The thing about writing is that everyone does it differently. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to write and even what to write. When I was younger, I struggled sometimes with what to write. Not because I didn’t have ideas – I had plenty of those – but I lacked the confidence to think that my ideas were good enough to become stories. I was too lazy to see where they could go, to piece together the puzzle that would have created good stories.

Now that I’ve learned to trust myself and I’ve begun to follow my stories, even if I crash into tangles along the way, I’ve discovered something recently about what happens when I refuse to leave a story alone. Part of it has to do with going through multiple drafts of a story, hence why this blog is about drafts. Editing is just as important as getting the first draft done because you can go back and fix the problems you had in the bumpy ride to writing. So here’s what I see in my own writing.

First Draft

This… I hate this part. I hate it and I love it. This is a stage of pure creation where the words are not really important so much as the ideas, getting to know your characters’ voices, getting the backstory, and just seeing how it feels to stretch your writing muscles. I try my very best not to do any editing or even rereading during this phase. It’s very difficult for me, as something of a perfectionist, to leave sentences behind that I know I could fix if I reread them six times. It’s important to finish though because finishing a project is just as important as starting one.

This is also the phase where the largest world building goes on for me. I write down every crazy idea I get and I don’t worry about staying true to it. If I got an insane idea, I try it out – see how it feels writing it. I can usually tell if something feels right or not based on if new ideas come from using it. For example, in my current project, I thought it would be cool to create three layers to the main city. It felt right at the time and I didn’t question it too much. Once I had created the three layers, I asked myself: why are there three? Who lives on the different levels? How do you get to them? Can just anyone get there? That brought on more and more questions, spawning new characters, motivations, fears, aspirations. I wrote it all down, testing out characters, seeing which ones were interesting.

I ended up ignoring a lot of my notes later on since they were ridiculous or two-dimensional, but I kept letting the story grow bigger, testing and discarding and expanding without any real filter.

Second Draft

I wish I could say that I follow my own advice and only started on the second draft after I’d finished the first. But when I got about halfway through my story, it suddenly became very very good. I was feeling my characters, my main character’s voice suddenly came loud and clear, motivations started cropping up in the most unexpected places. This is when I had about four major epiphanies that changed the whole story. Because a lot of what I had written before was now backstory, I decided to go back and start fresh. I barreled through the first half of the book in about two weeks because I knew where I was going.

In terms of world building, my ideas became more focused. I knew what didn’t work so when I questioned things that did, I found that I came up with explanations that expanded the world without contradicting things I had already come up with. This is an important distinction because I’d already set the limits for my world. Now I was getting comfortable within it, allowing it to grow in ways that were more descriptive.

Third Draft

Wow. That’s all I can say. I think this is my favorite space to be in. My characters are in technicolor in my thoughts and I can see the world I’ve created if I close my eyes. And the strangest thing of all, something I have never experienced until now, is the world building. Instead of expanding my world, the new ideas I get now crystalize things that already exist in the frame I have created. Instead of opening the world to more questions, I am getting more answers. Things I knew were true but didn’t understand why are explained and characters grow from being two dimensional to flesh and blood.

I’m excited that I want to write. I know where I’m going and I’m not worried about forgetting important things anymore. For now, I’m going with the flow and seeing where my imagination takes me.

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