Wow…it has been a while! You know how time sometimes seems to have extra minutes, hours in a day, when it drags on and on and each second becomes an hour?
Well, that’s not how the past few months have been. If anything, Spring has raced by, a blur of moments. And now it’s May and I’m not sure how time unravelled so fast.
Today I want to talk about drafting. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a writer and I’ve recently completed a manuscript for middle grade readers (9-12 year olds) which is inspired by the islands I live on with a spoonful of magic! I loved writing it, revising it and getting to know the characters so much, it’s been a tumble of ideas and sketches, which I’ve spun into a story all about a girl called Violette and the start of her grand adventure!
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So now I’ve finished Violette’s story, I’m starting something new. It can seem daunting, starting with a blank page, a blank notebook, a blank mind, but it can also be exciting.
And this is how it always begins for me, with the tiniest glimpse of an idea. Not a whole idea, an almost-idea, an image or a line which I can’t get out of my head. So I write it down, usually in the note section of my phone…and I begin to wonder where it will go.
For me, this is the simmering phase. Some books hit you fully formed like a tempest, some emerge more slowly. If an idea keeps coming back, and I collect more ideas around it, that’s when I get excited and begin the opening page. I don’t plot it out for weeks on end first, if I did that, I would lose interest. Instead, I want to hear what the character has to say, why they’re so eager to tell their story. So I sit down with my laptop, and I see where the opening page takes me.
If that goes well, I’ll keep going. If the ideas keep on flowing, then I’ll open up a spreadsheet and create a rough outline, so I know where I want this story to go. But always, I’ll keep the main character at the centre, driving the plot with their actions and decisions. I’ll think about the theme. What am I trying to say? what’s this story about? and what is holding my main character back?
Once I have a first draft, I try to let it sit. I really do. This is the right and best thing to do. But honestly? by this point, I’m so consumed by the world I’ve created, that I want to dive back in and fix it. I imagine this step as a painting. If I step back and look at the whole thing, where are the knots of paint? where could I make things clearer? have I allowed my main character to lead the plot, rather than the other way round?
At this point, other readers are the mirror I need. If they read it and ask questions, provide critique, I can identify places I need to work on. This step is utterly crucial. I wouldn’t have got to where I am today as a writer without the support and guidance from my critique partners and readers. If you work together, you all grow.
Once I’ve listened to feedback, revised my manuscript and polished each sentence until it sparkles, then I’m ready. Then the fun really begins.
How do you draft? are you a plotter, a pantser, or something in between, like me?