Fiction Tip #120: First Draft Planning

As I mentioned in Fiction Tip #117: Writing Styles there are planners, pantsers, and those in between. The way in which we approach our writing is unique to each of us and may even vary from project to project. However saying that, I still recommend that you do some forethought before sitting down to write hundreds of pages, to save you from writing pages and pages of useless text. 

At the very least know what your protagonist’s main goal is and the main obstacle(s) he/she must overcome. The minor goals and major and minor obstacles may evolve, shift or be replaced with other ideas as you write, but at least you have a purpose and direction to begin writing toward. After all, a good story gets right to the action and the point (protagonist’s goal) of the story from the beginning.

Here are a few other things to consider when preparing to write your first draft:

  1. Is the main goal and the proposed obstacles life changing or at the very least significant enough to sustain the size of the story (novel, novella, short story) you are writing?
  2. Start at the action of the story, the event when the character is faced with making his/her goal.
  3. Avoid unecessary background information and backstory. If it doesn’t pertain to the current event/situation it likely doesn’t need to be said.
  4. Don’t let the setting/location overtake the story. The setting should serve the story and be used as a tool to communicate something about the characters and their current situation. 
  5. Be aware of the details you choose and use. Each detail has significance in fiction, so don’t show things that don’t enhance the point you are trying to get across in the given scene or that won’t have significance later in the story. You will more likely employ this step at a more intense level during the editing process, but it doesn’t hurt to keep it in mind when writing the first draft.
  6. Don’t add problems that you don’t plan to explain and that don’t relate in some way to the goal or obstacles of the main characters. This too you will refine during the editing process, but you should keep it in mind while writing your first draft.

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