Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Outlines, rough drafts & word counts

So I took part in my first panel a couple weeks ago with sci-fi/fantasy authors, James Maxey, Lisa Shearin, Mark Van Name, and David Drake. Had the 'first-time' jitters like you would not believe... But anyway, I've been thinking about a topic we discussed about the writing process, word counts, outlining, etc...

I want to expand a little and highlight the fact that no one process is right or wrong. It DOES NOT MATTER how you get to the final product as long as that final product is a good book. If you outline every chapter, if you think and ponder for five months before starting, if you use index cards, if you have no idea what's going to happen when you sit down to right... A good book is a good book regardless of how you did it and how long it took you.

My process is different with each book I've written. These days, I seem content to let the story stew in my head before I sit down and start writing. Sometimes I have an ending in mind, sometimes I don't. But what seems to always remain a constant is my rough draft approach. I write fast rough drafts. I've done ones that have taken me 3wks to 2 mos. But that's not some impressive fact because they are messy, messy affairs. It's not nearly a finished book at this point! The reason they take me so little time is because I hate writing rough drafts and do it as fast as I can to get it over with.

I don't stop to research, don't revise, don't take time to craft pretty sentences, etc.. I speed through in order to get the story down on paper so I have an idea of what's going on and what happens. It's really my version of an outline. Now I have a beginning, middle, and end. I have something to work with. I have my block of clay. That's when I become an artist, when I slow down, savor my work, and start crafting, sculpting, weaving, and creating something wonderful. This process often takes me longer than it took to do the initial rough draft. So when I say, it took me 4 weeks to write a rough draft, that does not mean *total* time. That does not take into account the revision, the polishing, the critiques, etc...

I always come in under word count, which is what sparked the conversation in the first place. I don't think about word counts. I think about story. I usually come in about 70,000 words with my rough draft. And once I start revising and then polishing, it inevitably grows to about 85,000 words. And once my editor gets a hold of it, I end up with a 90,000-100,000 word book.

I wished I had explained my process better at the panel, but, like my rough drafts I sped through my answers like a jack rabbit on a sugar high.... :-)


Beth Caudill said...

That's what I'm coming to grips with. It's okay to write a crappy first long as it is decent by the end of the edit.

nerinedorman said...

I've had the interesting and rather unnerving experience of ditching 90% of my first draft when it comes to revisions. Although it hurts sommething terrible, I must admit having slogged out the initial storyline, the second draft flows so well because I know where the story is headed but I've the opportunity to fix plot holes and elaborate on threads that had promise in the first, but hadn't grown legs, so to speak.

Granted, when I write my erotica, I usually outline exhaustively then write one draft only, since I don't have as much need to embroider with subplots.

K. said...

Exactly, Beth! It was hard for me to come to grips with too, but a good book in the end is all that matters. You go! :-)

Hi Nerine. Yes, yes, that second draft goes a lot smoother, doesn't it. It's nice to get the first round out of the way so you can see the story as a whole. I think I cut 3 chapters and an entire character from Darkest Edge. Was unnerving, but in the end totally necessray to the story and totally worth it. :-)

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