I recently finished the main draft for book three of The Wishing Blade series (the main draft, in this case, being a little bit more polished than a rough draft, but not quite ready for beta-readers). The process I took for writing this one was a bit different than some of my other books, so I thought I would take a moment to discuss the process.
Normally, when I write, I write semi-chronologically… for the whole plot. I may skip around at times to write scenes that I feel particularly enthused about, or to bypass scenes that are giving me difficulty until the rest of the rough draft has been written, but I write in plot order.
This time, however, I focused on writing one point of view at a time. The third book (currently untitled) has four points of view, compared to the two in Magic’s Stealing (Toranih, with a few short scenes from Shevanlagiy), the three in The Shadow War (Daernan, Toranih, a few scenes with Shevanlagiy… and technically there’s four POVs because there’s a single scene with Siklana). Distant Horizon and Glitch each have only one point of view (Jenna and Tim, respectively). There’s also Little One, which has three primary points of view and several brief scenes with a bunch of other characters, but I was jumping all over the place when writing that one.
The process for writing each book is going to be different.
That’s okay. Some books are harder, some are easier.
But let’s take a closer look at my most recent experiment… writing one point of view at a time. While I haven’t sent book three out to beta-readers yet, and there may be other advantages and pitfalls that I’ve missed, I have already noticed a few key aspects of the process.
- Character goals and motivations are easier to keep track of.
- Since you’re writing one point of view all at once, you aren’t distracted by the other characters’ motivations. You’re focusing entirely on one character and what that one character wants. Thus…
- Character arcs are smoother.
- Their emotions are easier to follow. You can see when their emotions are shifting, and they aren’t reacting to what the previous point of view character was feeling. It’s easier to isolate them, thus…
- This allows you to clearly see what major players are doing.
- Each character feels more fleshed out because he has his own wants and needs, and is acting with an individual character arc.
However, this particular character-oriented process comes with a few pitfalls.
- Occasional lapses in timeline.
- When you’re writing these different characters, you may find that something that needs to happen in the morning happens in the afternoon, or days before or after an event should occur. Having a general outline that shows what each character should be doing, and when, can help alleviate this issue, as can leaving some time frames in which the events’ timing is not solidified to one point on the plot. I was pleasantly surprised at how all four POVs managed to come together for book three… and that was probably because I had a rough outline, which I wrote after one character’s POV was already completely written.
- Story flow may not be as smooth.
- When writing the plot in a linear fashion, it may be easier to see the ups and downs for the reader, not just the character. You may run into problems where the scenes are jarring, with one character coming out of an extremely tense situation into a scene where other characters are in absolute calm. To counter this phenomenon, you may want to look for moments of irony. If one character believes one thing and the opposite is true, this may work in your favor. You can also play with parallels, in which we see how events are lining up between characters more than they know. You can place alternating POVs in such a way as to create moments of tension, in which one of the characters has discovered a great danger to another character (or is the great danger), and we know that the character’s POV that we just shifted into is under a threat they don’t suspect.
- Story plot might be forgotten.
- When focusing on the character, rather than the plot, you may find that the characters have decided to go an entirely different direction than you had planned. This can be good… it provides twists the reader might not expect, but it can also be bad… (On hearing my plans for the plot of book three, my husband asked, “But where’s the Shadow War?” Needless to say, I’ve made a few notes which will need to be addressed in the next round of revisions). You may find that the external plot has shifted away from what your reader expects to read. This can sometimes be prevented by having an outline, or it can be adjusted scene-by-scene once you have the rough draft written.
- Your story might get bogged down with subplots.
- You may find that writing all of the scenes from a single point of view means that you place more importance on a character than you necessarily should. These subplots decide to take over the story and run away like the horses of a wagon in a gold heist… (sorry… my mind is stuck on “frontier” and “mining” at the moment). Once you place them in the story with the other characters’ POVs, you might quickly realize which scenes are bogging down the plot and which ones need to be moved. Beta-readers may also be helpful here, if you’re having a hard time picking out the problem spots.
Overall, though, I found doing each character arc individually to be an effective method for writing multiple points of views when each of the points of views were largely separate from the other. The characters are contributing to the main plot, but what they do doesn’t directly affect the others… yet. Still, readers can see that a larger scheme is unfolding, and what each of the characters are learning should create tension for the other characters, especially as the web of the plot slowly weaves them back together.
I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂
Have you ever tried writing a story from each individual point of view before placing everything together into one, mostly-cohesive draft?
6 responses to “Thoughts on Writing – Writing a Rough Draft, One Character at a Time”
Pingback: Writing a Rough Draft, One Character at a Time – I Suck at Writing
Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
Check out this helpful post on the topic of writing a rough draft from SBibb’s blog.
Thank you, and I’m glad you found the post helpful. 🙂
Hi, great post and very useful considering the way I’m writing.
In fact I recently shared my thoughts on this method of writing, in my own blog post: https://uninspiredwriters.com/2017/08/20/writing-your-novel-out-of-order/
This method works well for me, but the cons you listed are all very valid!
Awesome, I’m glad it was useful. 🙂
Yep, I’ve done some of the things you mentioned in your post, too. I’ve often written scenes out of order (like I mentioned above with Little One), but writing from one single point of view does have its advantages. 🙂