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How to Write a Novel in Six Months, Week 12 Drafting Update: Appreciating Plot and an Awful First Draft

Updated on October 17, 2008

Progress on the novel this week was steady and relatively pain free. I’m starting to wonder how interesting these posts will be for the next several weeks as I get into the groove of writint the first draft of my novel. However, I’ll continue to keep you posted on my progress, if only to keep myself going!


The Joy of Scene Design  I spent some time last week setting up my scenes a little better. I’m finding that the more I have thought through the mechanics of the scene, the easier the words flow onto the page. I remember when I first started writing several years ago and I would share work with a critique group. I was often asked what the purpose of a certain scene was. Purpose? I didn’t know. The purpose then was just for me to get whatever was in my head out onto the page. Now I realize that each and every paragraph, sentence, and word needs to be leading somewhere. That’s not to say I don’t go off onto tangents once in a while (I call that ‘characterization’.) But most of the time, the things we write need to serve a purpose. Otherwise, why should the reader waste her time?

Permission to Write Junk  I love, love, love Anne Lamott. Her book on writing, Bird by Bird, is something of a creative manifesto adopted by many writers. In it she encourages writers to free themselves with the permission to write a really ‘shitty first draft’. She also makes a vivid point about focus in writing by instructing us to block out everything else except for that which you are writing about right now. She tells us to picture our story through a 2 inch by 2 inch picture frame and concentrate on writing only that much of the story at time.

All the planning and plotting have helped me to write my story in two inch square increments so far. However, somehow I’d forgotten the part about not striving for a good first draft. That is, until a friend reminded me. She said that she was following Lamott’s advice to write an awful first draft, but feared she may be overindulging herself! That was my new goal: get over myself and get the words down. Sometimes if one portion of a scene is difficult to get right, I let myself get stuck. Instead, I’m really working toward moving on and leaving the messy bits for later. This of course becomes a balancing act. If I’m not careful I’ll just skip all the way to the end! Because really, the whole process can be somewhat ugly and ever so humbling!

How to Write a Novel in Six Months, One Writer’s Journey

Week 1, Mapping Out the Six Month Plan

Week 2, Resources on Structure

Week 3, Index Cards Are My Friends

Week 4, Sketching Characters

Week 5, Researching Agents

Week 6, Outlining

Week 7, Detail Scene Beats

Week 8, Writing the Synopsis

Week 9, Drafting Update

Week 10 Drafting Update

Week 11 Drafting Update

Week 12 Drafting Update

Week 13 Drafting Update: Writer’s Block  


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  • Lela Davidson profile image

    Lela Davidson 9 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    Thanks, Aya. I'm working hard toward this goal. Otherwise I know it would take me forever. I really need deadlines and constraints. It's how I'm wired! I hope you find something of value here. That's what it's all about. I don't think any one writer can truly use the process of another, but we can try new tricks we learn from our friends to see if they might work for us too!

  • Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 9 years ago from The Ozarks

    Lela, I've been following this series of hubpages for quite some time, and I find it truly thought provoking. Your process is very different from mine, but i think I can learn a lot from this alternative approach.

    It usually takes me five to ten years to write a novel, but most of that time isn't actually spent writing. I allow most of the plot issues to sort themselves out in my imagination, without writing much of anything down. Every once in a while a scene comes to me almost fully worked out, and if I have time, I write it down. 

    Since I'm using a computer, there really aren't several drafts. Instead, I correct typos and dysfluencies and inconsistencies as I re-read what I've written, making it sort of organic, as things become smoother gradually. But I couldn't say: this was the first draft and that was the second...

    On the other hand, it would be nice to be able to finish in six months! I've been gestating this current work for about seven years, and no end in sight!