Framework Now, Embellishment Later

I’ve reached a point in my writing where I need to change some of my process.  I’m writing just my first draft, but my scenes have a lot of detail.  I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I really didn’t notice it until someone pointed it out (Thanks, Diane!).  Yes, the scenes have been taking forever to write, but I thought it was more of a lack of good ideas.  Of course, now I realize most of those ideas I was searching for were more the decoration than the house frame.  First draft should be more about getting the plot down.   

Part of this, I’m sure, is because I tend to be very visual – I can “see” the scene in varying degrees of detail as I handwrite a scene.  Then, I add more stuff on the fly as I’m typing it into the computer.  Thus, I end up with an abundance of information not necessarily needed to keep the story moving.

Solution?  I need to focus on the underlying structure of the story and leave the embellishments for later.  Easier said than done, I think.  Maybe I’m afraid of losing details if I don’t write them all down now.  I suppose I could just jot down a few notes on a hardcopy of the scene or keep a notebook, then I can decide during revision if they are important enough to add.   

Do you have this problem in your writing?  How have you solved it?

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8 comments on “Framework Now, Embellishment Later

  1. Diane says:

    I think you misunderstood what I said. I would never say don’t write detail. Detail is good. But it must be the detail the POV character can see while struggling to reach his goals.

    I work out the plot before I write the scenes. I write my scene sentences (from HTTS) with protag, antag, conflict, setting and twist for most of the story. I read the next scene sentence, close my eyes and picture the scene, paying attention to only what the POV character can see in the scene while taking action to solve a conflict. I can see all the scene details but the POV character can only see what is before him as he takes action. This is the detail I write. Once I finish the scene, I may be surprised with side tracks that the char takes. I look at the LUC outcomes. If it is good, then I make up new scene sentences and add to the plot, while keeping in mind goalposts needed to be reached for the next conflict to happen, as I work through the plot to the solution.

    Does this make sense?


  2. ekcarmel says:

    Okay, I see I’ve made a bit of a mess here and worded things too strongly.

    I don’t intend to get rid of all detail. However, I think I put an excessive amount of detail into a first draft and it’s both energy- and time-consuming.

    Please tell me if I’m wrong, Diane, but this is what I got from your comment on “9”: I need to stick to the main part of the scene as stated in the scene sentence and not stray off into other details of the girls’ daily lives, such as the snippet about the Opening of the Gate Ceremony. If that’s what you intended, then I got it.

    However, I also notice a tendancy on my part to include every little detail I think of, particularly in descibing people and places, that aren’t really needed until revision. I think that learning to strip down my writing in this way is a sensible thing to do. If I spend so much effort on these things in the first draft, but end up cutting them later, I’ve lost a great deal of time and effort.

    What I meant by “first draft should be about getting the plot down” was that first draft should be writing the main scenes of the plot, the underlying structure, without the extra embellishments. I guess I should have been clearer.

    Thank you for giving me a glimpse of your writing process. I wish I could get most of the scene sentences for my story done ahead. While I have them for a few middle scenes and the ending, I can only seem to get 3 or 4 scenes planned ahead of what I write.

    I hope I’ve explained myself better now. But if I missed something, please let me know.


  3. Diane says:

    OK, I understand what you are saying about writing a lot of detail in first draft that may be cut in revision. -)

    The best way I can think to explain what detail to write is if the reader is standing just behind the POV character seeing what the POV character can see, or if the reader is looking through the eyes of the POV character and sees exactly what the POV character sees as well as hears the POV character’s thoughts and feels the emotions of the POV char. Showing all the detail of the surroundings is woven through the need of the POV char, the antag, the sidekick, etc as each struggles to fulfill their need by fighting the conflict.

    In your previous example, 9, what was the need of the MC? What was the conflict stopping her from meeting her need. If her need was to escape the service, then she would have been looking for exits and waiting for the right moment to run, while she watched the details of the rituals. The twist could have been a hand on her shoulder just as she took her first step to leave the group.

    Having 3 or 4 scene sentences ahead is still good. It allows for changes as you think of them, especially if you work the changes using LUC. But I have found I must know where the story is going or I will never get to the end, so I have the climax to the conflict planned early. This way I complete the first draft in 3-4 months, then let it sit for a while (a month or more) before I start revision. I don’t work out the ending until half way through the novel, using the ending lesson as Holly taught.

    Also remember, first draft is not set in stone. During revision, I get to add more scenes, more conflict, more detaiil, change the ending, etc,.I think of the first draft as the skeleton and the revision as adding muscle, etc. If you go back over HTTS lessons in planning (which I do for every novel I plan) you can get more scenes planned using conflict in your worldbuilding, characters, etc.

    Hope this helps. 🙂


  4. ekcarmel says:

    Yes, it does help.

    Thank you for all your wonderful insights. As a newbie, I need all the help I can get.


  5. Lately, and probably because I’ve doubled the amount I’m writing every week, I find when I close my eyes and just type I get through the scenes a lot faster. I don’t look at the screen to see what I’ve typed until at least a few hours later.

    Since you’re referring to scenes from your novel, I would advise against adding anything “extra” until you’re finished with the entire first draft. Trust yourself! If the story is good, if it’s worth writing, you won’t lose the details because you have their bones on the page already and the soul of the story alive inside you.

    And please take this advice with a grain of salt because each of our processes is highly subjective and what works for me might not work at all for you. But, using this new technique, I’ve been able to finish at least one short story (of at least 1,000 words but usually closer to 4,000) per week for three weeks now.

    That reminds me, I need to update my novel’s word count because those scenes have been rolling off the fingers just as quickly.

    No matter what – just keep writing!

    P.S. I’m stoked to see you finally posted a picture. You look exactly like I imagined 🙂


  6. ekcarmel says:

    Wow – just close your eyes and type? You must be a really good typist and incredibly disciplined (NOT look at what you write? Until HOURS later!). Sounds interesting, though. Maybe I’ll give it a shot. Same with trusting myself with the details.

    BTW, woo-hoo! Gettin’ all those words done! I’m in awe. Your technique is definitely working for you.

    Thanks about the picture. It was high time, I guess. Too bad it took me so long to figure out how to do a gravatar. But I got it done!


  7. LOL Closing my eyes was the best way (so far anyway) to stop my inner critic. Otherwise he’d jump in whilst I was typing and make suggestions that were more editorial than inspirational. Plus, with my eyes closed, I’m completely in the scene – inside the character and her (or his) world, which has really helped, too, I think. You know I have a problem with perfectionism and thus far this is working for me.

    But even if you’re not a good typist, you’re going to go back through and re-read and edit when it’s done anyway, right? Why block your creativity while you’re “in the zone” by re-reading or, worse, hitting the backspace and re-typing? Just write it out then go back. You might be surprised by the great little nuggets that surface and make the scene even better than you planned.


    • ekcarmel says:

      I’m thinking this may be one of those things you have to practice a while before you get the hang of it. I tried it this morning, and decided I might have to blindfold myself! I completely get your reasoning. It just might take me a while.


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