This is particularly true in my case, as I have a simple, precise style and my first drafts are rather minimalist. (Are you that way, a fellow Hemingway? Or are you a Faulkner?)
But what does “going deeper” mean? What’s the difference between going deeper and adding fluff?
Writing is never easy, and it’s not something you can do alone: you will always need beta readers and editors to help you fill in holes and iron out the excess.
Still, there are general ways I find myself taking a draft “deeper” before I ever send it off to beta readers.
- I CUT DOWN ON WHAT FEELS SUPERFLUOUS. A book can only have so many words, after all, and you want all of them to count. Cutting things you don’t necessarily need puts more emphasis on things you want to draw attention to, as well as creates word space for you to “go deeper” where you need to add depth. Editing, for me as a pantser, is always a balance between adding and deleting.
- I CONCENTRATE ON BRINGING CHARACTER EMOTION AND MOTIVATION TO THE FOREFRONT. My first drafts usually consist of me getting to know who my characters are. Figuring out what makes them tick. Finally fully armed with that information when I begin editing, I can make those elements stand out clearer, especially in beginning scenes.
- I CONCENTRATE ON SETTING. I never give much description of setting in a first draft. Even my final drafts don’t have a crazy amount of setting description, but what is there serves a purpose: setting creates tone, it affects the action of the scene somehow, or it reveals traits of the characters responsible for the setting arrangement.
- I ADD SENTENCES HERE AND THERE TO NARRATION, EXPLAINING WHAT CHARACTERS ARE DOING/THINKING/FEELING, NOT JUST WHAT THEY’RE SAYING. What’s happening around my characters? How do they feel about what’s happening around them? I tend to lean toward lots of dialogue in fiction, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But realizing there are other things going on when some characters are talking, and giving more information about the background to my readers, is a great way to add layers to a scene and make it seem more real. The characters aren’t as much in the “bubble” of their conversation anymore.
- I ASK MYSELF: DOES THIS MAKE SENSE? Every plot has its background information as well as its ins and outs. Every piece of the story relates to other pieces and other events in a complex way. I try to ensure that I’ve given enough information so that those connections are clear to my readers. They need to be able to follow the story. If connections aren’t clear, then I know I need to provide a greater depth of explanation, whether through dialogue, a character’s thought process, or a narrated explanation.
So, that’s how I “go deeper.” Is adding depth to early drafts something you have to focus on too? How do you go about it? Do you have tactics and strategies I’ve missed? Please feel free to comment. This is a great topic, I think, for a discussion among writers for us all to pick up tips!
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