Sunday, February 7, 2010

First Drafts and Outlining

Can I just say how much I LOVE writing a first draft! For me, there's such a sense of freedom at starting a new story. Maybe it's because I've been writing/editing/revising Eternal Starling for the last two years, but I'm in love with the two new books I'm working on! There's just something about getting to create a new world and meet new characters.

About two weeks ago, I started working on a contemporary YA and a chick-lit romance/mystery. The mystery has been moving at a really good pace so I've decided to finish it first. I'm 100 pages into it and I should be able to reach my goal of finishing the first draft by the end of February.

Let me just say, Eternal Starling did not get written nearly as fast as this book and I think it's because of the different ways I outlined the two books.

With Eternal Starling, I did a skeletal outline of the story. I knew the basics, but I kind of let the characters take me where they wanted to go. If you've read my past posts you know I wrote Eternal Starling in 3 months, then I ended up spending a year doing revision after revision (I think I had about 10 different drafts) because I didn't know my story well enough when I first wrote it. This time around, I decided that since the book was a mystery novel, I needed a more detailed outline. I can't believe the difference it has made. Knowing where the story is going makes it much easier to just fill in the blanks. I know not everyone likes to write that way, and I didn't think I'd like it either, but it worked for this book. I'll have to wait and see if it works for other books I write.

How do you guys feel about first drafts? Do you love them or hate them and just want to get the ideas on paper so you can revise? And what about outlining? Do you write with a detailed outline, or just a basic idea of where the story is going?


  1. I usually prefer a basic outline, because then I can let my characters really narrate.
    But I do see your point - since it's a mystery, you can't just write all haywire :P

    Good luck with the new WIPs!

  2. I too LOVE writing the first draft, and I use the outlining method utilized for your second book. I write mysteries also, and I don't see how you could do it without outlining. The characters still get to grow and develop on the fly as you create, but within a carefully laid out structure that serves a larger purpose.

    Good luck with it!

  3. I love first drafts! And I love writing them fast. (Nanowrimo has pretty much shaped the way I plow through a first draft). Although now that I know I Can write a story fast, I usually slowly down a little, because (as you said), some first drafts where you plow ahead blindly end up needing massive revision.

    I also agree that a decent outline is Very helpful. I find that I actually get More ideas as I outline, brainstorm and so on, and sometimes it seems like my brain already has a plan. I realize why I had an idea and that it connects to another idea and hey! A plot!
    Then it's more relaxing when it comes to writing out the actual..y'know. Stuff!

  4. Tanvi-That's how I felt with Eternal Starling too. :)

    DL-Thanks! I didn't realize you also write mystery novels. I need to go back through your older blog posts and read more! Mine is a chick-lit romance/mystery written in a similar style as Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.

    Jess-Nanowrimo is crazy! That's awesome you've done it! And I completely agree, I get more ideas as I outline and it makes the writing process so much easier. It's nice to just write instead of having to worry about whether or not what I am writing is going to require a bunch of revisions to the stuff I've already writtten.

  5. Just found your blog! It's interesting to read about your experience outlining vs not so much... I generally don't outline, but I'm starting to give it a try! How detailed is your outline?

  6. Hi Guinevere!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! It's nice to meet you! The detailed outline I did hit all the major plot points so I knew where I wanted things to be revealed. Then I went back through and added other story components to the outline once I figured out where I wanted them to go.

    I didn't follow the outline completely. Once I got about 50K words into the mystery, I realized the characters were taking me a different place than I had planned, but I only had to do minor revising to make things work.

    Having the outline definitely helped me write the mystery faster and I can't believe how much better this first draft is as opposed to the first draft I did of Eternal Starling (which I didn't really outline).

  7. i love your blog,its really interesting!