Rough draft process

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Mike Dickson
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Rough draft process

Post by Mike Dickson » September 9th, 2010, 12:51 pm

What processes do you all use to write your rough draft?

If you have a goal of 100,000 words is your fisrt rough draft 100,000 words or is it 25,000 and 2nd draft 50,000 and so on?

I know everyone is different, I'd just like to see if there is a pattern or a general rule to be followed.

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Re: Rough draft process

Post by dios4vida » September 9th, 2010, 1:04 pm

I try not to place word goals. Otherwise I'm too obsessed about the words and not the story. I just write what needs to be written at first and don't worry (too much) about the length until I'm on the second draft.
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Re: Rough draft process

Post by Claudie » September 9th, 2010, 2:01 pm

I typically don't have a word count goal, although once my outline is complete, I'll have a rough idea of how long this story might take. Sometimes I'm right on, but at others I'm 10-15k off. It doesn't matter.

What is certain is that my rough draft is often shorter than the second draft. When I write a story for the first time, I get carried away. I move from one scene of the outline to the other at full speed, and often I forget important things or forego proper character development. On the second draft, I add to the backbone of my story, either with new scenes or by improving others.

I've never quite been there, but I would not be surprised if, in the third draft, my word count dropped. Once everything that needs to be said has been said, it'd be time to tighten the prose. Hopefully, with my new project, I will get that far!
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Re: Rough draft process

Post by Quill » September 9th, 2010, 2:13 pm

Mike Dickson wrote:What processes do you all use to write your rough draft?
My first draft was written longhand, with me nosing my way through the morass of the universe searching for the plot like a mole heaving dirt behind him hoping to come across a worm.
I'd just like to see if there is a pattern or a general rule to be followed.
I think you know the answer to that. ;)

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Re: Rough draft process

Post by AnimaDictio » September 9th, 2010, 2:16 pm

As far as word counts go, there is no pattern to my drafts. My process is simple. I start by writing. Then I lament its horribleness. Then I take things out and add other things. Eventually, its horribleness melts away. Usually.

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Re: Rough draft process

Post by karenbb » September 9th, 2010, 2:30 pm

I don't start stressing about word count until I have to. I'm with most everyone else--write the story from beginning to end and then see where you are. If it's 200K, you went way too far, and if it's 80K, you probably need to go back and add layers, depending on your genre. I think the most important thing to understand is that the process never ends until you decide it does. You will have to go from beginning to end many, many times until you get it right. I would concentrate on writing the story and worry about everything else later.

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Re: Rough draft process

Post by Margo » September 9th, 2010, 3:06 pm

I think I'm in the minority. I have a target word count for the book, for the acts, and for the scenes. Keep in mind, of course, I outline in finer detail than most. The actual scene word count will end up varying considerably, but I'm happy so long as they average out. It's really more of a tool for pacing and placing the plot points. I'm more serious about the target word count for acts. I keep my eye on it as I draft. If the draft starts to go off projected count by an amount that causes me concern, I start re-thinking the scene as I'm drafting. By the end of the first draft, I'm usually within 20% of my word count (and usually over rather than under). The editing begins...
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Re: Rough draft process

Post by taylormillgirl » September 9th, 2010, 4:08 pm

Margo wrote:I think I'm in the minority. I have a target word count for the book, for the acts, and for the scenes. Keep in mind, of course, I outline in finer detail than most. The actual scene word count will end up varying considerably, but I'm happy so long as they average out. It's really more of a tool for pacing and placing the plot points. I'm more serious about the target word count for acts. I keep my eye on it as I draft. If the draft starts to go off projected count by an amount that causes me concern, I start re-thinking the scene as I'm drafting. By the end of the first draft, I'm usually within 20% of my word count (and usually over rather than under). The editing begins...
Margo and I are on the same wavelength. I'm a planner by nature, I always outline before starting a new book, and my planning extends into the first draft. I try to keep each scene on track, each chapter below within a certain word count, and I usually have a first draft word count in mind. I tend to underwrite, so each subsequent draft is a few thousand words longer than the last, as I go back and add details and flesh things out a bit.
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Re: Rough draft process

Post by oldhousejunkie » September 10th, 2010, 10:08 am

Quill wrote:
Mike Dickson wrote:What processes do you all use to write your rough draft?
My first draft was written longhand, with me nosing my way through the morass of the universe searching for the plot like a mole heaving dirt behind him hoping to come across a worm.
That's what happened to my first! I have a huge tupperware box full of binders containing my abortive attempt to write a novel.

I don't do word count either, although I must have gotten lucky because when I finished my MS, I discovered that it was right on target for a historical fiction. Lucky me!

So I guess it depends on how you want to handle it. The idea of forcing myself to write a specific number of words makes me want to throw the lap top out the door.

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Re: Rough draft process

Post by Ermo » September 10th, 2010, 11:01 am

I keep track of word counts in my first draft by chapter. I have a rough idea of how long I think each chapter will be and I write to it. My first draft is just to get the idea down and get the plot settled. I'm usually under word count goals after that first draft. Then, I re-read, add what I want for character and plot development, and then tighten.

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Re: Rough draft process

Post by Sommer Leigh » September 10th, 2010, 1:40 pm

While I don't write detailed outlines, I do have a structure set before I ever start writing. So for my current MS, I knew I'd be in the 90,000-100,000 word area, and I wanted the set the book into three parts. So each section of the book is roughly 30,000 words. Not necessarily exact on the nose, but close. I wanted a balance because of the content of the book. The different sections sort of represent the three different locations and location is a big part of the story.

Knowing this ahead of time, I'm able to see by the time I finish the first part whether I've got some serious outline problems if I'm way over or way under my goal. I shifted some scenes and some subplots around the book this way and found a better flow. I knew ahead of time when I was writing Part II that I was going to overshoot my word count goal by quite a bit and I still hadn't set up Part III, so I knew I needed to do some major cutting before I even finished. This helped me not waste time by continuing when I knew I had a problem and could fix it before finishing. It meant when I was all done much of the major cutting had already taken place. It made editing easier.

oh, I should also note I edit as I go. As in, I write chapter 1, chapter 2, and chapter 3, then I edit chapter 1, 2 and 3 then begin chapter 4, and 5, then edit 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, then I start 6, 7, 8, then edit 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, etc. I edit when I'm stuck or need a break from writing. Editing is very comforting for me, it helps me get my thoughts in order, reminds me of what I've already accomplished, and it gets me excited for the next chapters.
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Re: Rough draft process

Post by Netti » September 14th, 2010, 8:05 pm

For my current novel the goal is 80,000 words. I separate each part into approx 20,000 words just because that helps break up the process. With the latest novel I've gotten so into it that there have been days where I've written 30-40 pages a day (approx 10k words).

But whatever the ultimate word count goal is, that's what I shoot for in the rough draft and I try to get the first draft done as soon as I can. Mostly because I'm impatient.
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Re: Rough draft process

Post by craig » September 14th, 2010, 9:06 pm

I try to aim for the 80K - 100K range. However, with sci-fi, I tend to like reading things that are just a touch on the longer side, so my actual target is 90K-95K.

It's been quite odd because I'm nearing the end of my second novel and, without even planning it, I have ended up within about 2K - 3K of the first novel. The first one rounded out at about 95K and this one is about 97K. (Just 50 pages left to edit.)

I usually revise and edit along the way when I need to take a break from writing, so when I complete a draft, it's usually pretty polished. However, it's also about 5K short of where I had hoped to be (the first one was at about 91K and the second at about 92K). In my edits, I tend to add about 5K, brining me almost exactly to my ideal goal.

The numbers all seem to work out to my ideal and I have no idea how that happens. I don't plan things down to the word count and when I begin outlining, I have no idea how long the book will be. The first book had minimal outlining and this one had extensive outlining (due to the complexity of the events and the numerous characters).

Is there such a thing as a "natural" word count for a writer?

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