Writing Shortcuts (Part 3): Pacing

This is the third post in the Writing Shortcuts mini series where I discuss all the things I learned in the second draft that I wish I had known (and done right!) during the first draft. Check out post #1 and #2 (setting) to catch up!

While reading through the first draft, I slowly came to realize how uneven the days of the week were. The plot spanned across the course of six days. Nearly 40 percent of the book happened on Day #1. (!!!) Other days got as little as 5 percent of the grand total page count. (This was partly a symptom of my speed-writing need. I get really excited about a story idea during a first draft and want to get to the end so badly that I write only the barest of bones. I just want to write “The End” ASAP…and scenes, chapters, and entire day’s worth of events get increasingly shorter as a result.)

Something that would have REALLY helped me during the drafting process to slow down my writing pace and, as a result, create a manuscript that had better story pacing, would have been a calendar.

Like this one.

Plotting Calendar

Plotting calendar. Magical tool for measured pacing!

Once I read through the first draft, I bullet-pointed the scenes on the calendar. That’s when I started seeing the holes. Literally. Huge, gaping holes. Seeing it laid out like that, I realized that one day only had one scene: a random conversation that happened during the evening. Then, cut scene, the next day! Seeing all these holes was like instant inspiration to dig in and start fleshing out the story. I started envisioning the characters interacting together–these were detailed visions I was itching to get on paper–in scenes that didn’t yet exist in the draft, but which I knew HAD to happen and would fit in those holes perfectly. The calendar helped me see a lot of scenes that I should have written during the first draft but was too rushed to give them the time and attention they deserved.

So, lesson learned? Always have a calendar for a first draft. (A lesson learned just in time for NaNoWriMo! Anybody else doing it? Friend me!)

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Writing Shortcuts (Part 1): Things I Wish I Had Learned Before Draft #1

For the past five months I’ve been plowing my way through what I thought was going to be a revision of my WIP but morphed into a complete rewrite. Though I kept pieces of Draft #1, and used it as a loose outline of the chronological events that occur in the plot, ultimately I cut 33,000+ words out of 54,000 and ended up with a completely rewritten Draft #2 clocking in at roughly 66,000 words. I guess that was to be expected, because as I was reading through I was adding comments like “add whole new day here” and “add another day here,” “delete this whole chapter,” and “add scene, add scene, add scene.”

This draft was a huge learning experience for me. Not only did I learn so much about my characters, but I also learned a lot about the actual mechanics of storytelling, the functioning parts of a scene, creating backstory, and I learned a lot about generating conflict (I hate doing mean things to my characters! It’s so hard to do to the ones I like, and the ones who remind me of myself!).

Now that I’m back and gearing up–finally–for the heavy revision process, I thought I’d share a few writing shortcuts I’ve learned that I’ll definitely be using in future drafting processes (which will be really soon with NaNoWriMo 2013 nearly upon us! I have a great story idea I’m dying to get onto a page this November. Are you joining me this year??), shortcuts that would have made Draft #1 a whole lot less of a pile of crap (not that a draft can ever be anything but, but it can at least be a little less). I’m trying tell myself that spending another five months writing Draft #2 after #1 wasn’t a complete waste of time. It was an experience. Ah, novel writing. The frustrations.

I went at Draft #1 in a sort-of pantsing method and Draft #2 involved a lot more strategic planning. Though I don’t think I’ll ever become a full-blown plot outliner, it would be useful to utilize some of these planning tools in the future, to make pantsing Draft #1 a lot more cohesive and consistent.

Having been out of the blogging game for more than a month now, I figured I’d ease back into the habit by making this a mini series, one post a week. Also, this will allow me an abundance of time each week to still dedicate to the revision! I want to get this manuscript DONE and OUT of my hard drive and INTO my beta readers’ inboxes!

So, in future posts in future weeks, you can look forward to discussions of writing shortcuts on the topics of:

1. Setting

2. Pacing

3. Character sketches

4. Scene outlines