Drafting: Discovery to Truck

The process of moving from a discovery draft (which is just writing to see what the story’s about) to a truck draft (which is an early draft that isn’t great but is probably good enough to publish if I get hit by a truck) is mostly about deconstructing a scene by beats to see what the hell is in there, and revising that to what’s supposed to be in there, once I’ve gotten a good overview of the act or entire book. I’ve done about a zillion drafts of the first breakfast scene, but they were all discovery drafts. It’s time to get serious about this sucker. For one thing, this scene over 3900 words and for another, it goes nowhere. it’s an overwritten, wandering, bloviating mess.

Here’s the rewrite analysis:

First, I need to break the existing discovery draft down by beats, units of conflict, which in a discovery draft are often just topics of conversation or thought with no conflict. That’s bad. This shows me what I have to work with:

1. Nita regroups at the diner.
TP that starts the scene: Nick joins her. [Starts after 301 words. That’s more than a page.]
2. Conversations with Sandy
3. Nita asks him about Joey.
4. They talk about food (eggs).
5. Nita asks him about Joey.
6. Nick asks her about her parents.
7. Nita asks him about Joey.
8. They talk about food (french toast).
9. Nita asks him about Joey.
10. Nick explains what he’d doing there.
11. They talk about food (bacon).
12. They talk about Grandpa’s bar.
13. Nita asks him about Joey.
14. They talk about food (lunch).
15. They talk about Mr. Lemon.
16. Nick explains about his agents.
17. Nick has Joey’s cellphone.
18. Nick proposes a partnership.
Final turning point: Nita says no and leaves.

Some things I know up front:
• I like Nita hammering him about Joey. I don’t like that it doesn’t escalate and that Nick is ducking the question for awhile and then just answers it. That makes no sense.
• I like the food talk because it’s the way they start to bond, because it shows Nick’s changing, because it gives them something non-antagonistic to talk about, because it’s going to be a motif throughout, slopping into metaphor occasionally. But this is too much and it’s not relevant to the scene itself.
• This scene is supposed to be the first move in the partnership, but I don’t get there until the last beat. Nick should be pushing for that from the beginning, using what he knows as a bargaining chip.
• One of the things that I need to hit harder in that earlier scene in the bar is that Nick can’t quell Nita. He gives her the look that shuts everybody else up and she just laughs. This has to be the second beat of that move after the first time in the bar: he’s a con man trying to con her into a partnership and she’s just not having any of it. I need it to end in a draw, and then subsequent scenes will make it obvious that they have to reconsider, that Nick is going to have to take her as a partner and not a dupe, and that she’s going to have to treat him as an equal even though she thinks he’s nuts/a conman, but this has to be the first move. This entire scene has to be the first move.
• This also has to intro Sandy and Daphne and the diner as a setting.
• This has to move the relationship another step closer to the start of the romance, foreshadowing it. (The food bit does a lot of this.)

So:
Nita comes into diner, sees Sandy and Daphne, sits down.
Scene Begins. Nick joins her. (Scene begins when conflict begins.)
1. Nita asks about Joey/Nick has questions of his own.
* Food: Eggs
Nita returns to Joey question, pressing harder/Nick offers a trade, info about Joey for info about her parents. Something in the exchange makes him decide to con her into a fake partnership.
Things Go Wrong Turning Point. Nita knows he’s conning her, she’s even more suspicious.
* Food: French Toast
2. Nita goes along with the trade, but presses harder: Why are you asking these questions, what’s going on? Nick explains his problem.
Point of No Return (fake it till you make it)Nita decides that even though he’s nuts, she’ll treat him as sane to get this kind of info. .
* Food: Bacon.
3. Nita helps him out with Mr. Lemon info, tips him to the historical society to get him on her side, then hits him again about Joey.
Crisis Turning PointNick recognizes that she’s formidable when sober, suggests real partnership.
4. Climax Nita says no thanks, goes back to work.

So the scene is Nita questioning Nick, realizing he’s conning her, deciding to play along to get info, taken aback when he stops conning and offers her a real partnership, and rejecting the offer.

That is much tighter.

Now, what’s all that food doing in there?

I know I want it in there because it establishes the beginnings of the relationship and the motif, but neither of those things have anything to do with what the reader wants, which is story. So if I want to keep the food, I need to make it relevant.

Nita loves food. It’s one of the few things she’s positive about. Her goal in this scene is straightforward: Find out what Nick knows about Joey’s death. His goal is much more complex: get information about Joey’s death, his missing agents, clues to the Hellgate, and probably most important, who and what Nita is, without alerting her to the fact that he suspects she’s not human.

So Nita asks about Joey, but Nick’s distracted by the eggs. Why? I’ve already got that he yawned the night before, so he’s becoming human again. Do the eggs awaken a memory? Or did the process of becoming human just give him a sense of smell and taste buds? And does being with Nita have anything to do with that? Not in a supernatural sense, but just that he’s trying to connect to her to con her? Trying to understand who and what she is? It’s his first clue that she likes to talk about food, so that’s probably the key: he’s going to use the food to establish a bond.

He proposes the trade, and Nita plays by telling him about her mother, but then Nita rebuffs his con and asks about Joey, and he asks about French Toast to keep the conversation personal. Then he gets caught up in the French Toast.

He tells her enough about his job to draw her in; when she says, “I’ll pretend you’re telling the truth if you tell me what I need to know,” he knows he’s halfway there because if you pretend to believe something, you start to believe it, so he reinforces it with the bacon talk, and then gets caught up in the bacon.

The final beat is her giving him good information and him returning the favor, and that makes him realize that the smartest thing he can do is stop conning her and go into partnership.

She turns the partnership down and leaves, and he eats the rest of her French toast.

That’s closer.

The stuff that has to go: Grandpa’s bar and the cellphone and most of that first 300+ words

The stuff that has to be cut back: the food and the explanations of Nick’s job.

So next, break this down into four sections and rewrite for my first pass at a truck draft.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Always do the discovery draft FIRST. Analyze when you have the discovery draft of the scene and the overview of at least the act done so you know what the scene is about and what you should focus on. Discovery first, fix later.

16 thoughts on “Drafting: Discovery to Truck

  1. I seem to remember he’s starting off with salad in one draft (or talking about salad) – maybe you could mirror the food to whether he’s conning her/ offering her something real. For the con, he’s faking enjoyment of food/ just eating salad or whatever. By the end, when he’s offering something real, he’s genuinely enjoying/ eating the good stuff.

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    1. That was a throwaway line from Sandy: “He’s been eating salads for lunch.”
      Breakfast pretty much is the breaking point for him. He has a Nita burger for lunch. Of course, that scene has been cut so who knows?

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    1. Any that are still up will be under the WiP tag at http://www.jennycrusie.com.
      Go to the “About” tag in the navigation banner, go down to “Works in Progress” and there should be a menu to the right that has drafts posted.
      I’ll be putting up both the last discovery draft and first truck draft sometime soon. I’ll link it here, but you can also find it by going to “Works in Progress.”

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  2. 300+ words is Nita regrouping. Not that many words. She regroups at the speed of light? Unless I get sudden insight, takes me longer.

    Appreciate what you’ve shown here. Writer working.

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    1. A page is about 250 words. So that’s a lot.
      Nita comes into the diner, sits down, and tries to pull her thoughts together, regroup after a very weird night and only four hours of sleep.
      Then Nick sits down and the conflict/scene begins.
      So it takes more than a page for the scene to start. Nope. Nick should be sitting down by the second paragraph. So Nita has to either regroup faster, or she has to do it while dealing with him. Probably the latter.

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  3. I like the latter option. If Nita is ordering and Nick is interrupting, but getting increasingly interested in the food, it’s a bit like Nita is seducing him without knowing that’s happening. Plus it sets things up for each of them to be interrupting one another, while focused on something else (mostly the food, it sounds like), which I think would be a good way to demonstrate their state of being and their underlying goals, especially if the interruptions provide a chance for each of them to pull themselves back from reverie. Because I kind of like reverie in books — it’s the best way in my opinion to get a handle on the person inside their public persona, which gets enough play in dialogue and banter.

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    1. Nita isn’t ordering, her order’s already in, she’s a regular. I think rather than “interrupting,” it’s “being distracted,” but that may just be semantics. There’s no reverie (internal monologue?) because they both need information from the other and they’re trying to get it.

      I’m actually not a fan of internal monologue, although I use it all the time. I think action is a much better reflection of character. We lie to ourselves all the time, but our bodies always reflect the truth.

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        1. Yes.
          Emotion lives in the body, and the body can’t help but express it, even in the smallest ways. The more you try to repress it, the more your body expresses that repression.

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  4. Oh I agree!! ” We lie to ourselves all the time, but our bodies always reflect the truth.”

    While I’m sad to see that Paul Ekman’s theories have been largely overturned by new research findings, I can’t help but think there must be some validity to the concept of expressions reflecting deeper feelings. Even if not as specific as the micro-expressions were thought to be.

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  5. I love that they are bonding whether they want to or not over the food, it makes their eventual relationship so much more believable.

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