Ease Draft One pain – sharing, and a tool to keep track

Last night we had a zoom meeting of our local novel group, a sub-group of Dean Writers Circle. Right now, all of us are writing first drafts which has pros and cons when it comes to sharing with a group.

The pros
* You get some great ideas as discussion about your offering evolves. As my friend Carol says – the ‘why didn’t I think of that’ type of ideas
* You can ask specific questions like, how are characters developing/what are the reader’s feelings towards them (and is this what you want?), what questions are being raised in the reader’s mind, are things too opaque or too obvious, does the story flow or does it feel jerky/disjointed? Or anything else niggling at you.
* It’s encouraging when people say how much they love this phrase or line or character. It keeps the motivation up, especially in those dreaded middle sections.
* You can be made aware of writing ‘tics’ (from too oft-repeated phrases to head-hopping) early on and hopefully avoid them as you draft.
* It forces you to keep writing. I have one group which meets weekly, and we share about 10 pgs (dble spaced) at a time, or ca 2,500 words. Not a mammoth task, but a discipline.

The cons
* If, like me, you’re continually reviewing the already written work with your own revised ideas, you are in danger of your new work only making sense in the revised context – which your critique partners haven’t read. There’s a danger of them losing the flow of the plot if this is too drastic.
* If the group doesn’t meet frequently, it’s going to take a long time to get through your book. [We overcome this by turning into beta readers when a book is finished and dedicating most of a session to that one book.]
* You have to avoid the temptation to edit other people’s work for grammar, ie technicalities which can be fixed later, as some of this work may not survive the edit process. After all, the most important thing about a first draft is to get it down!

If you’re involved with such a group, I’d love to know what the pros and cons are for you. Let me know in the comments.

Now for the tool
I know there are very many fancy tools out there to help writers, and doubtless they work for many people. Most also cost money. But here’s something which I’ve developed over the last couple of books until I now find it working for me. It’s not a tool to help you plot your overall story but one to help you keep track of it, to give an overview, and to make draft 2 and later revisions easier.
I’m finding it very useful for my current WIP – I jot down key points for the next chapters to be written and use these to aid drafting. If the draft doesn’t turn out the way the key points said (fancy!), well, I change that column to reflect what I actually wrote and think about why, how does that affect the story going forward, AND does it have an impact on the story already written? (and note that in the relevant column).
I hope you find it helpful – and if you don’t like Excel, suspect it would work quite well in a word table also.

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