Friday, February 11, 2011

Writing in the Spirit of Discovery

Continuing the theme of finishing your first draft, let's talk about writing in the spirit of discovery. 

It's an idea that Laini Taylor, a super cool awesome writer came up with. You can read her post about it here.  Basically (for those too lazy to click on the link/enthralled with my post to leave) Laini talks about writing being a process of discovery. You're writing to find the story.

I think that's amazing, but hard to remember that while you're writing the book. I read this post a year ago, but I'd since forgotten about it. It's easy to think that you're going to sit down with your novel and write from Point A to Point B, and each scene is going to roll off your fingertips like water from a duck. I think there's almost an expectation for that to happen. Sure, we expect to spruce up the scenes during revision, but we assume that we know all the scenes that need to be in the book to make it work. Or that while you're writing by the seat of your pants (like I am now) all of the scenes you need will just magically come to you. Or that since you wrote the scene, it's vital to the story.

I love the idea of just sitting down and writing scenes for the fun of it. To see what happens between your characters. I don't know about you, but I used to just sit down and write whatever made me passionate. I would love to get back to that place, where the scene exists not just to get the characters from Point A to Point B, but because the ideas and settings set my imagination on fire. 

This brings me to another concept that Laini talks about, and I have mentioned in the past: Exploratory Drafts. I love this idea. Instead of saying first draft, it's just you experimenting with your story idea. You're allowed to write scenes that probably won't make the final cut. You might write out of order, or experiment with writing a type of scene you usually don't, like a really spicy sex scene, or a really action packed scene. By telling yourself that this draft is just an experiment, a dress rehearsal, you take the pressure of yourself to get it perfect the first time.

Ahhh perfectionism. That is something I battle with. I like things to be just so. First drafts are hard for me, because I expect everything to be perfect, and it's not. Or at least, first drafts are their own brand of perfect. As like Jane Smiley says, "Every first draft is perfect, because all it has to do is exist."

It's easy to feel like the book your writing is terrible because the scenes aren't flowing the way you imagined, but that's not true. Let's allow ourselves the joy and madness of imperfect first drafts, of exploratory drafts where we trek around places unknown. Ask yourself what if your character meet early in the story, and write that out. You might discover something wonderful in your process of playing around with the characters and plot.

So go now. Give yourself permission to write in the spirit of discovery. Write an exploratory draft. Have fun with it, and finish your novel. 

What do you do to loosen yourself up for a first draft?

P.S. I have fifty followers! Huzzah! Welcome to my blog, wonderfully awesome new followers!
What do you guys think I should do to commemorate the occasion?


  1. I loosen up by researching for my story idea. Call me weird, but learning about place, history, and characters thrills me into writing. Congrats on the followers!