My Fast Draft Experience

Humorous Pictures

Whoa! Hello World! I feel like I’m waking from a two-week stupor. Monday, May 14 I started Candace Havens’ Fast Drafting class where we committed to a certain number of pages for a 2-week period, the goal being to finish your first rough draft as fast as possible. If you need convincing on the soundness of this method,  hear this confession from a former scoffer and why she now embraces fastdrafting.

I found out about it a couple of days before the start date and thought “No Way”. I waffled, I felt nervous about signing up, I had the same feeling I had before I agreed to do NaNoWriMo the first time: that the word count goals would be impossible to do. Trepidation, in other words. All day that Friday, the signup link kept taunting me, and finally I scolded myself. I realized that I should sign up precisely because it scared the heck out of me. I’d found out by doing NaNoWriMo that writing 50,000 words in 30 days was totally doable. What if it was totally doable to do it in half the time and I was just too chicken to find out? I’d also realized that I had begun to find excuses not to start my new novel idea STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY a steampunk romance set in 1890 Mobile, Alabama. So I signed up.

And I did it!

Last night at 9:22 I typed THE END and had written 56,267 words in 14 days!

It feels rather weird, and frankly surreal at this point, especially as I wasn’t allowed to read any previous days’ writing. It just happened so fast. And more so than the other times I’ve finished a first draft, I feel like I have this shiny new baby that popped out of me all of a sudden and I’m wide-eyed with amazement and want to show others–Look! That came out of me in 14 days!….

How I did it

I’m not the only one who did this either, there were many in our class hitting their goals of 15 or 20 pages a day (mine was 15 a day, but there were days I did more and yesterday I did 31!). I thought I’d share my experience in case any of you would find it helpful.

  1. I already had a rough plan of how the story would unfold. This was the first time I’d tried to write a synopsis and work out plot points ahead of time. I’d done this work the previous month, so it was all ready and waiting for me when I started this. I used Scrivener and already had scene cards made for a lot of scenes. When I ran out of steam in one scene, I just clicked to the next and started writing it and didn’t worry about transitions or anything. That can be fixed in revision
  2. As Candace advised, tell your Internal Editor to take a hike. I’d struggled with this already in NaNo and had learned how to do this, but it was hard in the beginning to get back in that groove coming off of a year-plus of just revising. I had to tell myself as I typed: “Yep, just used a cliché.” “Yep, that’s a bit of telling” “Yep, not the best way to describe that” “Yep, I just named an emotion instead of describing it viscerally” and kept typing. I looked on all these as placeholders that I’ll tackle and rework in revisions. That I was just getting the basics down and the pretty will come later. No one will see this draft, I also had to keep telling myself. I gave myself permission to write crappy.
  3. If I didn’t know something and couldn’t find the answer in two minutes of Google-Fu, I just typed in brackets things  like [look up how they did this] or [describe this better] or even used _____ for place names or names of things I didn’t know yet, and kept typing. I also used the Document Notes in Scrivener for each scene and typed out things I’d need to look up in revision for that scene. I also kept forgetting about her pet monkey and found myself typing “Forgot about Loki in this scene again! Fix”
  4. #1k1hr — Seriously this hashtag on Twitter I owe a serious debt to. I made many new friends that way too. I think almost every hour I wrote I used this tag. It really helped me focus and cut down a ton on my compulsion to check out what’s happening on the web. I knew that when that hour was up, I had to say my word count, and I really wanted it to be over 1000 so it made me push. One time I wrote 1858 words in one hour, but typically I averaged around 1200-1500. So what I found out was that I could knock out my page goal in three hours.
  5. I woke up 1/2 hour earlier to get in more writing time before work. I already had 2 hours and 15 minutes set aside for this before, now I had 2 hours and 45 minutes. Depending on how fast things were flowing, I could get between 8 to 14 pages done before I even went to work! Usually it was around 10 pages, which was so nice to be able to know that when I came home, all I needed was one hour to wrap up my daily goal.
  6. I think Candace’s idea to focus on pages instead of words is a solid one, psychologically. I remember agonizing some days during NaNo to squeeze out the requisite 1667 daily word goal because that seemed large somehow and so mentally I’d made it large and would think, okay just got another 50 words down. Now, since it’s by page, it just seems more attainable and it becomes so. Now you’re thinking, okay just one more page and ding another 250 words has been written.
  7. I worked in chunks of time, which built up my page count over the course of the day. Whether it was 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes, I’d set my wordcount tracker in Scrivener and type. For 1 hour, I had it set to 1000, which totally seemed attainable and usually was. I had no idea how many pages I’d written until I went to “Compile” at the end of my session and counted. That’s how I knew where I stood going into work, i.e. that I only had 5 pages to write when I got home, etc.

What I learned

  1. I learned to trust myself more. I also oddly found out that I’m a morning person (had always thought the opposite) and that I seemed more creative and inspired in the morning, go figure! (My mom probably just fainted from shock).
  2. I learned that I can’t plot my romantic story line too well ahead of time. I knew before going in that I didn’t know how it would play out. I had a solid action plot, but I didn’t know my turning points for my H/h. I just couldn’t picture it. What I had seemed too forced. So I trusted myself that it would unfold as I got to know the two characters better, and you know what? It did. They surprised me!

There’s more I’ll learn as the process continues. We get a two-day break and then we start Revision Hell, which will be like Fast Drafting, only applied to revisions. One of the rules of fast draft was to not reread what we’d already written, so I’m dying to know what I actually wrote! Kind of scared too! So I’ll write another post later to let you know how that process goes. I also want to do another when this is over about my conversion from full Pantser to a Plotser (half-way between a Plotter and a Pantser)

Anyway, there’s plot holes, there’s minimal set dressing, there’s cliches, but hey, it’s written and now I have something to mold into shape during revision, which is more than I had two weeks ago!

Have you tried Candy’s Fast Draft class? What things helped you?

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42 Comments

  1. Congratulations, Angela! I’ve always been in awe of authors who can consistently break the 1000wph mark. I plod along at a measly 500 wph. I know I can get faster if I give my internal editor a rest, but he’s a workaholic who refuses to take a vacation (case in point: I just rewrote this sentence three times).

    Reply
    • LOL, I hear ya. If it makes you feel better, when I pants, that’s about my average too (500), so it was a revelation to me having things pre-plotted.

      Reply
  2. OMG! Angela, this sounds so exciting…an terrifying at the same time. I want to try it. I’ll look into the class. Great job on reaching your goal!

    Reply
  3. I’m very impressed. And in awe. I’m going to go write. . . now. . .

    Reply
  4. Linnea

     /  May 28, 2012

    Congrats! I know how difficult writing that much in such a short time can be. For NaNo this year I wrote 84,000 words in ten days. That was a horrible experience and I don’t plan to do it again, though I know I can. I basically did the same things as you, so clearly they work for more than one person!

    Again, congratulations!

    Reply
    • Good God, that’s a ton of words in ten days!!

      Reply
      • Linnea

         /  May 28, 2012

        It is a ton of words. After that I burned out completely and only wrote 20,000 words for the rest of the month. But it was fun while it lasted. Kind of.

  5. Congrats on completing your draft. I know that feels soooo good! This sounds a lot like NaNo. I might have to try setting my daily word goal per page for the upcoming Camp NaNo and see if that makes the ‘OMG I have 553 more words to go yet?’ frustration go away when the story just cooperating.

    Keep us posted on the revision end of this. Getting through those at a reasonable pace has always proved much more challenging than pouring out a rough draft.

    Reply
    • Thanks, and definitely do the page goal. Coming from NaNo, it really made a difference this go around. On revisions, yep, though I’m one of those masochists that actually enjoys revisions. To me I find them fun. It’s my chance to move things around, play with it, have fun and shape it. Add layers of meaning, depth, etc. *rubbing hands together*

      Reply
  6. I’d actually heard of her class several times now. I’ve never signed up for once, since ‘fast drafting’ seems to be my normal mode of first drafts–at least for NaNoWriMo. But I’m weird like that. I write the first 50k in the first two weeks, take a week off, and finish the last 30k ish in the last week of the month. xD And yes, I’m a horrible person…most of my NaNos are pantsed. Though I’m now converted to a bit of a half-sie, since it makes Revision Hell easier. (Such a great name for that half of the class LOL)

    But…reading through your post is a bit of a sledgehammer moment for me. -wince- I tend to enjoy NaNo, like the drafts I get out of it and all that jazz…but resist that method every other month of the year. Plodding through, bemoaning the months it can take to push through one, whining about all the time I’m wasting when I have New Shinies I could be writing and about how I never get to take a break because it takes me so long…yeah, you get the picture.

    And I love the fact that she follows this class up with Revision Hell. Which I REALLY drag out. $20 for that class is a STEAL too. Now I think I’m going to cave and sign up for the July 7th class. I could use a kick in the butt this summer.

    And lol, don’t feel bad. I can’t plot the romance in my stories either. It needs to develop on it’s own. Me trying to pigeon hole it never turns out well.

    Reply
    • I know, I couldn’t believe how little it cost when I saw it!!! Now that I’ve done this, I don’t think I’ll want to do it any other way. I guess it’s like ripping a band-aid off– you know you got to, so just do it quickly so you can get on to revisions :)

      Reply
      • Well, and I don’t know about you, but I have a BLAST just whipping through the first draft. Seems to keep that first draft fun for me. Do you know if we’re allowed to work on a current manuscript or if you have to start new. I’ll be around 20k into one by the time July rolls around…would be nice to use it as a finishing boost for that last 50-60k. xD

      • You can definitely do one you’ve already started, unlike NaNo….

  7. Great job on getting it done! I have not tried the class, but I am currently working on my own first fast draft novel. I’ve done it before for short stories and novellas, but never a novel. I’m at 43K right now and my goal was to get to 75K in 5 weeks. I have 2 weeks left and things are looking up. I’ve used many of the same methods you have. It really works. Wish you luck with your Revision Hell!!!

    Reply
  8. Wow! I’m so impressed! :D

    Reply
  9. I tried fast drafting and felt like my story got lost. You are very inspiring here. I may have to try it again. Thanks, Angela.

    Reply
  10. Congrats! That is a huge accomplishment. I’m having a hard time getting started on my second novel. Maybe when I finish my edits from my editor, I will have to try something like this. Lots of work but it sounds like you made it through great! Thanks for sharing! Good luck in Revision Hell!!

    Reply
  11. Mary Roya

     /  May 28, 2012

    Congrats! What some great thoughts for me to use in my writing. I greatly appreciate you sharing this. Thank you.

    Reply
  12. Yes, this is exactly how I’m going when I’m in NaNo-draft mode (my day 1 is usually 10,000 words). It’s the making stuff up as we go along that’s the thing we’re trained to fear… and frankly, if you were launching an invasion or running a hospital that would be a bad thing. But writing a novel–nobody bleeds if you mess up, and it always can be revised. (which is one reason that some of us prefer fiction to reality.)

    Reply
  13. Congratulations! When my kids are older I’m going to challenge myself a lot more. Unless something shiny comes along and distracts me. LOL Seriously though, you are awesome!

    Reply
  14. what can I say? I’m in awe – though if not worrying about details, makes is quicker and it’s like stream of conscousness writing (you really have a thing for the 1800s and mobile alabama…)

    Reply
  15. Congrats! I’m taking Candy’s class in July which is both exciting and terrifying. :)

    Reply
  16. Congrats, Angela! I heard about Candy’s class but the timing was awful for me. I’ll have to find out when she’s doing the next class. Happy to hear of your success with it. Thanks for sharing your tips!

    Reply
  17. Very inspiring, Angela! I’d heard about her class from Sally (SJ) Driscoll. Maybe someday… :)

    Reply
  18. Pauline Gruber

     /  May 29, 2012

    Thank you for posting about this Angela! I attended Candace’s workshop on Fast Draft and also a separate workshop on Revision Hell at the DFW Writer’s Conference a couple of weeks ago. I plan to take them. Based on a comment I read on FF&P, her next session is in July. I will need to go onto her website and confirm. The idea of doing this scares the bejesus out of me, but I believe I’ll get a lot out of it. I look forward to hearing about your experience with Revision Hell. Also, I’ve been contemplating buying Scrivener. Did you teach yourself? Or did you take a class?

    Reply
    • Do it! I was scared too and that’s why I did it– wanted to go outside my comfort zone… Re: Scrivener, I taught myself, they do have some helpful tutorials on their site…

      Reply
  19. Wow, Angela, that’s amazing. I’ve been wanting to give that a try and you’ve totally motivated me. I, too, used to be a full on pantser but have moved to that middle road. Look forward to hearing about your revision process. :)

    Reply
  20. Great info! I love NaNo, since it’s where I discovered I’m a pantser, and that is a comfortable writing pace for me. I do like your notion about the pages rather than word count. Mmm. I’m going to ponder that one. I also liked what you had to say about Scrivener, and clicking over to other scenes. I may have to give that program a try. It’s always intrigued me. I also love the #1k1hr on Twitter — I’ve met some fun people that way, and when I don’t get distracted by social media (ahem!), it really helps me get the wordcount out, because of that accountability factor.

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  21. That was sounds terrifying and crazy and really awesome. Congratulations!

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  22. Congrats! Good luck with the revisions. (And I’m also a fan of Scrivener

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  23. Congrats! I’m a pantser, but I am trying to change into a planner. I also use Scrivener; it’s a great way to organize my thoughts. I’m going through the tutorials now.

    Reply
  24. Great job Angela! I can write fast, but it takes me forever to revise. I have to get 10 crits lined up on Critique Circle and stare at them. I don’t look at the clock, seriously. It may take me an hour to reconcile two paragraphs and rethink my plot line.

    In order to earn 10 people’s crit time, I had to put in hours critting my partners’ work. I oftentimes have 15-20 stories running through my head so I can give my crit partners useful insight into their stories. So yes, I love these creative sprints, but I cannot see how to speed up revision, nor should I. After all, I want to incorporate quality feedback into my work.

    I’m on a strict timetable to publish my second work before November so I can participate in NaNo again–only this time I will be distracted by launch and promo.

    Thanks for sharing your tips on how to sprint through a first draft! Don’tcha love the craziness?

    Reply
    • Yep, I don’t like sprinting through revisions either, that’s where the craft comes into play big time– I’m going to try something new (for me) on CC. Next week in the queue will be the synopsis for this story I just FastDrafted so I can have folks give me feedback on the big picture before I start revising story structure…

      Reply
      • I agree. I actually spent a month going through PlotWriMo (Martha Alderson’s program) to understand and develop themes behind the sprinted scribbles.

  25. That’s amazing, Angela. Congratulations! (Why yes, I *am* catching up on blog posts tonight, how could you tell? :) )

    I like your method of doing it with Scrivener, where you can leave your notes about how to change something. I know that I’m not as good about seeing how to change things once I have them down, so I’ve been a bit wary about not getting things close to right the first time. But maybe if I could leave myself “fix” notes, I’d be able to handle it. :)

    Reply
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