Throwing away the draft

May 5th, 2008 • Kate

In writing, as in life, sometimes things happen that you don’t expect. You can draft and draft and draft, and prepare an outline of your novel that has every tiny little bit of plot mapped out to the nth degree, but if you’re not willing to toss all that aside, to let things go where they want to go, and let scenes play out as you never imagined they might, then I think you’re crippling yourself as a writer.
I could throw a ton of metaphors out there for you on this. It’s like when you’ve fully planned out your day, and each hour is carefully scheduled, but the real fun and adventure is in allowing yourself to disregard the calendar, and spend an extra hour playing at the park, or talking with an old friend, or even sleeping. Ah sleep.
You may hear other writers talking about their characters as if they’re real people — “I wanted to write him out of this scene, but Spencer insisted he remain in.” — and you may think they’re crazy. But all they’re doing is allowing the momentum of the writing to carry the day, not the outline.
So go ahead — draft an outline and follow it, but let yourself have fun along the way, see where that takes you — hopefully somewhere fun, and not the emergency room!

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3 Responses to “Throwing away the draft”

  1. Caryn Says:

    I sometimes find that the scenes that just happen because they're supposed to are my favorites, and many of those who insist that their plot sheets and databases and such know better than their characters do are really missing out on the fun of an inspired scene.
    You know what this makes me think of, actually? I spent several summers as a white water rafting guide on the Colorado River. Our town had not one but two national parks within a half-hour drive. Yet I had some tourists who had no idea that national parks were a possibility; they just saw that they could raft, so they did. When I pointed out the parks, I had several people announce that, while they would love to see them, they didn't have time for even a quick drive through because they had too many other things scheduled for their vacations. The point is, if you make too strict a schedule, you risk missing out on great opportunities you might not have anticipated.

  2. Trish Says:

    You really do have to let your characters speak to you sometimes. They might surprise you with what they say.
    In fact, I sometimes forget my MC isn't a real person. I'll re-read a scene in which she's done or said something outrageous and talk about it as if she'd come up with it on her own.

  3. Julia Says:

    I have had the distinct pleasure of feeling like I was reading my book instead of writing it during the actual process. That's a fabulous feeling!
    I do, at certain points where I think I know what is going to happen, but my character balks (i.e., the words aren't coming) – simply ask him/her – "What happens next? What are you going to do?" – and more often than not… the answer is pretty immediate. I love that! :^)