April 12, 2012

How I Write A Novel Part Four: Drafting in Even More Detail

I know that last time I mentioned that I write everything long hand and then type it in aftwards, doing my first general round of revisions as I go. Well, I figured that the best way to show you how those revisions happen is to show you a passage written long hand (I've typed it word for word below because I would never ask you to decipher my chicken scratches...and because it's quite possible you won't be able to) then show you the exact same passage after it's typed in. This was difficult to do mind you with out getting all spoilery since this excerpt is actually from my current WIP, so the passage is brief and somewhat general in regards to giving away much plot. I'm only giving away about a paragraph or two. Still, I think it illustrates how my process is almost like a rewrite at this stage. The long hand bit is me warming up my story telling brain..while I love some parts as they appear initially, a lot of the time I veer off in a new direction and it isn't a very calculated or conscious thing. It is my brain finally limbering up and running in the proper direction. So, without futher ado, I give you my excerpts:

Long Hand Version: (this is my absolute roughest of drafts, untamed and raw-I have omitted nothing)

"Stop fidgeting, Lyla!" Taylor says through lips pressed tight around a dozen bobby pins. She pulls a thin section of my hair back from my face and starts braiding it. I watch her work in the mirror before studying my face for the hundreth time. I don't look like me. My lips are all glossy and weirdly, both sticky and slick. My cheeks look flushed--even though they aren't--and my eyes have an expertly smudged line of dark brown along the lashline. It's like staring at a stranger. A much prettier stranger. It's the first time I've ever worn makeup and now Taylor's forcing my stubborn hair into some kind of configuration of braids over straight hair that looks a lot like the kind I used to stare at in my friend Marie's contraband magazines.

Typed Version:

“Stop fidgeting, Lyla!” Taylor says, but it comes out sounding more like: “op idgeting, I-ya.” because she has a dozen bobby pins pressed between her lips.
(I add a pragraph in here that flashes back to the first book, so alas, I cannot include it, but I did this because it was needed and this felt like a good spot.)
Taylor grabs a thin section of my hair and begins to braid it. I watch her work in the bathroom mirror before studying the work she’s already completed on my face. I don’t look like me. My lips are all glossy and just slightly pink. My cheeks look permanently flushed and my eyes have an expertly smudged line of dark brown along the lash line. It’s like staring at a stranger or someone straight out of my best friend, Marie’s, contraband magazine collection.
I've typed it as I wrote it up top, so there are no paragraph breaks. I am spotty at best with my longhand writing about putting those breaks in. By the time I type I'm naturally breaking it up based on how it sounds in my head as I type. Notice that the paragrpahs are similar and sometimes I've taken some stuff out and other times I've added. At this stage I'm not actively strategizing how to improve what I'm doing, it's more of an instinctual changing as the words get typed in and I reread them for the first time. Sometimes the changes don't necessarily make it better, just different and closer to what I meant to say in the first place or how I actually picture the scene in my head. I also try to make sure at this point that the voice I'm trying to achieve is there and if it isn't I try to change a sentence's rhythym or the structure itself to achieve it, but really, I am mainly operating on my gut reaction at all times at this stage.
So, hopefully, this gives you a more exact idea of what my process is like. Now, as always, it's your turn...give me some specifics on how you do that voodoo that you do so well (to quote a very old song, I think). I'd love to hear all about it!!! This is fun, right? Like a late night confessional where nothing's off limits!


  1. I used to write and never look back (until revisions, that is), but now I know I can finish a novel I allow myself the time to go back and make changes as I write. Sometimes they are small changes, like the ones you make above, sometimes they are big, like removing the love interest and replacing him with an entirely new character.

    I think you're right when you say it's a matter of 'gut'. You can feel when something is working and when it is not. It's all about learning to trust yourself as a writer.

  2. I'm glad to hear you say that you make changes as you write too! I have never been able to do the straight draft, no tweaks thing. But, I usually don't make major changes until I get mired down in the middle of my draft (happens every time), then I go back and look at what things aren't working and make bigger changes. From long hand to typed the changes are mostly small ones.

  3. I'm a straight drafter - start to finish, no major editing allowed. I do very occasionally nip back to add an item or a snippet of information a character might need, especially within the chapter I'm writing, but if it's anything bigger that's become obvious as I write, I make a note of it and deal with it in the second draft.

    To be fair, this new WiP is the first time I've properly outlined before writing, so I know exactly what I want out of this first draft while I'm writing.

  4. I would love to be like that! I have to restrain my tweaking monster while I draft, but as soon as I get stuck, it escapes:)

  5. Hi Amy! I found your blog via Young Adult Reads group on Goodreads. I love to write and I'm an aspiring writer so your blog entries are really useful. :-)


  6. Thanks! Glad you think they're helpful:-D

  7. I'm like Ruth. I try really hard not to look at what I've already typed because then I end up having to fix every little thing and I don't get anywhere. I just go from start to finish and worry about fixing it up later.

    Fun post, Amy :)

  8. I would love to be like that more...total tinkerer by nature!