A series of successively messy drafts

Lesson for characters in contemporary fantasy novels #318: As soon as things go weird, turn off your cell phone to save the battery. You’re going to need it later.

Useful things about running #287: Even when the running is feeling slow and awkward and nowhere close to flying, your brain will use it to do story work. Heck, your brain will do just about anything to distract you from the fact that you have another 20 minutes of this to go.


Been working on both TE and a short story this month. Interesting to try to work on more than one project at a time, something I’m not always good at. But in some ways useful–when I jam up on one project, I can switch to the other instead of bemoaning my lack of productivity.

At least, that’s now it’s working this week.

The first draft of TE was the exploratory draft–it was about getting to know who my characters were, about figuring out the story’s beginning and (rough) ending, about realizing I had a protagonist who tends to run from things (useful if you’re on the track team, not so useful if you’re dealing with magic that can tear the world apart). The entire middle of the book was wrong (well, except that odd pieces of it keep re-appearing in unexpected ways), but I needed to write it to get to all the other things.

The second draft has been about figuring out what really goes between beginning and end, as well as about continuing to get to know my characters. Soon, finally, I’ll meet up with the ending from version one, though it now takes place in a different place (a gentle hillside instead of the slopes of a volcano). I have the vague feeling that by the end of this draft, the story will have the right overall shape, though it will also have a list of notes and all manner of things that are inconsistent and that, as of yet, make no sense.

I’m hopeful that by the third draft, I’ll be able to settle down to the business of actually filling in the details, and beginning to make the story good, as well as coherent–though I suspect that work will continue into the fourth draft as well.

Once in a while I hear someone say that they’ve finished a draft, and that now they just need a few weeks to polish it, and then it will be out the door. And I know, when I hear that, that their process is very much not my process. And part of me is a little jealous of those clean first drafts, but another part of me is having way too much fun with my own messy, glorious process to mind too much. For me, finishing a draft is just the beginning. It’s a series of successively closer approximations from there to an actual book.

And I figure so long as I do manage to get a good book by the end, how I got there doesn’t really much matter, so long as whatever process I use actually works.

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