Are you lost in the words?

process Oct 28, 2022

While writing their drafts, many writers are way way, way too focused on the words.

What? Sacrilege, right? Let me clarify. 

Most writers start drafting by typing Chapter One. Then they do their best to scribble down as many words as they can, on as many days as they can. 

The more words per day, the quicker the draft is done, right?

And isn’t the draft supposed to be a hot mess that we fix later? Isn’t getting to “The End” our primary goal?

I do know this is all very common advice. But I say no.

When we draft, we are first and foremost drafting a story. 

The words of the draft don’t matter (yes, let them be a hot mess!) because we cannot possibly know what words are needed (or what scenes are needed, or what characters are needed) until we have done the foundational work of coming up with a story.

That’s what the draft is for.

I don’t mean we need to start with a turn-by-turn outline. I’m an inveterate pantser myself. But drafting is discovery, and we must know the broad outlines what we’re looking for if we expect to find it. 

What are we looking for? We seek a clear grasp of who the main character is, what central external problem or goal this story will depict them actively solving or pursuing, and what profound transformation this tough journey will have wrought by the time it’s done.

That is the story, my friends. That’s all it is. And it is everything.

I feel strongly about this topic because I know how writers suffer because of it. Lost in the words, they struggle to finish endless drafts that keep sprawling into chaos. Or they  spend years trying to wrangle a book into shape by moving words around, rather than grappling with story.

In this talk I explore how easily writers can get lost in the words—and tell you what to do instead.

Have you ever gotten lost in the words? Leave a comment and let me know.

Good writing is my jam! Put me on the mailing list, please.


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