Monday, June 25, 2012

Drafting (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Process)

So, you've got an idea. Maybe it's a small, simple contemporary. Maybe it's a sprawling epic fantasy. Maybe it's somewhere in between. Regardless, it's draft week here on For Love of YA.

...doesn't that make me sound really cool? No? Well, *censored*

Anyway, here are seven steps (in no particular order) you planners/outliners out there should take before you dare enter the world of The First Draft.

Pick a tense.
Past? It gives a sense of reflection. Present? It gives a sense of immediacy. Future? It gives a sense that you're an idiot. (Don't do future.)

Flesh out your characters.
You don't have to know every single thing about your characters at this stage, but there are some basics you should know. Name? Appearance? Personality? Relationships with other characters? Quirks? Home life? These will probably be important, some more than others, so you should definitely know them.

Pick your POV character(s).
I have some qualms with using multiple narrators in one book— mostly because one POV is usually stronger or more interesting than the other. That aside, if you're going to use multiple narrators, decide now.

Know your premise.
Your premise is very important at this stage. You can go into a project with no semblance of a premise, but if you're a planner, this will complicate things greatly.
(By the way, if you don't know premise vs. plot: the premise of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is "a boy goes to a school for wizards." The plot would be "at Hogwarts, Harry has some general shenanigans before Voldemort tries to kill him.")

Know your basic plot.
You should have a general idea of what happens in the story. You don't need to know every subplot at this point (unless you want to), but knowing your basic story structure is helpful.

Know the main characters' goals.
What do they want? Does he want to win the girl or score the winning touchdown or ace the math test? Goals tell us a lot about the characters, and it's important for planners to know them.

Know the stakes.
What happens if the characters don't reach their goals? Does he die? Does she fail the tenth grade? Stakes tell us what kind of story it's going to be.

What do you like to know before you pick up your pen/begin typing? Did I miss anything?

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