Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Magical Mayhem of Rough Drafts

During the very first of the Tea Party Chronicles, we talked about the magical mayhem of working on the rough draft of a story. Everyone was full of helpful advice, and I was delighted to share some of the things that have been working for me, too. Some of the highlights were:

  • knowing your first and last lines before starting the rough draft
  • some of us write better with music in the background, some without
  • a fun discussion about accuracy in historical fiction
  • the importance of character development, in everything from plotting to worldbuilding

We also explored how writing a rough draft is like sculpting from clay or painting on a canvas. We wouldn't expect perfection or even to see the finished image in our art straightaway, yet somehow we put pressure on ourselves if our rough draft doesn't feel up to snuff. Yikes!

There are a few more nuggets I’d love to share with you, so pull up a chair and let’s catch up!

A brief guide to the ups and downs of writing the rough draft of a novel, from a Tea Party Chronicles gathering. | Something Delicious

What to do when the rough draft grinds to a halt


Depending on how frustrated I am, I might set it aside and walk away for a while, play a video game, watch an episode of Heartland, or work on some administrative stuff. If I’m stuck but feel like the answer might be nearby, I try and logic it out, and/or brainstorm with my mum or my boyfriend, both of whom are awesome writers themselves.

“I don't force myself,” Emily L. Scott shared. “Instead, I take a break and do something else creative (like writing poetry or painting). Journaling usually helps me dig up what's stopping me from moving forward, and from there, I find I'm able to ease back into the story.”

“Generally, when I hit a wall in my drafts I will walk away from it and go to books and movies,” Eden S. said. “I will read/watch things in the genre I'm writing and I will analyze it and see if there are any ideas I can use in my writing.”

I was glad to see that none of us were forcing ourselves above and beyond the call of creative duty. Writing is sometimes hard work, but we have to be able to recognize the difference between feeling antsy and deepening frustration.

Must-haves for starting a rough draft


I know I’m ready to move from the prewriting to the drafting stage when I have:

  • a bit of appropriate music or background noise, e.g. Rainymood, one of the HDSoundI playlists on YouTube, or Lindsey Stirling
  • a solid sense of the characters and the dynamics between them
  • a feel for the plot and the story (including the main conflict)
  • a very general idea of the setting
  • an idea of what sort of elements I’m playing with ... e.g. the main character I’m writing about at the moment is incredibly talented in the kitchen, so I’m enjoying weaving food and cooking and baking into scenes, either in front and centre ways or just as a part of her everyday life

Some of the other things that came up were:

  • character profiles
  • notes about setting and magic rules
  • a theme
  • a firm idea where the story is heading

Over or underwriting a rough draft


While some people lean towards overwriting in rough drafts and slicing out the fluff in future ones, I’m the opposite. If I know my characters well and sort out a decent plot structure as I’m writing the rough draft, I can layer in and unveil more of the actual story and the colourful pieces and layers in subsequent drafts.

I try my darndest to sort out any major structural issues in the rough draft, though, because I don’t fare well with major rewrites. I can do line edits until the cows come home, and I enjoy enough aspects of the rough draft for it to feel manageable, but a rewrite feels like doing a rough draft all over again, and I struggle to get through one without it feeling tired and overwrought.

Motivation and rough drafts


The most helpful thing I’ve tried recently was a Twitter word sprint. I managed to write 800 words in 25 minutes, which was kind of crazy for me! O.o

This is also the part when we had to be careful not to slosh tea all over the table, because we got a little excited when the conversation shifted to our plans for NaNoWriMo. I’ve had hefty writing marathons before, but nothing like NaNo, so I’m bound and determined that this will be the year I bloody well stick to it! Nearly every past participant seems to agree that there’s little else like it for motivation and collectively focused energy in the writing world.

Helpful resources 


During the tea party, I mentioned a few blog posts that have been a huge help, as I've been tackling a new challenge in my rough draft and needing to relearn (or learn in a new way) certain writing concepts. I hope they'll clear things up for you, too!


There is a fair bit of overlap between a few of these articles, but that was a plus as far as I was concerned: what wasn't clear in the way one person wrote about a concept was soon clarified by someone else. Yay!



I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek inside our cozy get-together! If you’d like to partake of a cuppa in the future, you can learn more about the Tea Party Chronicles right here. The writers who attend are all wonderfully kind, supportive, and creative, so I know you’d fit right in.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear in the comments below about your own experiences in writing the rough draft of a story! What’s the hardest part, the strangest part, the best part?

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