Fiction Tip #118: Keeping Track of First Draft Changes Part 1

In Fiction Tip #117 I talk about the twists and turns our plot takes while writing the first draft; some may be planned and others may not. I also discussed the importance of getting through the first draft. Often new writers stop writing forward when they come across an unexpected change and go back over the previously written text to add the details needed to support this change. But then when they start writing forward again they come across another change and another and eventually give up on the story because they feel as if they will never complete it. They burn themselves out rewriting and rewriting before the story is even complete. To allow you to keep writing forward with the confidence, knowing you will not forget to set up a change, you will want to track where those changes occur and possibly even note areas in the previously written text where you want to add details or information during the revising/editing phase. In my experience the following questions that arise when I talk about tracking.  

  1. What is it I should track?
  2. What is the best way to track it?

Today we will look at what you should track. Now there are a large number of things that may need to be tracked and it can vary greatly depending on your genre, but here are a few of the key things to track:

  1. New or unexpected characters
  2. New or unexpected information, tools, skills or weapons
  3. New or unexpected events, situations or obstacles
  4. Changes in the protagonist’s or antagonist’s goal or motivation

The terms “new” and “unexpected” will vary greatly depending on your preperation or lack there of. If you are a plotter, then “new” and “unexpected” relate to anything that wasn’t in the original plot. If you are a pantser, then “new” and “unexpected” are a bit more difficult to define since you likely don’t know where the story is headed. In this case, I suggest you consider anything that is not in alignment with, or supported by the previously written text  as “new” and “unexpected.” If you are both a bit of both, then your definition “new” and “unexpected” will be a combination of the ones I just gave. In Fiction Tip #119 we will look at some of the different ways you can track these changes.

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