Pre-Writing: Filling In The Gaps

My story is nearly ready for a new draft. It’s been a full year since my rough draft was finished. That is a long time to let it sit, but I have kept the story in my mind, and I’ve thought about those gaps I discussed in the last post. With those gaps identified, I can now prepare them for writing.

While writing this rough draft I followed a new process that worked better than expected. It’s a simple outline for each chapter that helps guide the story along preventing the wandering that sometimes happens with my writing. Since most of these gaps are new scenes and chapters, I will apply that technique to give me a good footing on what needs to be written.

If you asked me if I follow the path of an outliner or discovery writer, you’d probably get a different answer depending on what project I am working on. Short stories are almost entirely discovery written. Shorter word counts make for easier writing and editing as a whole.

I learned quickly that discovery writing a novel was not in my best interest. I often spent hours staring at the screen when I should be writing. Instead of writing the scene, I was thinking and creating what the scene was about or how I wanted to start. In other words, a compete waste of time. Time that I don’t have enough of.

This time I wanted to get the heavy thinking out of the way. As I worked through my story, I kept a notebook of my thoughts and ideas, then as I had an idea for a chapter, I wrote a few sentences in summary and some key points that I wanted to highlight. Then I would move to the next one.

For example:

Chapter 7: This is where I write a short summary which includes a beginning, middle, and end to the chapter. Who are the characters involved? Any important lines of dialogue I can use to guide this scene? I like to emphasize the ending for this scene so that it gives me a specific spot to write to.

Key points: These I write out as bullet points to cover the most important things. Character X must find the pendant. He uses magic for the first time, but doesn’t know it yet. Character Y learns that her father was poisoned, and suspects Character Z.

This method seems to be the one that works best for me. It is only a handful of sentences, but it is enough to guide my writing to let me know what I need to accomplish. With that in mind, it’s not a thorough outline. I have plenty of wiggle room to let the story come to life. I know what I need to cover and where to start and end, but I am still allowing enough room for some discovery along the way.

Using this method to plan out those gaps of my rough draft, I will be ready to tackle those scenes when I get to them, and it will prevent countless hours staring at the screen. We all have different writing windows, but I belong to the group that falls between zero hours available to maybe one or two. That means to get a better window I must sacrifice something to get more time. This usually means less sleep, so if that is what I am trading in, I must make sure that that time is as efficient as possible. When I write, I want to write. I don’t want to waste it in the creation process because that’s what daydreaming at work is for. Right?

After this is completed, it will be time to begin writing my new chapter one.