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Hello, writers. I started drafting book 3 of the Jinx trilogy last week. Having been through the drafting process... I don't know, a whole lot of times now, I've learned a little bit about how I do it. I draft in a blind panic. Hopefully someday this will change, but it hasn't yet.

Today I hit the 10,000-word mark, which does cause the terror to recede a bit. By the time I get to 10,000 words, most of them are no longer stuff like

And then they went down into the valley ...why do you have them going into the valley anyway? Is there something important they're going to learn there? Can you decide that later? For now, let's get them out of the valley again. Maybe you'd better not send them there in the first place. Let's go on to the scene with the wolf.

Years ago, when I was new to this business and thought someone might actually see my first draft, I didn't write stuff like that. But now I know that if I'm not typing something, I'll freeze up and get that writer's block thing that people talk about.

That's just my process. Might not be yours.

Another thing that's changed in the way I draft is that I no longer put in any backstory at all. I used to put in too much backstory, as almost all beginning writers do. I didn't want the reader to start out on the adventure until s/he was completely au fait on the history and bona fides of the setting and main character.

The result was that I used to spend a lot of revision time cutting backstory out. Now I leave as much as possible out to begin with. On a later draft-- probably the third-- I'll go back and fill in any backstory we absolutely can't do without. Then if readers of that draft (who are wonderful people, by the way) tell me that they can't figure out what's going on, I'll go back and put in a little more backstory.

Nothing makes a story drag, especially at the beginning, like too much backstory.

Stephen King says that in the first draft you're telling the story to yourself, and in the second you're telling it to other people. I find in the first draft (or pre-first draft, perhaps) I'm figuring out how I'm going to tell it to myself... in what voice, with what characters, in what scenes. The third draft is the first one that will be fit for anyone else's eyes.

 How about you? What have you learned about your drafting process?

Tonight’s challenge:

Below is a story opening that's drowning in backstory. Cut out as much of the backstory as you possibly can, and make something interesting happen instead.

Detective Anna Boswell looked around her green-painted office in the Riverpoint Police station and sighed. At 35, it was something to have attained the rank of detective, first class, with special jurisdiction over grebe-related crime. The Togwogmagog Regional Police Force didn't even hire all that many women, and when they did, they tended to be women like Anna: unmarried (though not for lack of trying; why were men so intimidated by women who carried magic daggers on a date?); apparently humorless (Anna loved a good joke, but she kept that to herself); and willing to work 25 hour days.

But if anyone ever found about Anna's history with the dread mage Froop, she knew her days on the police force were numbered. And that would be a great disappointment to her parents, especially her mother, who had dreamed of something like this for Anna: a career that didn't involve cleaning, cooking, or quests for lost jewels. It would be a great disappointment, too, to her teachers at Magog Central Police Academy, where she'd ranked first in her class in grebe interrogation and alligator wrestling.

 

Have at it...
 
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