This past November for National Novel Writing Month, I experimented with a discovery draft of my second novel, Sequoyah Road. The basic principle of a discovery draft is that as you are writing, you toss every idea and every piece of research you find (articles, timelines, images, etc.) directly into your manuscript. It's like dumping bucket after bucket of sand into a sandbox, knowing you will come back and build sandcastles with it later.
Embracing the discovery draft concept was freeing for me in many ways. As I got more comfortable with the process, I began pasting entire sections of research right where I needed them in the manuscript. I wrote instructions telling future me how a scene should begin or what I wanted a chapter to accomplish. I typed conversations without any punctuation, attribution, or dialog tags—just letting my characters talk to one another. I ended up with a sandbox full of more than 50,000 words in less than a month.
Since the end of November, my discovery draft has sat idle, collecting virtual dust. I've spent my days on final copy editing, cover design, and initial marketing for my debut novel, Henderson House (which publishes August 1, 2023.) Last week, I finally returned to my Sequoyah Road sandbox and now that I'm sitting in the middle of it with my bucket and shovel, I have to say— it's a mess!
I'm not sure where or how to begin making sense of it all. As a writer who is typically more plotter than pantser, I'm almost horrified at how enthusiastically I embraced the "throw it all in and sort it out later" mantra of the discovery draft. So, like a kid in a sandbox, I'm going to start digging, making piles, and filling buckets. Stay tuned for the sandcastles.