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Vague descriptions in first drafts

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Netardapope, Dec 2, 2015.

  1. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

    Hi! I've been writing my first draft for my WIP for a while now and I've begun to notice that when it comes to settings and what not it tends to feel like everything is taking place in some vacuum. I was just wondering if It's normal to have rough drafts like this or if this is just how I write. I've been reading a lot of Michael Moorecock recently so I don't know if it's some by product of that. Any advice is welcome!

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  2. Mark

    Mark Scribe

    There's no normal. I don't think many/any people have great first drafts; the thing is just to finish and get the big picture. And then go back and worry about it :)
    FifthView likes this.
  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    As a "world builder" I tend to have everything [okay not everything but a whole helluva lot] worked out before I write a word.
    This may explain why I finish relatively little...
    In my WiP I can tell you the colour of the sun-bleached parts of the curtains in my MC's bedroom [Blanched Almond btw... the curtains were a Sienna Brown 15 years earlier but time takes a toll].
  4. FifthView

    FifthView Vala

    That's a very good question, but it's something you'll have to discover on your own.

    Mark is exactly right: the thing is to finish it.

    I think it's helpful to know that no work is completely finished until it's on the market in its final form. This means that not a single word is set in stone until it's published (and not even then necessarily.) Between the first word you write for the first time and publication, you'll have many opportunities to change whatever you decide to change. You can add or subtract description wherever you like.

    So if you are unsure now, you can just finish a draft then go back over it later and make changes.

    If your question is really about how much description should be in a novel, or how descriptive prose must be...well, that's a different issue maybe.
  5. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

    Thanks, for all your opinions. I think I've been offered some renew insight about my first draft[emoji1]. Now the amount of description required for a novel is definetly something I'd love to see on another thread. Perhaps later. Thabks!

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  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    The lack of descriptive setting is sometimes called the white room syndrome. Everyone is talking (or acting) in an utterly undescribed place. Happens all the time.

    I have a theory about why. Want to hear it? I knew you did!

    When I'm writing a first draft, I'm telling the story to myself. I don't know what's going to happen, except in a general way. Same for the characters. So the first thing I want to do is to have them do those things that I know are going to happen. I want them to talk (which dialog is also often just explaining things). I'm so focused on just getting to the next scene, I am reluctant to stop and paint the roses.

    I try not to worry about it. I tell myself I will fill all that in on revision. And I do. But I still worry.

    Why, I don't hear you ask?

    Because in those descriptions, surprises await. There might be a bit of symbolism to employ. There might be some practical matter--a chair in the way, a door that wasn't there last scene. There might be an opportunity to flesh the scene out in one way or another.

    All that may sound great, but here's the thing. You knew there would be a thing.

    I'm not the same guy. On revision, my mind-set, my approach, my very gestalt (!) has changed, maybe in some unimportant ways but also in important ways. In particular, I don't always enter the revision with the same enthusiasm, maybe with the same creativity. So I worry that I've lost something. Lost an opportunity. But I tell you, on that first draft, it's awfully hard to make myself slow down and pay attention to those roses.

    I feel your pain.
  7. I think the first draft needs to be the skeleton of your story. Sure, it looks like a book, but at the core, it isn't. The following rewrites are the muscles and outer skin that makes the book a full fledged novel. It's ok to leave things vague in the first draft. The goal is get out the basic and most important details. Then you can go back and fill in anything you think might be missing.
  8. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

    It's a terrible feeling wanting your prose to be of masterpiece quality from the get go...leaves me empty sometimes. But I guess that's unfortunately how the cookie crumbles. I guess blissful ignorance really is the way to go .

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  9. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

    Have you been reading Elric?

    It's been a while since I read the series but I think it starts out describing the throne and people dancing. I thought Melnibone in general was pretty well described.
  10. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

    I think those were the later stories. In the earlier stories I felt that the descriptions were much more abstract and focused on the characters emotions rather than what was concretely occuring

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  11. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    I don't worry too much about making everything just roll off the tongue and be a delight to the reader. I just want to get down everything that is happening, even if the descriptions are bland or even cliche. Later on I'll go back and focus more on polishing that rough draft so it shines a little brighter.

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