Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Writing a Novel, Part 2

This is part two in a month-long series on writing in honor of Camp NaNoWriMo. Last week I covered the initial part of the process of writing a novel. This week, I will be talking about how one goes about writing a rough draft. All of these are based off of my own experience, as well as inspiration from "Go Teen Writers".

Ah, the rough draft. Here is where we get to the bulk of the heavy lifting of noveling.

There are two main approaches to writing a rough draft: Plotting and “Pantsing”. There is a whole spectrum of writing methods in between, but these are the two general approaches. 


Plotting refers to the act of coming up with the main parts of the plot line before actually beginning writing. The amount of plotting varies from author to author and even from story to story.

Some authors like to come up with a list of main scenes before writing. Others like to come up with a list of every scene with detailed descriptions of what happens in each scene.

Yet other authors prefer to focus their energies on character development. Some methods of doing this include “Character interviews” where the author stages mock interviews with his or her characters, or even just a basic questionnaire that he or she fills out for each character.

One famous plotting method is called the “snowflake” method, which works your novel from one sentence to a full plot. This is a very regimented process that doesn’t necessarily work for all authors.


This method derives its name from the phrase “to fly by the seat of your pants”. Pantsing is free-flow writing and is at the opposite end of the spectrum from plotting. Many of these authors are strong proponents of the messy rough draft, where they do not worry about many of the finer points of writing, but just try to get the story out on paper (or on Word document, as the case may be).

Like Plotting, Pantsing comes in a whole range from having only a vague story concept to work with to having a handful of scenes worked out (for example, knowing the starting scene, the climax, and the ending scene).


So, how long does this process take? Many authors enjoy participating in the challenge of National Novel Writing Month, hosted every November. The goal is to write a rough draft of 50,000 words during the month (50,000 is considered the minimum number of words for a full-length novel). I’ve successfully completed the challenge one time and attempted two other times.

Other authors may take several months to complete their rough drafts.

You might be wondering why getting a novel published takes so long if you can theoretically write a rough draft in thirty days or fewer. Don't forget that we still have several steps left in the writing process—including one of the more lengthy ones: editing. I’ll be covering that next week.

In the meantime, feel free to leave your comments below and don’t forget to stop in on Friday for a book review!

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