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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Trying something new--rough draft as opposed to first draft.

Author Topic: Trying something new--rough draft as opposed to first draft.
Disgruntled Peony
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I've been wanting to start my new short story idea for weeks, but I kept balking whenever I actually sat down at the computer. I'd end up playing games or surfing writer's forums as opposed to actually writing. I realized the problem was that I was scared of the first draft, so I came up with something a bit more... protean.

Rather than working on my first draft, I'm writing a rough draft--it is, essentially, draft zero. I'm primarily focusing on dialogue and quick notes on the actions/events of the story as opposed to taking the time to describe everything fully. It's not unlike writing a script. I got through half of my first scene in an hour or less last night, and I may well be able to finish out the rest of it today since I have the day off. Then I'll be free to write out the actual prose at a comfortable pace, because I already have the story skeleton in place.

I thought of it because I've written a few stories like this in the past when I was collaborating with other people. The biggest difference is that, rather than only governing half the interaction, all of the characters are mine.

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Member # 8019

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I learned this method from a published writer -- one of the writer's novels was also interpreted for film.

Block in dialogue and a few actions and any content that comes to mind, plus inline notes that are a type of stage direction.

Come back later and leaven in scene details, whatever they may be, like setting descriptions that enhance the action -- influential sensory details. For me and the writer above, the method's first raw draft averages about a fourth of the finished draft. The method resembles how script writing is generally done, dialogue mostly, setting summaries, and action "beats."

An appreciable difference between script and prose is introspection modes for the latter are less challenging to compose and more appealing when artfully crafted. Otherwise, scripts must overtly depict thoughts as soliloquy or dramatic monologue or perhaps apostrophe forms, or narrator-like voiceover.

For enhancing the effectiveness of the dialogue method, consider studying a few scripts, and perhaps practice revising excerpts of them into prose. Shakespeare's plays are especially useful for such imitation exercises. Macbeth and Hamlet in particular. No reason the revisions have to be faithful to the originals' dialogue, settings, events, complications, etc. Project Gutenberg hosts Shakespeare's works.

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Robert Nowall
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I tried a somewhat new thing on my last short story, a couple months ago---I wrote the first draft, then went right to writing the next draft, then the next one...I wrote six drafts that way in about a month, adding and subtracting details along the way. Liked the result enough to send it out after the final cuts.

Your method has some advantages---but I've found that when I write out the interesting scenes, I have trouble linking them up with other material later. I find it best just to plow through, beginning to end...but I have several would-be novels that stuck in one place before getting to the end.

I understand Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind backwards from the end...so I suppose it can be successful.

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Disgruntled Peony
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I've actually done a lot of studying with regards to how to write screenplays and, to a lesser extent, stage plays. My mom was really into screenwriting about a decade ago and took a bunch of classes. I got to read all the books for free. I wrote some TV-length screenplay style scripts for fun/practice around that time, too. I enjoy the format. It's challenging but intriguing.
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