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?