How I Draft.

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February 6, 2013 by jcfarnham

I like to spend my first draft focusing on the bare essentials, ie, dialogue and plot specific narrative. It’s only on a second pass through a section that I add more description. Naturally this method may not work for everyone, but it does seem to put character interaction quite nicely at the front and centre of my fiction.

I’ll put it this way (and try desperately not to sound up myself), my beta readers have recently been saying how much they enjoy how my character’s dialogue sound like their own voices, not mine. For an author to hear that is quite… nice. Not willing to rest on my laurels, I decided to analyse why I’ve gotten this comment from multiple people with regards to the same piece.

Either my dialogue stands out because I’ve spent some time working on scripts, or alternatively because of what I mentioned at the beginning of the post. I can certainly see how my drafting process might lean towards fostering interesting voices in my characters.

Plots are great, sure, but what’s better than a group of fictional beings who seem like real people? Seeing as how I write genre fiction, a format which naturally lends itself toward being somewhat abstract, it’s important that there’s some kind of grounding. I’ve always thought it best that fiction focuses on character interaction for that very reason.

Let’s recap:

  1. I spend much the first draft getting only the most vital things down. Figuring out plot complexities, blocking holes, working on interesting characters people want to follow through the story and all things I do here. I usually end up with a very slim first draft (ie, novel that should be about 75,000 end up at about 50,000) that focuses pretty closely on dialogue and actions relating to dialogue (and so by extension the character’s troubles).
  2. On my next pass I prefer to shore everything up. So, more plugging of holes and the like. This is very much an pure editing pass.
  3. It’s around this time that I begin to add in more description, figure out any point of view issues, make sure I’m not needlessly hopping heads, or ensuring my research stands true.


I think it’s pretty obvious why my writing “dice” fall the way they do. An initial minimalistic pass helps me cut through all the stylistic rubbish I could write and see the plot for what it is, what it truly is, before I start adding “herbs”… as it were.

Maybe that could help you?


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February 2013
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