Writing Process: First Draft Re-outlining and The List of Badness


While it’s important that I begin with an outline, once I begin drafting, my outline is fluid.  I frequently find places where the outline isn’t specific enough, and I have to stop and break it down into further beats so that I can write scenes more effectively.  I sometimes find that I’ve gotten the pacing of the character arcs wrong, and I need to change the order of things or add new scenes to make the threads pull together.  Often I think of new and better ideas as I go, and I’ll edit my outline to reflect them.  I also often delete the already-written parts of my outline as I go, so it functions as a to-do list, growing shorter as my novel grows longer.

I try to revise as little as possible as I go.  Sometimes I’ll realize something I’ve already written needs to change.  If it’s quick and important, I might go back and change it.  But if it’s involved or unimportant or both, I’ll instead jot it down on my List of Badness.  This List includes everything I know I’ve failed at in the draft, everything I’ve left out, everything I’ve done badly, everything I know is a problem.  It’s going to be my revision guide for my second draft, where I get rid of all the problems that I know about before I bother other people for serious reads.

There are a few kinds of critiques, though, that I find helpful at this early stage.  So I’ll get those before I move on.