Writing a Better Draft (A Love Letter)

You probably know, because I’ve been whining about it incessantly, that I’m in the throes of completing the umpteenth rewrite of my current novel. I am determined to finish it this long Memorial Day weekend if it kills me. And it might. Kidding. Sort of.

Anyway, I had dinner with a couple of writing friends this week and we talked about how to write a better draft. As in, getting more of your vision for the book on the page in the first place so that you don’t have to go through the torture of rewriting it so many times.

I want to learn how to write a better first draft. I am good at writing fast and I’m a big believer in it. But the last two novels I’ve written were both lightning bolt ideas I was so excited about that I just started writing. I wrote a loose outline and did some minor character work, but that was about it.

Yes, I am the self-same writer who has taught and preached the wisdom of prepping to write the novel. As in taking time to think plot and structure and arc and character and motivation through. Two examples of how this didn’t work so well for me: A. the above-mentioned torturous rewrite, and B. the novel I started writing on my month-long idyll in Ceret. I stalled out on that one after 30,000 words, without a clue where to go next.  I got bored with my main character. And if I’m bored with her, my reader will be also.

I do know there is a thing that only happens in the actual writing—and that is that the writer begins to understand the story better as she puts it on the page. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement beforehand. So here are the things I’m doing to get better at first drafts:

–I’m going to do tons and tons of prep work.

–I’m studying story structure. Again. It’s one of my favorite topics, and it is time to return for a refresher course.

–I’m actually taking a class! It’s full, or I’d link to it here, but it is designed to help you figure out your best route to writerly productivity based on brain science (for which I am a total wonk).

–I’m reading obsessively in my genre. I always do, but right now I’m stepping it up.

–And finally, I’m not being too hard on myself—and vowing to remember that sometimes you just have to let the magic come in the writing.

Do you have any tips for writing better first drafts? Leave a comment and tell me!

**You might want to come to France with me, right? You do, don’t you?  Find out more here.

Intensifying Motivation

A couple weeks ago, I taught a class in motivation and also wrote a post about it. The genesis for class and post was multiple discussions of motivation and how difficult it is to deal when there’s a lack of it during my time in France.  Since then, I’ve had my eye out for motivation techniques.

I’m reading a book in galley and in it, the  the heroine worries about dating a younger man. This is her main motivation for resisting him. (And, you know, the heroine must resist the hero or there is no story.) I thought it was a pretty lame motivation, to be honest. But then she takes it a step farther and tells why. Because in ten years the age gap will be worse.  Because she’ll be old and infirm long before him. In truth, I can’t remember the reasons, because I was so excited to see the technique.

In my current WIP, the main character’s motivation for resisting the dashing love interest is her business ethics. She’s a matchmaker, and she’s sworn never to marry a client. Never mind that said client is rich, charming, and perfect in every way. She cannot marry him because–business ethics. Yeah, I know. Every beta reader, as well as my agent and all her readers, thought it was weak, too.

So part of how I can solve the problem, which just occurred to me after much pondering and wringing of hands over motivation, is by intensifying it for the reader.  Not just saying business ethics but saying more. In Bridget’s head, she goes into all the reasons that falling in love with Cade will  destroy her integrity and impact her business.

This is illustrative of a thing that happens in writing: you either pare things down or add to them. Sounds obvious, but sometimes you think you have to dramatically change everything, when really what you need to do is intensify it.

And here’s another way to intensify motivation: have other people comment on it. For instance in the galley I just finished reading, the main character worries about dating a younger man, as mentioned above.  And what happens is that other people comment on it. Like a more “appropriate” aged policeman says, “Isn’t he a bit young for you?” and then hits on the heroine himself. This happens, in various guises, a couple of times in the book. It’s enough to drive home the point.

In my book, I could have people question Bridget’s decision to date Cade. As in, “But isn’t that sort of against the matchmaker’s code of ethics?” Or, it could be as subtle as someone asking, “Do you ever date clients? Or is that considered a bad thing?”

You get the drift, right?

Like so much in writing, these are somewhat subtle techniques, but very, very useful to put into effect. And, I came to them through reading. Which you should be doing as much as possible of, right? You are, aren’t you?

How do you deal with motivation in your characters?

And might you be motivated to come to France to study writing in September? We are getting close to full, but still have a couple of spots.

Arc in Your Writing

Does your writing show clearly defined arcs? In story, scene, and character?

I spent last Saturday afternoon teaching about arc and it has gotten me thinking about it a lot. Whenever I teach, I do a lot of research to add onto what I already know. That research got me paying more attention to the arcs of my own scenes (more on that below), and re-examining arc in my own work.

It is a useful concept that can help you with the macro–the overall story–and the micro–individual scenes–as well as characters. So let’s take a look.

What is Arc?

The purpose of arc is to show change, whether that is in plot, the overall story, or character.  Because, in most cases, a story or character that doesn’t change is flat and, well, boring.

Arc in Story

Here’s a blurb from Wikipedia: 

Story arcs in contemporary drama often follow the pattern of bringing a character to a low point, removing the structures the character depends on, then forcing the character to find new strength without those structures. In a story arc, a character undergoes substantial growth or change, and it ends with the denouement in the last third or quarter of a story.

Note how story and character are intertwined in this explanation–as they will be  in your story itself. Think about it this way: your story will end in a different place than it started. And I don’t mean location, though this might well be true. You start out with a bored frustrated attorney who hates his job? By the end he will have found his truly calling as an organic farmer. Or something.  And yes, I’m veering from story to character here–because story is character, character story. Unless you are writing an obscure, plot-less novel of some sort. Good luck to you–but I’m not going to read it.

(Although, it must be said that tons of people have lapped up the Elena Ferrante books, which to me were essentially plot-less. Okay, I only made it through the first one and that because I was trapped on an airplane with nothing else to read. But they were pretty formless.)

Arc in Character

The basic idea is that your main character is faced with conflicts that take her away from her normal life and things she can depend on. This is change. But then your character has to deal with this change–and it is through doing this that she is transformed. Because of the need to confront the conflicts in her life, she is different at the end than she was at the beginning.  I especially like Michael Hauge’s statement that this transformation is from identity to essence.  All of the heroines of any novel I’ve ever written have followed this path, from trying to be somebody they are not to their true selves. In one way or another, it is a journey we all take.

Arc in Scene

As Robert McKee says, every scene should turn. This means it starts one place and ends up in another (sound familiar?).  A scene can have rising action or falling action. Here’s McKee on the topic:

Look closely at each scene you’ve written and ask: What value is at stake in my character’s life at this moment? Love? Truth? What? How is that value charged at the top of the scene? Positive? Negative? Some of both? Make a note. Next turn to the close of the scene and ask, Where is this value now? Positive? Negative? Both? Make a note and compare. If the answer you write down at the end of the scene is the same note you made at the opening, you now have another important question to ask: Why is this scene in my script?

This is a brief intro to the topic, but I hope it helps you see how important arc is, in every aspect of your story.

Some books and links that might be useful:

What is Narrative Arc? A Guide to Storytelling Through Story Structure

How to Create a Satisfying Story Arc 

Plotting Your Story Arc (book)

Story (by the above-mentioned Robert McKee)

Creating Character Arcs (book)

What do you think of the concept of arc? Leave a comment!

**We have a couple of spots left in the writing workshop in France this September. Check it out here.

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Spring Cleaning Your Writing

It’s sunny and warm in Portland, and there’s no better place on earth when such is the case. (People visit here in spring or summer, fall in love and move. Then the fall and winter rains set in. Rah roh.)

This year, more than any I can remember recently, I’m feeling very spring-y. Maybe it is because I spent a month in France earlier this year (seems like a distant memory now), or because there are so many ongoing changes in my life. But whatever it is, I’m feeling like shaking the cobwebs out of my house, my brain, and my writing. Time for a refresh!

Here are some things I’ve been thinking about cleaning up:

Mindset. This word is becoming cliched, which is too bad, because I like it. Wave the word under my nose and I’ll follow you anywhere. Maybe because I’ve always believed how important it is to maintain a positive mindset, even if I can’t always do it. Things I’m looking at: Am I constantly complaining about how little time I have to write, or actually sitting down and getting to it when I do have a few minutes? Am I fretting about how “good” I am or am not? am I complaining about how hard it is to complete this rewrite? I need to pay attention to the crap my brain spews at me and change it to a more positive message. I’m reading a book called Train Your Brain that talks about this. There’s not a lot new in it, but she explains it in a simple, logical manner. I like.

Process. Remember how glorious it was, when first you started writing, to get so absorbed in your work that time passed and you had no sense of it going by? Yeah, me, too. That feeling is why so many of us write. And it is really easy to get led away from it. Happens like this: you start obsessing over every word and sentence, polishing your prose relentlessly before you move onto a new scene. Uh-uh. There’s a process to follow for your writing and it goes like this.

–Write a discovery/rough/first draft. Make it crappy. You won’t have to try too hard to do this, because it will be crappy. Discovery drafts are. That’s why there are called that. You’re learning the story and getting it down on the page.

–Rewrite the draft. Go back over it, ponder, rearrange, deepen characters, makes sure your plot is working, look at theme, and then write a second draft.

–Rewrite again. And again. And again–for as long as it takes.

–Revise. When your characters and plot and everything else is working, then you can start polishing.

So take a look at where you are in the writing process and clean it up. Are you writing a discovery draft, but toiling over every line? Cut it out. Write fast. Get that story on the page. Are you ready to revise (see below) but still tinkering with character motivation and arc? You need to go back to rewriting.

Polishing. Remember that you need to wait to do this until the final run-through! Though one caveat is if you know you use too many adverbs, you can start being aware of that as you write. But no obsessing! Here are some things you might want to pay attention to:

–Strong verbs. Are you using them? Or reverting to the same old, same old variants of “to be?” The blog post I wrote on this years ago is still one of my most popular ever, so I think it is something we all struggle with. But also something worth spending time on.

–Adverbs. Gotta love ’em. I do. And I use them way too much. There is a place for the use of adverbs, there really is, but the key concept is to use them judiciously. That way they will have some oomph and impact.

–Sentence structure. Make sure yours is varied, for one thing. Nothing is more monotonous than reading the same sentence structure over and over again. And, also consider shortening up those babies. Here’s a great blog post that explains more.

Reading. I’ve been trying to spend more time reading books and less time on the internet, reading forgettable articles. Besides Train Your Brain, mentioned above, I’m finally getting around to reading A Gentleman in Moscow, which I highly recommend. There’s a satisfaction in sinking into a novel or memoir that you just don’t get from quick hits on the interwebs.

Foundation Rituals. All the “boring” stuff, like meditation, exercise, eating healthfully, getting enough sleep. Yada, yada, yada. You’ve heard it all before a million times and so have I. (And I’ve written about it.) But these things really do make a difference. And at this time of year, it is easy to get re-inspired to walk more and eat all the seasonal produce that is coming into markets. Right?

So, that’s the spring cleaning I’m thinking about. How about you? Leave a comment and tell me how you’re cleaning up your writing! And if, in all this cleaning, you realize you might need a little help with your writing, maybe I can help. Hit me up and let’s chat about your work.

Photos from everystockphoto. 

Is it procrastination or percolation?

Right now I’m supposed to be writing. I have some time cleared away for a session attending to my rewrite. But I’m not writing. I’m doing social media. (VERY important.) I’m making a list of all the things I want to accomplish in the next four months. (Before I leave for my next France workshop.)Emailing people who have expressed interest in attending.

In other words, doing everything and anything but writing.

But, here’s the deal.  I’m at a tricky spot that needs working out. I’ve looked at the chapter a couple times today and sat back in my chair and sighed. Furrowed my eyebrows. Twisted my mouth. Sighed again. Then clicked on over to check out Twitter.

Because in the back of my mind, things are percolating. Every time I look at the manuscript, I get a bit closer to figuring out how to work on it. And since I don’t know yet, I’m letting things percolate while I do other less brain-fatiguing work.

Creativity is a cycle. You can’t go full out on it 24 hours a day. You’ve got to give your brain a break. It is useful if you can actually refuel it by doing something you love to do. This morning on a phone call, I knitted, for instance. That was lovely–and knitting has the advantage of helping jar loose ideas.

My friend Patty Bechtold tweeted this Elizabeth Gilbert quote:  “Time, when treated like a bandit, will behave like one.” Sometimes, you just have to take the time to knit, to do your social media, to go for a walk, to weed the garden and let those ideas percolate.

It is not procrastination, it is percolation.

By the way, if you’ve got things percolating that aren’t making it onto the page, maybe you need a coach. Let’s chat!

I used to drink coffee from an electric perc coffemaker like the one in the photo. Those were the days. Man, that coffee was strong! Just the way I like it.

Why It Pays to Prep For Writing a Novel (A Love Letter)

I am not big on preparation. I am more of a jump-right-into-whatever-I’m-doing kind of gal. I never read instructional manuals, instead preferring to just start pushing buttons and see what happens. I glance at recipes and often halfway through realize I’m missing crucial ingredients.  And, much to the consternation of my husband, I rarely follow maps.

Yet when it comes to writing, the best experiences I’ve ever had banging out a novel came when I had spent lots of time preparing ahead of time before I got to the actual writing. (And I’ve taught prepping for the novel numerous times.) But the last couple of novels I’ve written fell into the category of brilliant ideas that came to me like a lightning bolt from the blue, which meant that I was so eager to get to them that I just launched right in.

And so I did. With varying results. I wouldn’t say the first drafts were terrible, but in both cases they had some pretty big plot holes and character issues.  Which then required serious revision in the next go-round. And I’ll be honest, sometimes dealing with big issues in a rewrite is hard, hard work.

The rewrite I’m working on right now is…hmm….the second? Third? for my agent (I’m truly blessed that she is willing to work with me until I’ve gotten it right). And only recently, after much pondering, note-taking, and hair-pulling-out, have I gotten to the point where I understand some basic things. Like my main character’s motivation. And her flaws. What she truly wants, not just what she says she wants. Her love interest’s character arc. And so on.

And so, I am here to tell urge you to do some prep work for your novel, for freaking God’s sake. You will be so much happier when you launch into the fun of rough draft writing because you will have some idea of what is going on.

You might like to know, at bare minimum:

A lot about your characters. Use a character dossier, or try out The Story Planner, which has a ton of different ways to suss out a character, and nail the externals first. Then proceed to the internal—desires, motivation, flaws, etc. For my money, it all hinges on the characters. You can never do too much prep work on characters. Figure out as much about them as you possibly can, I say!

The setting. Get a good idea of the basic locations you’ll be using before you start. (You can add on as you go.) Where does your character live? Work? Hang out? Doe she live in the country or the city? How does this affect the story?

The plot. I like to work from a loose list that can be added to or rearranged. And lately, I’ve fallen in love with using index cards, which can easily be shuffled and changed up. It really is helpful to have some idea where you’re going.

Writing a novel is a back and forth process. You do some scene writing and then realize you need to know stuff, so back you go to your character dossiers and your plot list. And then you get ideas for scenes so you return to the writing. That’s the nature of the beast. But I strongly advise you to do as much prep work as you possibly can before you lunge into it.  The next novel I start is going to be supported by as much prep work as I can possibly do.

And I might even start using maps once in a while. Or reading all the way through a recipe before I begin cooking. Or read instruction manuals. Nah, can’t really see that happening.

Are you a prepared type of person or more like me? How does this affect your writing?

And if you are struggling with any aspect of writing a novel, from prep to rewriting, I do have a couple of openings on my coaching roster.  Pop me an email and let’s talk!

Lucky Me/Grateful Me/How Good It Is To Be a Writer

Arles-sur-Tech

So, we’re coming up on the end of our third week here in Ceret. After Saturday, we have one more week here, and then Debbie and I have three days in Lyon before heading back to the states.

Already, we are talking sadly about how fast the time has gone. How hard it will be to leave. How much fun we’ve had. How much writing we’ve gotten done. How wonderful it has all been.

And I am sad that this writing sojourn will be over (I refuse to use the word soon in that sentence). But I am also so, so grateful to have this opportunity. I tell myself how lucky I am. But then I stop and think about it. Years ago, when I was living in Sun Valley, Idaho and leaving to return to college after a semester off a friend told me, “Remember, you make you own luck.”

I think I believe that. Yes, we are lucky to be here, but it also takes work. It takes work to find the housing, figure out the travel connections, make the arrangements and so on. But more than that, it takes believing that you can do it. As Debbie, my business partner in Let’s Go Write, good friend, and mastermind of this trip says, “You just have to decide that you’re going to do it.”

(Sort of like writing, right? Would any sane person embark on the process of writing a novel? Or a memoir? Or even a short story or essay? Well, no. But then I’ve always said that writers are the best, most interesting people around so if we are all crazy I guess that is okay.)

Green shutters in Ceret

This is starting to sound preachy, and I don’t mean it to. My intent is to open your mind, and expand your horizons and make you start believing you can do it, too. I’ve been coming to France once a year (this year it will be twice) now for six years. The first time I came, I flew over by myself and made my way to the Air BnB room in an apartment by myself and I was scared to death. I’d gotten used to traveling alone all over the states, but I’d not traveled internationally by myself ever. For that matter, I hadn’t traveled internationally for 30 years.

I managed just fine, of course, because one does. But hailing a taxi was scary (my landlord did it for me), trying to figure out what track the train left from was terrifying (luckily, Debbie met me there), and who knew you had to haul all your suitcases up a tiny staircase once you got on the train? Plus, the French speak very fast and half the time I was left staring at someone trying to talk to me with my mouth open in the universal expression of, “huh?”

But I also remember the feeling of exhilaration that overcame me that first year. How excited I was that I could actually manage to do this. And that feeling has not lessened in all my journeys here since. I still sometimes find myself in a car on a narrow French road lined with plane trees, thinking, I’m in France, I’m in France, I’m in France.

So if I can do it, you can do it (and if you want to come for a writing workshop, consider sojourning with us in September in Collioure.)

It is work, luck, and writing that got me here.  Besides my family, writing has gotten me all the best things in my life–travel, adventure, friends, fun, excitement. As I sit here gazing out from behind my computer to the French sunshine, all I can think is how lucky I am, how grateful I am, but most of all, how good it is to be a writer.

Where has your writing taken you? Leave a comment, or join the Facebook group and we can chat there.

On Travel and Writing (A Love Letter)

As you read this, I’ll just be settling into my home-for-a-month in Ceret. (Follow me on Instagram for lots of photos.) Because I will be spending several days in transit, I went in search of an older post to set up ahead of time and this one from 2015 seemed especially appropriate. Enjoy!

I love travel, as you might have guessed. So let me count the ways, and convince you, too.

 1. Travel inspires me.  Duh.  This is the obvious reason most people travel.  Immersing oneself in different locales and cultures shows us new things, fires new neurons, inspires new ideas.   And, of course, ideas are good.  They are our life blood.  A writer can never have too many ideas.  Ever. 

 2.  I’m different when I travel.  I don’t know anyone, other than the people I’m traveling with, so all bets are off.  I can drink all night, swing from the rafters act anyway I want–talk to people I meet on the street, stop and stretch in the middle of the sidewalk, gaze with obvious rapture at a medieval cathedral.  Nobody knows me so I’m free.  And isn’t this what we long to be on the page?  Once I regularly experience the feeling of freedom in my regular life, it is much easier to translate it to the page. 

 3.  Travel sometimes makes me uncomfortable.  Okay, let’s face it.  Most of our lives are not hard.  Well, my life, anyway, is not hard.  Mostly I sit at the computer all day long and convince myself, hand on forehead that I’m suffering.  But travel is a different thing.  There are times when I don’t know what’s happening, or what stop the train just pulled into, or what the person in front of me is trying to say to me.  There are times I’ve probably embarrassed myself.  But you know what?  This is good, excellent, even.  It is good to feel discomfort once in awhile.  Because, after all, isn’t that what we put our characters through? Don’t we always say, the more conflict the better? Yes, yes, we do. 

 4.  Travel is fun.  And I don’t care if you’re trying to write or become an insurance agent, fun is important.  We get veeeery serious about our lives most of the time. 

 5.  Travel makes me adventurous.   I’ve gotten obsessed with reading the blog of Eugene Kaspersky.  He runs some crazy big cyber-security site and spends tons of time traveling, some of it adventuring.  He climbs volcanoes in Kamchatka, treks across snow fields in Iceland, circumnavigates the planet, and so on.  I’m just going to say right now I will do none of these things, ever.  But I love reading about him doing them.  And when I travel in my own tame way, I step out of my comfort zone into my own adventures.  And there are always adventures when you travel. 

 6.  Travel makes me try new things.  Like the unknown shellfish we tried at a seafood dinner in Port-Vendres, or climbing the side of a mountain (I exaggerate a tiny bit here) to reach the ruin of a castle when my hips were screaming in pain (again, a tad bit of poetic license, but still).  It can be as simple as turning now a new street, or trying a different café–things I don’t do often enough here because I so easily get stuck in a rut.  Things that may somehow work their way into your writing. 

 7.  Travel lets me meet different kinds of people. There aren’t a whole lot of French men or British women carousing down my street, for instance.  And it is relatively rare to even hear someone speak in a different tongue in my day to day life.  If there’s one thing I love, its meeting people (I confess to a terrible extrovert streak–I’ll talk to anybody, anywhere).  And one of the best things about travel is the different people you meet–the couple from Australia in Paris, or the nice lady from London who was toiling up the hill beside me.  Again, who knows what person might spark an idea for a character? 

 Okay, so I hear you.  You’ve got a newborn baby, you’re in school, you have a demanding career.  And travel to Europe, or anywhere else for that matter, is just not on the horizon.   But, honestly, you can “travel” in your hometown.  Change up your routine, do something different, drive a new way to work.  Do something, anything to shake things up. 

 Last week, the morning after I got off the plane, my brain as foggy as a morning in November, and inspired by my visit to the Inter-marche Hyper (read=big, very big) supermarket in France, I went to the American version here that I usually avoid.  My shopping took me twice as long as I stumbled through the aisles trying to figure out where things were, but I discovered new products and chatted with an adorable, funny cashier.   One never knows when someone just like him shall appear in a book. 

So, how about it?  How about we all spend the rest of this year devoted to living with a spirit of adventure?  I’m in, are you? 

 Do you love to travel or hate it? Hit reply and tell me. (I’ll have a good wi-fi connection and be eager to hear from you.)

Rewriting: How to Deal With Comments

Okay, so there it is–your manuscript.  You’ve just gotten it back from your beta readers. Or your editor. Or your agent. Perhaps it is a lovely stack of papers with writing all over the page. Or maybe it is a file on the computer, laden with those little comment boxes.

You’ve read over all the comments.  You agree with most of them. You’re ready to dig in.  But there you sit, staring at the pages. Where to start? Sometimes the sheer number of comments, written or digital, can feel daunting.

(Take it from someone who, earlier this week, invented all sorts of excuses as to why she couldn’t dive into her commented-upon manuscript. Because it’s snowing! Because I need to find my tax receipts! Because I really must finish knitting that sweater front. Lame, every single one of them.)

So here’s some guidance.

  • To begin, read, or at least glance, through the manuscript, so that you can get a feel for the gist of the comments. This is a safe, easy way to get started. You don’t really have to do anything, you’re just getting the lay of the land.
  • Now take a break for chocolate and coffee. Or wine.  It’s five o-clock somewhere, right?
  • Now that you’re revived, get back to it. Have paper and pen handy. Start working your way through the comments, with these caveats, one at a time. But here are some rules that will help you not faint with the effort:

–If you can deal with it quickly and easily, do it.

–If you’re flummoxed by a comment, or you don’t feel like dealing with it yet, skip it.  Make a deal with yourself that you will do this. You don’t want to get stuck obsessing over a comment. Better to move on and get some momentum going.

–If the comment is speaking to a larger issue, make a note about it on your paper.  You might need to parse out some ideas about it and the paper is the place to do it.

  • Take a break! More chocolate! Or maybe some popcorn. Few things better.
  • Okay, back at it. Continue working your way through the comments, accepting them as you’ve finished them, and noting the ones that will take more thought on your paper.
  • Once you’re all the way through the comments, go back to the ones you skipped or that need more work. Now that you’ve bravely gotten this far, you’re on a roll and momentum will carry you through.
  • You’re done! Celebrate. Champagne? Nah. Maybe just more red wine.

By the way, I wrote another post on rewriting earlier this week.  This one was on draft passes, a useful concept at a certain point in your rewriting. So go to it!

Let me know how it goes. Leave a comment!

Rewriting: Draft Passes (A Helpful Writing Tip)

The passing lane. Like a draft pass. Right?

Ah, rewriting. So fun! So engaging! So intense! I’m serious, I actually really like it. But it can also be mind-boggling.  Where to begin? How to approach it? What to do?

One concept that may be useful to you is that of draft passes.  I’ve done this myself and recommended it to others, but I’ve never had a tricky name for it until now. And for that, I thank Rachael Herron, who mentions it in her new (and highly recommended) book,  Fast Draft Your Memoir: Write Your Life.  

A draft pass is when you go through your manuscript looking for one specific thing and that thing only.  For instance, you might want to track the throughline of a subplot.  Or check that the description of a character is consistent throughout.  Or look at and vary how you note character movements. (I tend to have all my characters shrug, nod, and blow out long streams of breath, for instance.)

Isolating this one thing makes it easier to track it in the morass of pages that constitute a novel.  Draft passes work best after the bulk of your rewriting is done and you’re finished with the big story questions.  For instance, I just got notes from my agent on the rewrite of my romance novel. One thing I need to do a draft pass on is my two main characters thinking how attractive they each find the other.  There’s way too much of it, and readers need to see it rather than have it told to them. Another draft pass will be devoted to heightening the main character’s motivation for not allowing herself to be swept off her feet by the hero.

I liken the process of draft passes to gently pulling pages of the manuscript apart and dropping a few pithy new words on sentences or even a scene in.   You can use the search feature to help you find what you need, or, hopefully somewhere you have a list of scenes that will guide you.  (If you don’t, I recommend you create one immediately!) And I’m sure those of you who use Scrivener have all kinds of cool ways to track things that I’m not aware of.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, Janice Hardy had an excellent article on the difference between revision, rewriting, and redrafting on her blog this week. Check it out.

Have you ever done draft passes? Leave a comment or come over to the Facebook page and discuss.

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