Drafting is amazing. It has this fresh sea air feeling, one I can’t get enough of. I have to purposefully hold myself in the idea phase until I’m sure I’m ready and then my fingers hit the keys and I write and write and write and it’s glorious.
And then I stop. There are things I didn’t put in the outline. Hidden relationships I didn’t count on. This character names just sound stupid. Sometimes I’m within a series and there are constructs I must stay inside that I’m already wildly out of bounds of. Maybe it’s time for a donut.
If you’re like me, 1) don’t sweat, and 2) yes, it is time for a donut.
Some of the usual suspects can be the silver bullet: get outside, take a walk, take a break, call a friend, etc. But sometimes I need to hunker down in and actively obsess over my work. Like, really barricade myself behind my laptop and imbibe the fumes of my characters. They say draft drunk, revise sober/draft hot, revise cold? That’s how I have to draft: drunk on emotions.
Of course, I have two kids under 5, a husband who works full time, and a dozen and a half social/work obligations per week. Staying barricaded is not an option at all. I write in half hour increments daily, and on lucky days, I get a couple of hours. So I’ve come up with hacks to keep myself “drunk”. (No, sadly, it’s not the donuts.)
- An anticipation station
I am both a visual person and a note-taking person (I have a bad memory). The first step to staying high on my story is to capitalize on the idea phase — fill scrapbooks, walls, and Pinterest boards with visual aids, grab the research books and devour them before drafting distracts me, and absolutely give every single new project it’s own notebook (or four). Then, when the disastrous slog hits, I surround myself with notebooks and pin boards full of outlines, quotes, inspirations, pictures, plot points, and Russian Tsars.
- A style book
For each project, I pick a lovely novel that has the prose I want to emulate. It can be any genre at all, any category or age range, but the writing style needs to be exactly what I’m striving for in this project. It’s for the moments where I know what I want to say, I know what has to happen, but my brain is so tired that I can’t be creative with my prose what even I write like crap why am I doing this I’m terrible. That’s when I get an emergency shot of oxygen from my style book — I read a few paragraphs…or a few chapters…then I go back to my draft and edit awhile until it starts to slightly resemble the writing style that I just read. Writer’s block is gone. Suddenly I’m Crichton, I’m Christie, I’m Morgenstern (yes, I idolize The Night Circus). I rock.
- A fandom
This is something that only seems to work for a few people. The majority of projects are simply not ready for another human eye while in the process of drafting. But sometimes, I can get so very stuck that I need help before I can draft even. One. More. Word. I find someone who is willing to listen to me read aloud every week or someone who will take a few chapters at a time and give general impressions. For example: yes, the narrative is flowing, no, I can’t tell the characters apart, yes, I like the sensory details, no, he shouldn’t talk so much…hopefully mixed with a little ardent praise, because hey, this isn’t supposed to be polished. It’s a draft!
It’s magical. It sucks. It is wild. None of this will remotely resemble itself once it goes through a revision or two (or twelve), but it needs to happen, and it will carve something into your memory that needs to be there. So, if you need to draft drunk, embrace the headiness! Get those words down in a fog of giddy giggles.
Rachel O’Laughlin is the author of Serengard, a four-book epic fantasy series. Supernatural and Joss Whedon both occupy similarly important places in her heart. She lives in New England with her husband and two kids, listens to The Fray, and drinks too many lattes. Find her at http://rachelolaughlin.com.