I’ve said it before (and I’ll probably have to say it again) but drafting is hard no matter how many stories you’ve written.
I feel like this is a thing more writers need to hear. When I was first trying this writer thing and struggling through drafts I thought I was weird. I thought it would get easier to write a draft the longer I did this.
It doesn’t. Each brand new draft presents its own unique challenges.
What’s changed is that I know that’s normal now. I know to expect it. I know that, eventually, I will figure it all out and the draft will come together into something I’m immensely proud of.
But, we need to be real with our struggles, no matter how many drafts we’ve done. So, today I’m going to talk about the newest WIP I’m working on. I want to hit some of the struggles I’ve encountered so far and the solutions I’m trying to fix the issues. Maybe it’ll help someone.
THE APOCALYPSE PROJECT
This idea originally had no hook. Nothing that made it interesting. Nothing that helped it STAND OUT from the many ideas like it.
It sat in the idea journal, continuing to have scenes added to it, letting me work with the characters. I didn’t fight myself on writing about those characters or that world. I kept at it. The idea journal document for this one (once compiled together) had 14 PAGES. That’s a lot for a single idea that never took off. Never letting the characters go silent helped me keep the idea in my head. That meant that when the hook finally came to me, I remembered the rest. Now I had an idea.
The outline was falling flat.
I’m a planner (you know this about me) so I tried to make an outline. It was NOT behaving. I had 14 chapter numbers with careful notes. Then … nothing. Three days passed and I wasn’t moving on that outline. I hadn’t even gotten to the new hook yet. I just didn’t see how it got from point A to point D.
I stopped following my outline.
I just started typing notes in paragraph form. Everything I knew I wanted to happen. I was rambling in my own outline, basically. At some point it starts to sound like an outline again, so I switched to bullet points. Suddenly, without the pressure of feeling like I had to write it in order, I had the events that got me there. Then it was just a matter of putting it in order.
I realized I wanted this story to unfold out of order.
Much like it came to me, this story was going to make more IMPACT out of order. So I needed to figure out what point was the catalyst we’d rally around and how that would look.
I started carefully marking up my printed outline in colors, seriously paying attention to key characters and scenes. Ivy was one color, Nolan was another. I was looking for a catalyst. I was looking for a point where I could split the storyline into THEN and NOW. I read my own outline 5 or 6 times.
But I found it.
Now my outline was out of order … again.
I wrote out one index card for each scene. I used the same colors I’d marked my outline with for the index cards to delineate whether it was THEN or NOW. At first, I didn’t put them in order, I just wrote them. After that was done, I spread them out and looked carefully. I matched up cards that made sense. I made notes about ways to increase the suspense of the big reveal. I put them in order.
There, I thought, hard work was done. We had a story now. Time to draft.
The draft is fighting me. My word count isn’t as high as it should be. I’m not feeling the emotions I wanted to feel about it. It’s just dragging. I had DAYS of no words written on the draft. This, obviously, is a sign that something is wrong with it. I’m just not feeling the story.
Although I still want to present this one out of order, I don’t think I can write it that way. Swapping between THEN and NOW was proving difficult to maintain. Ivy (my narrator) grows and changes. She doesn’t have the same voice, the same goals. We have to be wondering what caused this change … which means the change has to be present. Drafting them all together was forcing me to lose some of that. She was starting to sound the same in all the chapters.
SO, I think I’ll draft in chronological order and put them back together later. That’s the current plan.
Details — OOOOOHHHHHH the details.
I have so many ideas that I KNOW I want to include in this one. Little details about electricity, breaking glass on storefronts, gas, plumbing, egg harvesting, gardening, etc. Things that some apocalypse stories take for granted or skip altogether. I have little notes to myself all over the place but I don’t know where they will all fit in the draft.
I made a checklist.
Literally a list of those events that I’d like to include.
When I get a chance to throw one into the draft, I’m doing it. Then I’ll check it off the list.
We’ll see if that one works out.
Those are the issues I’ve encountered SO FAR. Seriously, I’m only like 7 chapters into this outline which means I have a lot of work ahead of me. I’m sure I’ll encounter even more issues as I go. But I believe in this hook now. I believe in this idea. I just have to power through.
Got a writing issue you need help with?
Drop it in the comments. Maybe I can come up with something that may help. I can’t hurt to ask!