Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Discovery Draft by Terry Burns

At the last conference there were a number of new writers in my workshops. When it was opened up for questions quite a few of them centered on how their work in progress was progressing . . . or not progressing.

I told them in my own work that several of the problems they were having was solved by the way I went about writing. I like to use what is known as a 'discovery draft.' If I am writing a manuscript that is going to be maybe ninety thousand words, the first draft might just be possibly twenty-five or thirty thousand, but it will contain the entire base story line.

That's a discovery draft.' In the second draft I take that first draft and set it up on it's end like the stalk of an artificial Christmas tree. Then, like putting branches on that tree I start filling it in with setting and description, fleshing out the characters, adding sub-plots, and appealing to the five senses to bring it alive. I don't worry about messing up the main plot line because that's already in place.

And that pesky first page? When I have the entire manuscript the way I want it I go back and say "Okay, now how do I force them to turn this first page?" It's not where I start, it's the very last thing I do.

Sometimes when I'm stalled out on the way the story is developing, or even experiencing the dreaded 'writer's block,' I find it may be because I'm trying to make a character do something that is not in their nature to do. They respond by revolting on me, and the story doesn't move well again until I back up to the last place where it was flowing well to see what I've done. I usually find myself saying, "Well, sure, this character is not going to do that."

Sometimes we find we have painted ourselves into a corner in a plot and have nowhere to go. Using a discovery draft we can back up to see why the branch we are trying to fit into the 'stalk' isn't fitting. Of course, the discovery draft concept is more a tool for the seat-of-the-pants writer and not as useful to those who plot and outline the entire story concept before starting to write.

But for us SOTP people it can be a really useful tool.

6 comments:

Tom Threadgill said...

That's similar to what I do. I always hear about authors who have to cut a ton of words and I'm just the opposite. I write the basic novel, then go back and flesh it out with the details (emotion, description, extra dialogue). Thanks Terry!

Linda Glaz said...

Me, too. I don't even address the senses that don't come absolutely easily in the first draft. When I go back, I try to put myself right into the picture, what I see, feel, etc.

Linda Glaz said...

Me, too. I don't even address the senses that don't come absolutely easily in the first draft. When I go back, I try to put myself right into the picture, what I see, feel, etc.

Linda Glaz said...

Me, too. I don't even address the senses that don't come absolutely easily in the first draft. When I go back, I try to put myself right into the picture, what I see, feel, etc.

Deborah D. Harper said...

Terry, thanks for the great idea. I, too, am a SOTP writer and sometimes I end up in that dreaded corner with nowhere to go and with my characters all pointing their fingers at me, laughing, and saying, "Why didn't you listen closer?"

Blessings,
Deb

Jody said...

Such good advice. I always have an outline, but the story never ends up following the plan. I love the idea of getting the manuscript written, then fleshing it out. Thanks, Terry!