Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Key to Speed Drafting

Taking a break from my usual Reasons for Requesting or Rejecting, let's talk about speed drafting. We are, as we all know, only a couple weeks out from the start of National Novel Writing Month. The month of November in which every writer loses their social life. Everywhere, aspiring and established authors sit down in coffee shops or libraries or the isolation of their own bedrooms and try to crank out 1,667 words a day. Its a pretty daunting task, especially if you're not used to speed drafting.

But for me, speed drafting is the only way to write a book. Its just how my mind works. I tend to be very ADD and a book that sparks my fancy one month might lose my interest in the next. As such, I need to set goals for myself or I'd never finish writing a book. For every MS I've written, I have always written the majority of the first drafts in one month.

In fact, for the third year now, I am doing Octowrimo in addition to Nanowrimo. Its become an odd tradition now for me to have a 'Two book Autumn'. The first year, I started writing a novel in October and ended up finishing it because I wanted to start fresh on something for November. The second year I just got so excited about one new idea that I wrote it before September was out. I did Octowrimo after that and ended up getting too burned out to do Nanowrimo that year. And this year its Octowrimo again. I've done a lot of speed drafting so let's look at a few tips for how to crank out words fast.

1) Know Everything
Yep. Just know everything ever. Just kidding. But you do have to know everything about your world in characters. Establish everything in your head and get a good feel for the story you want to right. The better you understand your characters, the better they'll speak to you when you have to write about them. Your character might surprise you in the midst of the writing process. That's just what characters do. But you can at least TRY to know everything about them. Knowing your characters will especially help the dialogue flow. And knowing your world will make descriptions go a lot faster.

2) Outline
Seriously. I know that there are probably a lot of pantsers out there and if you absolutely, one hundred percent, can't outline, then don't. HOWEVER knowing the basic trajectory of your story can be very useful. For one thing, it influences how you write your beginnings, but more importantly, it gives you the ability to skip around.

For example, say you're having a lot of trouble writing this one scene. Its just not flowing at all. You're not in the mood. But there's this scene later in the book that you REALLY want to write at the moment. If you've outlined and you know where this scene fits in the story you can jump ahead and write that one. You can go back and fill in the blanks later. As long as the draft gets done, who cares what order you write it in. You're going to end up editing the crap out of it later anyway. And speaking of which...

3) Turn off that Inner Editor
Your speed drafts will be crap. This is a fact of life. The MS I'm writing right now? Hate it. Its awful. The dialogue prattles on for too long and there isn't nearly enough description. I use 'was' maybe ten times a page. I haven't even bothered to check on my punctuation.

But does that matter? Nope. Because the first draft isn't about making it perfect. Its about getting the thing down on paper. Your inner editor will be tempted to fix things. 'PLEASE let me go back and rewrite this chapter,' it will say. But you have to squash that voice down. Accept that your first draft will be crap, and you can let yourself go.

4) Find your Writing Time
In the end, none of this matters if you can't carve out a decent writing time. Find the place and time of day when you are most productive and lock yourself in. Inform your friends and family that you love them dearly but that you have to write. If they know you, they'll probably understand. And hey, if you write fast enough, you'll have time to spend with them later. But be intentional about when you are going to write. Don't dawdle and drift to youtube to watch cat videos. Sit down and get yourself typing. Because at 1,667 words a day, you'll have a novel by the end of the month. And that's pretty cool.

So are you prepping for Nanowrimo? If not, you really should try it out. Speed drafting might not be for you but at least you can say you tried it. And most people can't even say that. Happy typing!


  1. I love this! Permission to write crap for the first draft has been so liberating to me. I am amazed that you've written two books each autumn, though! Wow. Makes me feel lazy.

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