Writer In Motion: Week 2

WIM Draft 2: The Ugly Duck Draft

Part 1


Now comes the fun part! The Ugly Duck draft!

Those of you who know me from Twitter know that I paint. Sometimes I find painting and writing have a lot in common.

When I paint, I usually start by sketching some kind of reference photo, but more often than not, I’m combining pictures in my mind before I start sketching. It looks okay when I’m done. Not bad. I mask off my tricky whites, reserve the bigger patches. I usually have an idea of my color scheme. I grab my scratch paper to test colors. Then the paint goes on the page. Instant mess.

My nice, gorgeous line drawing suddenly goes from not-so-bad to the finger-painting of a three-year-old. It looks bad. Really bad. Like chuck-‘em-on-the-burn-pile bad. I’ve learned not to do that. There’s nothing wrong with my sketch or my painting. It’s just the Ugly Duck phase.

Writing is the same way for me. I’m taking my pencil-sketch story, and painting it. It’s rough because it’s work, and it’s not pretty, but it’s also an important part of my process. In a second draft, I want the details, emotions, impressions, and perceptions to stand out like every sharp corner and knobby bump on a very ugly duck. This draft is where my characters, my themes, and my writerly quirks are going to poke out and jab me right in my eyeballs. This is my vision draft.

To create my Ugly Duck draft for this story, I’ll rewrite the thing as many times as it takes me to lay down all the colors. That will probably be three to five times, based on previous stories. It’s still going to be rough going into the critique partner round, but that’s okay. Once I have my Ugly Duck, I know where I’m going.

That’s important because advice can be hard to use if I don’t know what my vision is. I find that this is the single best way to make every critique work for me, improving my response to feedback, my use of that feedback, and how I find the very best feedback for me and my work.

Now, some writers get their first draft in the Ugly Duck stage on the first try. How do they do it? Do they plot every moment? Some of them do. Do they pants fearlessly on the edge of disaster? Some of them do. Personally, I think getting a really good first draft comes with experience. Experience takes writing. Lots and lots of writing. Great! That’s something I can do and like doing.

So, love on these Ugly Ducks. Every Ugly Duck is a step on the path to achieving clarity of vision, whether you pants every minute or plot every detail.

This week, I will post one of my Ugly Ducks on my blog and in the WIM forum, along with the time it took me, the word count, and the thoughts that went through my mind as I worked from one redraft to the next. The process I have for redrafting is to read the initial draft through quickly, toss it aside, open a new document and draft without thinking. It’s very fast, very stream-of-consciousness, and messy. With novels, I usually do a hybrid of this: read a scene or chapter, and then redraft it, or just redraft the scenes where I know something needs to change in terms of character, setting, theme, voice, or mood. But by redrafting instead of revising at this point, I won’t quite lose sight of my vision overall. Instead, I’ll develop it, and be ready to revise before and after feedback.

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