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I Guess This Is Happening?: When Your Characters Take You on a Journey

Where do I begin? My first drafts are messy. They are a stew of fully fleshed characters mixed with unforgettable settings (at least for me… they won’t leave my brain!) and a plotline that continues to evolve as the characters do things I never expected them to do.

No joke. I often have no idea what scene is going to happen next, because (surprise to nobody) I’m not a plotter.

I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve read Save the Cat and have spreadsheets to drill down my acts. I’ve tried spidering out a plotline from synopsis to chapter to scenes. And every time I try this, I put down my outline and say, “I’m done!” Literally. I’m done. I don’t go back to it as the creative process is stripped from me and I no longer have the urge to write.


Even selling on proposal was brutal for The King’s Questioner. My outline was one page of “Well, this might happen!” and then it didn’t. Because here’s the thing, my first draft starts with characters who jump into my mind exactly how they are, and they lead me on a journey of which I know the beginning and the ending and not much else.

For example, in The King’s Questioner Luna popped into my head as this silver-haired, silver-eyed, silver-eyelashed, silver-tattooed girl. Why? How? I had to figure that out as I wrote. Cirrus was afraid of the dark. Why? How did that play into his character? I had to figure that out too!

And then halfway through my first draft, I introduce elements that needed to be added back to the beginning. My poor editors got notes of, “Hey, I know I added this on page 200. I promise it will get explained earlier!” But I didn’t have time to go back because I was already racing a deadline to finish the draft in time.

I used to be early on all things in my life. Now I’m lucky if I’m only a week late on deadlines.

Editing is hard. (More on that to come.)

Drafting is fun. It’s my VERY favorite part of being an author. And I know I’m an outlier. Most authors I know hate to draft!

What about you? What’s your favorite part of writing?

The King's Questioner goes on sale January 14! Don't forget to add it to your Goodreads shelf!

Author spotlight

Nikki Katz

Nikki is the author of The Midnight Dance, her debut young adult novel, replete with magical realism and Gothic settings. …

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