I draft fast, and I think it’s the one thing I get asked by other writers more than anything else, so I thought I’d write up what works for me.
Fast drafting is definitely not for everyone, and it means one messy first draft. I know a lot of people who write much slower than I do, but in the end, it takes us both about the same amount of time to get our books ready for agents and editors. They spend more time drafting. I spend more time editing/revising/shifting.
However you work best, here are my 8 tips for getting that first draft finished.
Turn off the internet. Seriously. Just turn it off. Set a timer for at least 40 minutes, and TURN OFF THE INTERNET.
Don’t be afraid to skip things you don’t know. The number of people named XXX in my rough drafts is a LOT. The number of times I leave myself little notes like – SOME KIND OF CAR HERE – before jumping right back into action and dialogue is a lot. DON’T GET BOGGED DOWN IN THE DETAILS.
I’m not at all afraid to write out of order. This is actually why I started writing novels to begin with. The moment I realized that not everyone begins their novels at the beginning and ends them at the end, I thought- I CAN DO THAT!!! And then I did. Only it was a little trickier than that…
Sometimes I’m writing in the middle of a scene, and suddenly the guy behind the coffee bar has a line of dialogue, then another one. Now I’m thinking, hmmm, maybe he owns the place. Maybe he’s kind of a kooky guy. Maybe he’ll be this kind of all-knowing, all-seeing guy who puts the pieces together for my MC. But maybe not.
Do I stop?
Try to figure that out?
I tuck it back in my brain just in case I need it later on, and continue writing the scene. This is something I’ll think about on my next run or when I’m doing something mindless like dishes, sweeping, laundry…
I reach a point where I’m not sure how the scene ends. That’s okay. I sometimes know what happens next so I can skip and write that. I can do the rest of this later. I type something random like –
I’m pretty sure this scene isn’t done.
The thing is, you and I, and everyone who has a few books under their belt, knows that I’m going to read this MS what feels like a million more times. Maybe on my next run-through I’ll find the perfect thing to say. Maybe later on I’ll write something that needs to be foreshadowed in this scene. The thing is? I don’t have to know that now.
I totally skip ahead and write the good stuff. First kisses, endings…
The chances of those scenes staying the same by the time I get to them is slim to none, but I write them anyway. It keeps my momentum, and for me, momentum is so important when I’m drafting.
Eventually, I end up at that scene I wrote a long time ago, which has been completely out of place until now. Sometimes that scene fits, and sometimes it doesn’t. Was it wasted?
I learned more about my people, and found one way I DIDN’T want something to happen.
If I feel my fingers slowing down, I’ll make a Pinterest board, or a song list, or just find pictures that look like my people, places that have the same feel as my setting, write lists of character traits until something I see or hear sparks my imagination.
AND FINALLY –
I’m not afraid to set a book aside that’s not flowing. I have no problems setting projects on the back burner, unless I’ve already sold them and need to finish. That’s another blog post.
Really, a first draft (for me) is all about basic plot points and really knowing my characters. Very often I don’t really know what the book is about (you know, that deeper meaning) until the book is finished, and I’ve had some time away from it. <– Time away is totally the best self-editing tool by the way. Reading out loud is close, but not quite the same.
So, that’s how I get draft one DONE.
Any other tips out there?