December 26, 2012

Writing Club Wednesdays: How I Fast Draft

Good morning, Misfiteers! I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas had a lovely day filled with lots of book and writing presents. (You did, didn't you? Tell me about them in the comments, I don't celebrate Christmas and want to live vicariously.)

December has been quite an awesome month for me, writing wise. In November, I decided that I wanted to fast-draft my next novel this month - yes, in just one month - and so far, I'm on pace to succeed. So I thought I'd use this post to talk about Fast Drafting - What it is, why one would do it, and how I'm getting it done.

What is Fast Drafting?

I first heard about the concept of fast drafting from this post by Anne Greenwood Brown over at Writer Unboxed. In her words, fast drafting is "..about quickly putting a story on the page from which the painstaking work of rewriting and revising can begin." To me, then, fast drafting means careful planning to purposely draft much more quickly than you otherwise would. If this is your first-ever draft, maybe you want to see how quickly you can get all the words of a story down. 

But why in the world would you ever want to Fast Draft? 

I'm sure you writers out there could draw up a whole list of reasons you'd want to Fast Draft. I had a few, but the major one was this: I'm lucky to have a 3/4 time job working with college students, and part of my arrangement with my employers is that when classes aren't in session, I'm not working.  That means I have summers and December off, but since my kids are home during the summer, December is the only solid block of uninterrupted writing time I have all year long. I wanted to take advantage of it this year to get a real volume of work done.

And let's not forget that one month out of every year, thousands of writers around the world Fast Draft for National Novel Writing Month - and most of them acknowledge that attempting fifty thousand new words in one month is nothing short of insanity. In other words, some people like to fast draft just for the challenge.

Okay, so how do you do it?

There are many different methods - Anne's post outlines hers. 

Anne says it can't be done if you're a pantser, but I think that as long as you have some idea of who your characters are and where your story is going - even if it's just a few paragraphs of gathered thoughts - you can Fast Draft.

In my case, I filled in a beat sheet for novels, then  drew up a semi-detailed chapter-by-chapter outline (about 4,000 words for an 80,000 word draft) based on that. In Scrivener, I created a different section of the document for each part of the beat sheet, and set my target progress bar to that many words so that I could keep myself in check, though this would be pretty easy to achieve in any word processing program.

Does it work?

I've been pretty successful with it! I planned to get my 80,000 words done in three weeks. Subtracting weekends (since my kids are home all weekend and I can never write then) that meant that I'd have fifteen writing days, which meant I'd need to get about 5,300 words done on average each day.

With that plan, I should have been done before Christmas, when my kids are out of school for days on end and drafting is an impossibility. But of course, life never goes according to plan. The second week of December, the stomach flu hit all four of my kids in rapid succession, and I unexpectedly lost five of my planned drafting days.

So, on December 26th, and after twelve solid days of drafting, I've just passed up 60,000 words on my draft. That's exactly 5,000 words a day, on average. I could have done better, but I could have done much, much worse, too. 

Warning: It may not be pretty.

On the days that I fast drafted, I did almost nothing besides write. I took my kids to school, sometimes stopped at the grocery store, and then came straight home. Only the household and personal stuff that absolutely had to be done got done. Translation: I grocery shopped, but didn't put the non-perishables away; laundry didn't get folded; I showered, but didn't do my hair or makeup. 

My house is filled with piles of (clean!) unfolded and unhung clothing, my kids have eaten pasta or chicken nuggets more nights than I'd like to admit, and my husband is now afraid of talking to me unsolicited. 

BUT. It's only this one month a year, and at the end of it, I'll have a nice big pile of words to work with.

So, tell me - Have you ever Fast Drafted? I want to hear all the details - Why, When, How, and what came out of it! (You can leave it in the comments or link up to your own post - I'm sure our readers would love to see different methods.)


Caitlin R. O'Connell said...

I think this might be fun to try over the next few weeks that I'm home and don't have any schoolwork. The problem with that is that there's always so much to cram into winter break - all the books I didn't get to read during the school year (and yes, the ones I got for Christmas!), friends to catch up with, and so on.

Still, I can try and pound out this draft whenever I'm not trying to juggle all the other things, I think. Right? :)

Jaye Robin Brown said...

Never fast drafted, but I can typically write a first draft in 3 months or so, 5000 words per day is definitely more than I can do - so kudos to you, Leigh Ann! But I also don't have little ones at home.

Bridget said...

Thanks for this post. I think I'm going to give it a go. :)

Elizabeth said...

This is pretty much my technique as well. It's allowed me to write (almost) 3 books in 5 months (not quite done with the 3rd yet). When I fast draft, I get out as much of the character's personality and motives, and plot points as possible. Everything else simmers a while and I go back and fill it all in and tweak. :)

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

I did something like this for the first two novels I wrote. They all but flew out onto the page. Each successive novel has gone a little slower, but the quality of each has also gone up. Practice makes perfect, but it's also made me a little more of a perfectionist. I still need to revise, of course. No first draft is perfect, but I like to think that I'm finding a balance between speed and quality that I can live with.

I was most productive during summer break last year, but I only have one kid, and she's in middle school, so she's not only relatively self-sufficient, she's also pretty helpful around the house! It does get easier as the kids get bigger!

Tamara said...

Wow. I had no idea there was a name for this. I totally did this with my latest WIP. It was awesome and I ended up with a chapter by chapter outline of my book--which I've never had before. I think that will make it much easier to write. Now all I have to do is get started!

Lyla said...

Congrats on your success in fast-drafting, Leigh Ann! I usually fast-draft, too, but in the summers which is when I have time.

Veronica Bartles said...

Everything I write is fast-drafted. I go into writing binge mode when I start a new project, and I basically lock myself away from everything and write until I'm finished. That's what works for me. (When I try to take my time, the drafts are much sloppier, because I have a harder time staying with the voice.)

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