Swoon Author Chani Lynn Feener: First Drafts – The Final Frontier
I love first drafts.
Seriously. I love them. Everything about them, in fact. Honestly, if I could only write first drafts for the rest of my life, and either have someone else clean them up, or have them be magically spectacular upon initial completion, I totally would. If you’re a writer yourself, or just an active part of the community, you might have heard the terms Plotter and Pantser before. I am the latter.
If you haven’t heard of these terms, let me give you a brief description. A Plotter is someone who—shocker—plots out their project beforehand. Basically, they plot and make sure they have a general, or concrete, idea of what they’re going to write from beginning to end.
A Pantser does the opposite. They write “by the seat of their pants,” so to speak. If you know me in real life, the fact that I am a Pantser might actually surprise you. In my every day, I like to have a plan. I even bullet journal. Sure, I’m fine with altering said plan—maybe even throwing it out the window on the day—but I still want to have one, just in case. In case of what? Who knows. Zombie apocalypse? Alien invasion? Shark attack? Eh. Doesn’t matter. I need to know what I am doing. Sometimes weeks in advance.
Unless I’m writing. Then the less I know, the better.
When I write a first draft, I generally start with very little. I like to keep it simple, and open, so that my characters can figure things out for me! Amid Stars and Darkness started out as an idea about a girl who knows aliens exist, but doesn’t want to read too much into it. I knew she would be forced into a situation with them, and that this would more than likely happen by her being kidnapped. As far as plot goes, however, that was it. The rest of it, the Kints and the Vakar and even Xenith, all came later as I was writing the book.
I do like to start knowing at least the two main characters—the male and female leads of the book. For this one, that was Delaney and Ruckus. Before I sat down to write out page one, I chose names for both of them, and decided basic information about their pasts. In the initial draft, Delaney was already in college, which changed during my first edit before I even submitted to Swoon. She was somewhat estranged from her parents, but came from a rich family. Ruckus worked for his military in some way, shape, or form. He was tough, and frustrated by his job—whatever that ended up being—and would be the one to accidentally kidnap Delaney. I didn’t know how or why he’d do this, just that he would.
When I sat down to write the book those were the only two characters I had. Mariana, who we meet before Ruckus, wasn’t someone I’d planned or expected. That’s just how the book started when I began, with her and Delaney. The second she mentioned she was obsessed with aliens, her being there made sense though. And Olena? She appeared and I instantly distrusted her.
Side note: In case you were wondering, yes, I am one of those authors who thinks and speaks about their characters as real people I met on the street. Is it weird? I’m sure. Does it bother me to admit? Nope, because I get to annoy my friends and family with stories about people they have not, and will not, ever actually meet.
Anywho, if you’ve been reading closely, and you’ve already read the book and fallen in love with a certain someone, you may have caught on already to the fact that only Delaney and Ruckus were planned. You might be thinking, did she forget to mention someone seriously important?
Thanks for reading.
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Trystan really wasn’t planned though. I certainly never imagined he’d hijack the story the way he did, or that he would consistently impose himself on me and my beloved couple! One second, everything was going great, Ruckus was telling Delaney about her mistaken identity, she was appropriately freaking out, then BAM! Someone mentions the Zane is there and I’m like—also appropriately—who now? True to his nature, Trystan just forced his way in, took up a good chunk of the plot, and demanded a more important role.
The thing is, if I’d attempted to plan this and him, it never would have happened. While I’m writing I keep a notebook handy so that I can take notes as I go, and eventually, the plot starts to develop in a way that I can sort of see where things are headed and how to get there. If I start writing with all of that already set however? I get bored and end up killing the project before I even reach chapter three.
That’s why I love first drafts so much! Because, for me, they’re an exploration of lands unknown. I can go into writing them the same way I go into reading a new book: completely (or pretty much anyway) in the dark. There’s an excitement to it, and a discovery that draws me in, and ultimately, this process gives me surprises like Trystan!
However you write your first draft, whether you’re a Plotter or a Pantser like me, I hope you’re always excited about your characters and your plot—and that you get a pushy, persistent guy/girl like Trystan of your own!
Thanks for reading!