (setting, historical events of the time, attitudes of the time) allows, and then more detail elements can be added later if I am not too sure about them.