Friday, May 20, 2011

Do it WRITE from the beginning? I think not.

I've spent so much of my writer-life time worried about whether I am a panster or a plotter that I probably could have written six novels by now.  Add in the time that I spent agonizing over word choice in one of my many first-draft works in progress, and I probably could have finished them all. 

A recent discussion with a crit partner about making characters three-dimensional led us down the path of how to flesh out our characters without dragging down the action.  She sent me the opening of a WIP and it's great...the conflict is laid out right away, and it's clear who the protagonists are, and they are very likeable.  It's going to be a great story. 

But what does the hero look like?  Does he have a mane of golden waves begging for hands to run through it?  Gawd, I hope not. Maybe his hair is perfectly appropriate, but mussed as though he's been running his own frustrated hands through it, and our heroine has the completely inappropriate desire to smooth it into place. 

What does the heroine think when she sees him for the first time?  Hopefully she doesn't immediately have diaper-changing floods of arousal, but does she feel anything physical when she sees him?  A rush of hot and cold adrenaline when she realizes the tight spot she's in, and with whom she's in this spot ? 

Clearly this stuff is important...but when do you put it in the story? I tend to be in such a hurry to get the action down that I forget the details, and the details are the spice.  Otherwise it's just, "There's this guy, and he meets this girl, and they have some problems, but they work it out and live happily ever after." As a writer, do you add detail right from the get-go, the first pass, or do you go back and flesh stuff out later?

I ask this because my perfectionist self says that if I am going to do something, do it right.  And that somehow translates to doing it right from the beginning.  I get so bogged down in perfecting my first few chapters that I run out of enthusiasm until the next great idea crops up and I start all over, trying to do it perfectly from the beginning. 

And don't get me started on rearranging plot details as I go! 

Have a great weekend, and go out and write something!   


  1. I'm certainly no expert and still figuring it out myself, but I try to reveal details as they feel natural for the narrative. If you think about it, whenever you look at your husband, you don't categorize his features in your head. So I'll usually stick to one mention of the hair/eye color, and keep it simple for the rest of the story. I'm a reader who envisions my own character traits anyway, despite what the author may have described.

  2. Well, with my husband, mental descriptions of his hair are a non-issue anyway, LOL!

  3. What Summer said about revealing traits at what seems like a natural time.

    As for when I write most of my, both? I add as much as I feel like in the first draft, and try not to sweat it. That way, if I feel the need to change things in a later draft, it's no big deal.

  4. I think that I fall in the camp that keeps physical details to a minimum. And yes, it's essential that they are put in where they feel natural, not just because you feel it's expected that they be there by page 3.