In a discussion at the NaNoWriMo forum, somebody asked whether adding “what ifs” were something that people do when they are stuck on the event?
My reply was pretty long for a forum post, but nonetheless I hope it was helpful for them and I hope it would be helpful for you too – here is a more fleshed out answer to my response.
When I am writing a novel, my first draft is usually part of the ideas and planning process.
In the first draft I ask questions and try to answer them as strongly as I can to help me develop strong characters and scenes that make sense to the plot as a whole.
I ask questions such as, what is the relationship of this character to the main character. How will this characters existence help move the plot along? What vital actions would this character do to play a part in the plot of this story?
I would also write alternative paths for the story as a whole as they come. This is made easier by love for lists and random.org. For example, if the story is a fantasy where people are going onto a journey, are the characters turning towards the forest, the farm or a shadowy path into a darkened valley? This is usually done at times I feel stuck about how to progress – when this happens, for me it is important not to stop my flow of writing by overthinking it, but to get all possible ideas down on paper and then pick one later on, when you have run out of energy to do more for the day; or if you are truly desperate for a decision to move your story along, use random.org to force a decision for you and you will often come out with some surprising alternatives you’d never thought of originally for your story!
The second draft is all about the elimination of the stuff that didn’t survive your story in the first draft, then sewing all you have kept together as neatly as possible. But, I am a psychopath, I have been known to write similar plot stories based on two to four alternatives, to see how I feel about them several months down the line, then I choose the best one to continue onto the third draft with!
The third draft is all about tidying things up and cutting scenes out or adding new ones, for me it is the preparation for polishing the finished product, because for me, it is rare that a story gets past a third draft.
It can be a nightmare trying to sift through the first draft in between the chunky messes that appear out of nowhere, but for me it is worth it and it is the only way I manage to stay productive without feeling frustrated or coming to a dead end.
I am a chaotic thinker, I understand this is not for everyone, but this system works for me.
I think too many people try to make the first draft too pretty and polished immediately, novels don’t work like that.
I can be found in the UK, Leicester region of NaNoWriMo throughout this month.
Good luck in your writing ventures everybody!