Creative Process

Disappearing Characters and More First Draft Fun

By April 30, 2016 16 Comments
Hust Film Writing Scene

Keep writing and ignore the homicidal maniac standing behind you.

Two weeks in, and I’m hovering around 30,000 words for the new story. So far, so good.

Things that have helped with my writing productivity: setting deadlines, carving out a set time to write every day, and turning off that inner editor. I’m basically using everything I learned from writing and revising the Long-Suffering Manuscript to write this new story, and things are much easier as a result. It also helps that I didn’t get any external feedback, so the outcome—good or bad—is entirely of my own making, and that’s liberating to think about.

One thing I noticed is that I’ve been taking way more TO EDIT/ADD notes as I go along. I think this is because I didn’t give myself a lot of time to dwell on the plot, so the story changes as I write to fill in the holes.

The changes aren’t huge, but still noticeable. Sometimes it’s retiring a main character that I realized was actually inconsequential, and other times it’s a scene that I realized, after word-vomiting onto the page, was interesting in theory but makes absolutely no sense when written.

I’m also using [insert explanation here] and [Google how this works] to note scenes that I don’t know how to write, which are usually of a mechanical or scientific nature, like how guns work and how people adjust after experiencing a traumatic event. A year or so ago, these areas would’ve made me ultra hesitant to write any more until I solved these problems, but I’ve been forcing myself to just write through the uncertainty.

I Can Fix This Later

A habit I’ve adopted is thinking I can fix this later whenever I hit a snag. I mean, if your boss hands you a problem to fix, you fix it, right? When your microwave stops working, you fix it, or find someone who can. Why should it be any different when it comes to writing? You got this!

So that’s where I’m at on the last day of April. Here’s my writing song this week:

Hope you’re having a good weekend!

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Millie’s Note: How do you tackle first drafts?

Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • Sounds like that draft is coming along nicely! I need to get back to working on my novel… I’ve gotten side tracked with poetry since it’s so much easier to write on the fly, and my main writing focus has fallen to the side a bit. :/ This may have inspired me to actually sit down with my novel today.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Happy to hear that you’re going to work on your novel! I read some of your poetry and think you have a really crisp and compelling style. What’s your novel about?

      • It’s a road trip psychological horror story, which sounds goofy as fuck when phrased that way. XD The basic premise is personifying mental illness in the form of various monsters. I’ve been both having a very good time and a very rough time with it. 🙂

  • kvennarad says:

    I recognise elements of the way you’re currently approaching this new one.

  • kvennarad says:

    Participants at Burning Man 2013 losing themselves to dance.

  • So funny. What you described is my normal way of writing. I have started looking into things more (how x works) just because I’ve noticed that if I don’t, sometimes that point can thwart what I’ve written later. It all depends on how crucial that detail is.

    Everyone has their own way of doing things. What you’re talking about is what I’ve been told is the way to go. However, I’m rethinking things. For me, I have no problem getting words on the page, getting details in there, writewritewriting. My problem is plot, cutting back on detail. I think for future novels, I’ll plot the whole thing out first to keep me on track.

    Good luck with your new method! I’ve heard it works well for those who have a problem moving forward.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks, Tina! Hopefully the cleanup won’t be too messy after I finish word vomiting.

      Plotting the novel out first seems like a good idea. I think sometimes our intuition gets in the way when we’re writing. Suddenly we realize things about A, B, and C that cause us to second guess ourselves or wonder how we can improve the narrative. A plot, even a high level one, seems to ground writers and prevent these tendencies.

  • aetherhouse says:

    30k in two weeks is incredible! Congrats on the progress.

    And good for you to succumb to the [google this later] method. I struggle with that. I hate seeing that gap in the text, particularly with how linearly I write. But it really does amp up productivity when you have enough strength to let yourself be uncertain.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks, Michelle! I started using the [google this later] method after I started setting daily word count goals again. When you have to write X number of words in, say, the two hours you allocated for writing, you’re prevented from doing any research. The gaps bother me as well, but I figured that the mulling over details part trips me up more, so it’s really about what gets in your way the least.

  • Steve Myers says:

    That scene you deemed inconsequential and removed from the story, always tough to do, to divorce oneself from an idea or a clever turn of phrase, good description, etc, but essential if you want the story to hold together. I never throw away these inconsequential bursts though. They’re good to store for future use, as part of a poem or another story.

    I think I’ve changed as a writer, from those vomit bursts you describe to being more precise with what I’m trying to say, but again, it’s a big challenge to delete large sections for the sake of being brief. I find that sometimes a 3 page story is too long while an 11 page story is not long enough.

    • Millie Ho says:

      You’re right, it’s good to store those inconsequential bursts. Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong and need to save more snippets in a blank Word document. Who knows when they might come in handy, and when the dots can form a constellation.

      I think we have similar progressions as writers. Word vomits nowadays feel more precise than word vomits from years before. I suppose the more you edit and cut and learn to deal with disappointment, the better you are at identifying what works vs. what doesn’t. Trim the fat in your head, before you get it out onto paper.

      • Steve Myers says:

        Dots ot form a constellation. Love that! Yes, the breakthroughs make it all so worth while like sometimes those early in life vomits that are so colorful and using so many unexpected combinations of words can be assigned to hmmmm, let’s see, maybe a character who has been recently admitted into a mental hospital or someone who talks in their sleep and their little brother or sister sits outside their room, ear to the door listening to all that’s being said?

        • Millie Ho says:

          Yes, exactly! You’ve inspired me to save more of these word vomits. Hopefully we will see more constellations in the near future, or maybe three years, or fifteen years from now. Intuition is hard to predict, but it’s rarely wrong.

  • I know just what you mean with the “I’ll fix this later;) Sounds like you are doing very well.

  • I try to treat first drafts as just that: first drafts. I say to myself they don’t have to be perfect; they can be messy. But sometimes, it’s hard turning off that inner critic. My pace slows tremendously as I try to make them perfect. So, I have to remind myself that there will be time to edit, but not now. And besides, other people will pick up on things that I will miss.

    I try to keep those thoughts on the forefront of my mind as I write. It’s not always easy.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Yes, exactly! That’s what I’ve been doing as well. I think having words of encouragement taped above your writing desk or near where you work is helpful. For me, whenever these thoughts return, I just revisit my goals and force myself to get back on track. It’s a combination of believing in the dream and believing in yourself as a person. No matter how many mistakes you make in a draft, you can always fix them later.

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