Category Archives: Kylie Quillinan

First Drafts: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

My first drafts are ugly. I have friends who talk about plotting and planning for months before they ever write a word on a new manuscript. I can’t see myself doing that. I’m getting better at plotting but even so, it doesn’t seem to matter how much I plan and ponder, dream and think, my first drafts are still rough.

For me, a first draft is largely an exploration of the plot. It’s also about me trying to get to know the characters. It’s not until I’ve gone all the way through a draft that I start to get a handle on the sub-plots and themes, and it’s only then that I start understanding my characters. So my first drafts are perhaps more what other people call planning.

I’d love to be one of those writers who can complete a manuscript to satisfaction in just a couple of drafts. It usually takes me about three drafts to really nail down the plot and it’s only then that I can start worrying about the details – sensory, emotional, visual. This is when I start looking at issues like what time of year events occur in and what the weather is like. For some reason, my characters are always trapped in an “unseasonal heatwave”. Here in Australia, we have very hot summers so perhaps this is the reason for my obsession with heatwaves.  At about the dozen draft mark, I start feeling comfortable with what I’ve written and it’s really only then that I start to feel like I have a manuscript that’s getting towards being half decent.

I’m currently working on the first round of edits for a manuscript that I meticulously – for me, at least – planned prior to writing. I even used index cards – lots of them – and I thought I did a much better job of laying out the plot than I ever have before. However now that I’m finally re-reading this draft for the first time, I’m realising all that planning has left me with a first draft that really isn’t any better than what I usually produce. There are still massive plot holes, contradictions and things I just haven’t figured out yet.

So I’m wondering whether all that planning was a waste of time. Perhaps this is just the way my brain works. Maybe I need to go through that process of laying the story out, in the form of a first draft, to get my head around it. Perhaps what I’ve been thinking of as a first draft is really my planning stage. Other people use index cards, character notes, and synopses for planning. I guess I’m doing much the same, only mine is 80,000 words long.

So I’m wondering whether I’m approaching this the wrong way. All this time I’ve been telling myself I need to plan better, but perhaps what I’ve been thinking of as a first draft really is my planning process. It’s just a little longer than what some other people do. But then again, maybe I’m kidding myself.  Am I just being lazy and avoiding planning properly because I find it so difficult? That’s the problem with writers, isn’t it.  We can convince ourselves of just about anything by justifying it as our “creative process” instead of laziness.

So tell me: what planning process do you go through prior to writing your first draft?


Sunday Reads: 1 July 2012

We hope you enjoyed Publishing Month as much as we did.  Stayed tuned for our next theme month – details to come in a few weeks.  In the meantime, here’s 10 reads worth your time:

 Aaron Hildebrandt talks about how writers need to be experts in so many areas in Writing is Hard.

Zoe Winters discusses earning the title of writer in Labels: Writer vs Author.

Cyndi Pauwels talks about the need to recharge in All Good Things.

Charles Passy examines a few movie industry gimmicks that writers should be aware of in 10 Things Hollywood Won’t Tell You.

Susannah Breslin offers Why You Shouldn’t Be A Writer.

And Sarah A Hoyt responds with Why You Should Be A Writer.

i09 has The 22 Rules of Storytelling, According to Pixar.

Writers’ Village discusses The Laziest Way To Find a Winning Plot.

Looking for some feedback on the structure of your writing? Check out Pro Writing Aid.

Upcoming convention, plus a short story contest: CopperCon 32.


Missed any Fictorians articles this week?

Guest post by Gini Koch – Why I Like Traditional Publishing

Frank Morin – Is It Still Worth Trying To Get An Agent?

Guest post by Brandon Sanderson – Brandon Sanderson Dishes On Publishing

Sunday Reads: 24 June 2012

Well, Publishing Month is drawing to a close.  We’ve got just one week left to go.  Stay tuned for our  final Publishing Month guest bloggers, Brandon Sanderson and Gini Koch.

In the meantime, here’s 10 reads worth your time:

Rachelle Gardner talks about what to expect from your agent in Understanding Your Agent.

Also on the topic of agents, Red Sofa Literary lists some basic mistakes writers make when approaching an agent in How to “win” over an agent.

Lois H Gresh discusses the necessity of submitting your work in Rewriting Treadmills: Traditional Publishing versus ePublishing.

Philip Goldberg talks about the benefits of traditional publishing in Who Needs Publishers? We All Do!

Writers In The Storm discusses how a writer’s business needs should affect his choice of publisher with Gettin’ Busy With It.

Dean Wesley Smith dispells a few common myths in The Secret Myth of Traditional Publishing.

The Intern discusses Five Signs You’re About to Land an Agent.

At The Art and Craft of Writing Creatively, Cheryl Shireman guest blogs about the prejudice against indie writers with Dear Traditionally Published Writer.

Rainy of the Dark looks at Just What Percentage of Book Sales are eBooks?

Ashley Barron discusses lessons learnt during the indie journey with A Self-Publisher’s Dilemma.


Missed any Fictorians articles this week?

Moses Siregar III – So, You’re Considering Indie Publishing…

Nancy DiMauro and Colette Vernon – Women Writing the Weird: Publishing in an Anthology

Joshue Essoe – Editing Saved My Life. And It Could Save Yours


Sunday Reads: 17 June 2012

We hope you’re enjoying our Publishing Month as much as we are.  We’ve had some great posts already from both Fictorians and guests, and there’s more to come, including Brandon Sanderson and Gini Koch.  In the meantime, here’s 10 reads worth your time:

Vickie Britton looks at Compiling A Short Story Anthology for Print or eBook Publication.

Rachelle Gardner discusses whether self-publishing and agents can mix in Self-Published Author Seeks Agent.

Laura Hazard Owen sums up the recent BookExpo America with 5 Things the Book Industry Will Be Talking About Next Week.

Victoria Strauss has a warning for those thinking about jumping into self-publishng with ePublishing Revo: It’s A New Electronic Publishing Service, But There’s A Catch.

Karen Schechner looks at how indie bookstores are responding to the growing self-publishing phenomenon in Working With Self-Published Authors.

Rich Adin asks Should Editors Certify That an eBook Has Been Edited?

Confused about creative commons?  Check out Matt Enis’s article Ebook Crowdfunding Platform Launched for an explanation.

Nail Your Novel muses about Where Will Self-Publishing Get Quality Control?

Dear Author lists some Publisher Experiments I’d Like To See.

Publishing Crawl discusses The Not-So-Secret Backdoor to Publishing.


Missed any Fictorians articles this week?

Guest poster S. James Nelson – Abandon All (Unreasonable) Hope

David Carrico – I Haven’t Given Up

Guest poster Laurie McLean – Literary Agents in the New Publishing Era