Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What I Learned Writing a First Draft (with lots of gifs!)

I completed the first draft of my fantasy novel in the inhuman hours of Saturday morning. I began the venture about four years ago, I think, and today, it was very, very different than what I started with. I've learned a lot, both in the developing of characters and plot as well as the more technical aspects of writing.

Firstly, I have learned that, most likely, nothing will be exactly as you first plan. Things will change. They might change a little, they might completely redesign the plot. For my book, I started out with the POV of a half-elf girl. The characters were all solely from that fantasy world.

However, things began to change. My protagonist and POV changed to a girl from Earth. The general plot and heroine's role remained the same, but it wasn't done changing. The MC's friend became her brother, and my protagonist's role began to change after that. She had a prominent role in the rebellion brewing, but then I began to explore her personality. She was too passive in her actions. So I developed her, got to know her, and she has now gone from a reserved girl to one who will set tents on fire because she's convinced she's right and sass anybody who tries to argue with her. She became borderline wild, but she's still sensitive, and kept her ability to care for others (so far. I haven't edited anything, so who knows what will happen). She's also not taking on a major role in the rebellion. I'm pretty sure my characters would kill her themselves if she was. She's not a passive heroine anymore, but one quite able to make her own decisions and act upon what she believes.

POVs, as pointed out, also change. My POVs have ranged from one to three to two. It's crazy, but as you write and as you get to know the plot and characters, you'll know where people fit in it. Sometimes it's not fun having to redo it. You might miss a certain POV, or dread adding another. But if the change is needed, you'll probably fall in love with your story even more when everything runs smoothly.

Another thing I learned is that characters never, never tell you everything at once. Ever. They're imps like that. They will spring pieces of information at you when you least expect it, maybe even as you're writing them. Sometimes, the information just clicks. It makes sense.

I will approve of this information.
I had this happen. For one example, I was musing over the desires of my characters, and I came to one villain and paused. What did he want? My mind started churning, and suddenly this guy became a bigger villain than I expected. He became the villain my protagonists needed to face. The first villain was still a very prominent villain, but he was someone else's enemy. The other guy was just more sneaky and quiet about his villainy. And as I wrote and developed, his role in the lives of my protagonists became bigger. Even with information that readers might not know about, he became much more deliciously villainous.

Some days, what I write feels like this:
But this scene looks good--no, wait, that's awful too...

Other days it feels like this:
When things click and just make sense. Best. Feeling. Ever. I have done this on the inside.

And still others I hit a wall and feel like this:
Those were frustrating days...

A friend, patient (more or less ;) ) with my ranting about how I was stuck or how awful a scene felt, reminded me it was only a first draft. "First draft," she would tell me. Sometimes in all caps. Sometimes the word draft was dragged out. Rare occasions to the tune of a song from Phantom of the Opera. It's okay if your first draft is a chaotic mess. That's what the editing stage is for. It's great when your writing feels smooth and brilliant, but it's also okay if they don't. First drafts are supposed to be messy.

Music. Music helps a lot. Or it did for me. It kept me focused on writing and not too distracted on other things. I created a playlist for characters, but then I found that music by Peter Hollens really helped me focus. Mood music helped for the scenes I felt needed more than just a collection of songs. For a death scene, I collected sad/emotional music. Yes, I got emotional. Yes, I might have almost cried. I love my darlings. Yes, I do feel bad. But it had to happen, however painful it was to my heart. Music can bring alive the emotion, and hopefully later the scene will convey what both music and words did for you.

I don't. But I also do...But I also don't.

Finally, what I've learned from writing my novel's first draft is that writer friends are really, really important. They can help you out of plot snags or any problems, they can help you explore your characters to understand how they tick. They can point out problems or flaws in anything you might plan. You can bounce your ideas off of them to find those holes. And they're there when you need to rant and ramble about the story thus far. Two of my friends have been this help to me. They've let me bounce ideas off of them. One pointed out to me how a certain action was out of character for my villain. Both of them have been a great help, whether patiently listening to my rambling, or helping me smooth out the snarls, or reminding me that this is supposed to be a chaotic mess with characters running everywhere unsupervised. You both know who you are, and I thank you. :3

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