by Jennifer Faye
When starting a new book, I’ve learned from experience that I need an outline to follow. Not an outline like you learned to do in school with the roman numerals and letters. No, what I’m talking about is more like a long synopsis. But sometimes I’ll included chunks of scenes. If they come to me in that moment, I’m not going to pass up a chance to record it. The only thing that my outline must have is chronological order. Anything about and beyond that is fine by me. It’s there to keep the juices flowing and remind me of where the story is headed. NOTE: my stories/characters don’t always play along with the outline. Detours are not uncommon, but they don’t detour too far from the program and eventually they meander back to the outline.
Next comes the first draft. I must confess that I thought I wrote messy, dirty drafts, but I’m coming to learn that they aren’t so messy after all. My scenes, for the most part, are in the right order. Once in a while, I jump the gun and have something happen too soon. That’s when my wonderful editor taps me on the shoulder and suggests I move such and such later in the story. And generally she’s right and it strengthens the story.
BUT, and yes, that’s a big but, the first draft of my first chapters is usually very messy. I don’t know how else to dive into the middle of characters’ lives without just throwing down words and seeing what happens. In the opening chapter, I move scenes around. I move dialogue around. I change settings, weather, days of the week, POV’s. You name it, I probably change it. By chapter two, I’m usually cooking with gas and know where I’m going. Things are really picking up by now. ;-)
As such, I am in awe of those writers who can sit down and write clean first drafts the whole way through. Now, I’m not referring to those people who write a page or two and then tinker with it until it shines before moving on, but rather I’m referring to the people who sit down and write really clean drafts from the get-go. Those are the writers who only need to do light editing before submitting. I actually know some of those people and they amaze me.
How about you? Are you a messy writer? Or a clean one?