Reblogged from The Novel Smithy
Why You Should Write a Skeleton Draft
Halloween is only a few days away, and I have skeletons on my mind.
No, I don’t mean spooky skeletons—though my neighbor’s Halloween decorations do make those hard to ignore. Instead, I’m thinking about skeleton drafts, and how they can make planning and writing a novel so much easier.
You see, I’m taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge come November, and one of the main writing tools I plan to use is a skeleton draft. But what exactly are skeleton drafts, and—more importantly—should you write a skeleton draft of your own?
Finding Ways to Create Momentum
Perhaps one of the hardest parts of NaNoWriMo—or writing a novel in general—is maintaining momentum. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your story when writing your first draft and, with NaNoWriMo in particular, this problem is compounded by all the outside commitments that come with the holiday season.
Worst of all, once you fall behind, catching back up gets much harder.
You see, once you miss a few of your writing goals, your brain will begin creating mental barriers that make it harder to write. This is actually a major element of procrastination. The more negative feelings like stress and anxiety you feel towards a certain task, the more your brain will fight to avoid that task—even if it’s something you genuinely want to do.
So, how do you maintain your momentum? Well, I wrote an article about six ways to overcome procrastination earlier this month, and one of the key things that linked those tips was the importance of finding your creative flow:
“In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
Essentially, this flow state is the mental zone you reach after breaking past your mental barriers and tapping into your creativity. Best of all, it makes it much easier to maintain your momentum as you write—because you’re “in the zone,” you’re truly enjoying what you’re doing.
However, the big drawback of creative flow is that it’s something you need to tap into at the beginning of every writing session. So, how do you do that consistently throughout all of NaNoWriMo? Well, the answer is with a skeleton draft!
What is a Skeleton Draft?
Sometimes called a draft zero or a skeleton outline, skeleton drafts are basically a shorthand version of your first draft that you write scene by scene. While there are no hard and fast rules, most skeleton drafts cover these things:
- Major characters
- The conflict of the scene
- A basic setting
- Key events
- The outcome of the scene
This short synopsis allows you to quickly work through the main events of your scenes before diving into your actual first draft. More importantly, this synopsis isn’t meant to be pretty—instead, skeleton drafts are a place for freewriting, without concern for grammar or prose.
It’s this freewriting that makes skeleton drafts such an awesome tool.
You see, like I mentioned previously, the fastest way to lose your writing momentum is to overthink your story and get overwhelmed. We need a low stakes way to get ourselves writing without the pressure of perfectionism, and skeleton drafts provide exactly that. Through your skeleton draft, you get the chance to mentally map your story without ever having to put “real” words on the page. Likewise, you’ll have a better idea of where your story is going, meaning you can jump into writing and find your creative flow more easily.
Really, even if you’re a die-hard pantser, skeleton drafts are simply too useful to ignore—and they also mesh with a whole variety of writing styles!
Specifically, there are three types of skeleton drafts you should consider:
- The Pre-Written Draft
- The In-the-Moment Draft
- The Hybrid Approach