I have been sick the entire month of February, and in that time I’ve done nothing but sit and read or stare at my computer screen.
However, there’s always a silver lining; in that time I not only surpassed my monthly reading goal, but I finished the skeleton draft of a fantasy novel I’ve been working on since 2014.
I had finished a rough draft of the novel back in 2015, but within the past year completely reenvisioned the story and wiped the slate clean in order to create a fresh start.
When I write drafts, I usually allow myself to concentrate on one scene at a time, laboring over the perfect word and getting hung up when I can’t convey my thoughts.
This was accomplishing nothing.
Finally, I decided the time to write it was yesterday, and I spent four days hardly getting up from the computer and finished that draft (my back paid dearly, but it was worth it).
You’ve heard of a rough draft, a second draft, etc., but have you heard of a skeleton draft? A skeleton draft is your very basic draft; some even use it as an outline form. There’s no thought to continuity, grammar, no thought to writing well whatsoever.
(I documented my four days of writing the skeleton draft on Twitter; it was a wonderful way to interact with other writers and gain some encouragement!)
A skeleton draft allows you to get all your basic thoughts down on paper: characters, ideas, scenes, dialogue that have been swirling around in your brain with nothing concrete to latch onto, and once that is done, then you can go back through and fit in details, elaborate scenes, or perfect the technicalities.
While a skeleton may not need as much concentration as other drafts, a certain level of focus is still required. I created a routine for myself: get up, get ready for the day, grab some tea, and sit myself down. Only once did I walk away from the project when I came upon a scene I had no idea what to do with, but after some motivation from a few fellow writers on Twitter, I was back moments later to continue working.
As you are getting down your foundational ideas, it is important to have long, uninterrupted periods of time so those fleeting “aha!” moments don’t slip away undocumented.
The best part of writing a skeleton draft: It’s fun. In removing the stress and anxiety about perfecting every little detail, the freedom to write anything is an instant mood lifter. It honestly feels a bit like cheating, but in this one instance, that’s okay.
Some days will be better than others. You may not reach your daily word count…
…and your brain may start to muddle…
But in the end you’ll have a completed draft: rough around the edges, in the middle, in between the cracks, but it’s there.
So arm yourself with snacks, tea, coffee, music, find a quiet place, plop yourself down and just write.
“You can always edit a bad page; you can’t edit a blank one.” — Jodi Picoult