I fast-draft all of my manuscripts. It’s much easier and much less stressful for me to write several thousand words a day for 5-6 weeks than it is for me to scratch out 1k a day and constantly be thinking, worrying, and problem-solving about my book for six months. I love fast-drafting because it allows me to get in the zone and stay there.
If you’re doing National Novel Writing Month along with so many of the rest of us, you’ll be trying to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Here are some tips and tricks from a perpetual fast-drafter for getting those words on the page:
1) Get in the mindset. Chant these to yourself until you believe them: You can’t polish a blank page. You can’t edit what you haven’t written. A first draft’s only job is to exist; if it exists, it’s a perfect first draft. Leave editing for December.
2) Prepare your lifestyle. Make a few meals ahead of time and put them in the freezer. Or, you can swap cooking duty with a friend or family member nearby; offer to cook a few nights for them in Dec. if they bring over a meal or two in November. Stock your pantry and freezer with items that won’t spoil so you can cut down on trips to the store. Consider hiring a neighbor kid or local student to come help out with basic house cleaning for an hour a week; I’ve done this several times, and for $50, I don’t have to vacuum or clean the bathroom for a month. Those are valuable writing hours.
3) Re-prioritize writing. For fast-drafting, writing has to not be the thing that gets done once everything else is done. Unless I have guests coming over, when I’m fast-drafting, the house chores suffer. And that’s fine with me. Writing has to come pretty close to first to get a project like this done. Explaining to your family what you’re trying to do and how much work it is is a great idea; consider asking them to help pull the extra weight by taking over dishes, walking the dog, doing laundry, making breakfast so you can get right to writing, etc., in exchange for a fun family party or outing in early December.
4) Create productive ways to give your brain a break. Buy a book that’s a treat– one you’ve been dying to read. Reading helps me to get out of sentence patterns and word habits I get stuck in when fast-drafting, and it’s a blessed relief from hearing my own voice on the page. Working on outlining or research tasks is also a great productive break. I work through a copy of Donald Maass’s WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK every time I draft. When I can’t write scenes anymore, I switch to the book and work through a section. It’s also a great thing to take along for sitting in waiting rooms, working on during a car trip, or anytime I have 5-10 minutes to spare but can’t get writing done. I also keep a file of research tasks– look up this, Google that, find out X crazy detail– that I can work on when I can’t write anymore. Doing these things lets me write scenes when I have the time and energy, and it gives me productive things that don’t require the same level of mental engagement when I don’t.
5) Get rid of your Kryptonite. If it’s Candy Crush, swear off. If it’s Netflix, stay away. Facebook or Pinterest? Have your spouse/a friend change your password and ask them to let you on once a day. Any activity where you aren’t aware of time passing means you’re likely to spend more time doing it than you meant to. Usually way more. It might be your “braindead activity” but unless we’re very different people, those things won’t refresh you and they’ll simply be a black hole in your time.
6) Reward yourself when you meet your daily goals. Maybe the reward is reading time, or chocolate, or new music. I recommend rewards that don’t require tons of time– television, social media time, games I like, etc., tend to mean I stay up too late enjoying my reward, and my writing time the next day suffers. So make sure your reward doesn’t make your writing suffer. A great reward for me is swapping pages with a CP or friend who is doing NaNo– reading each other’s pages quick (no crits, just reading for fun) and squealing over fun details and awesome tension is incredibly motivating. When so much material is being created so fast, the urge to share it and have it heard because IT IS SO AWESOME gets overwhelming. So, share it! There are few better rewards than having a friend love it, too. (But again– no critiques, no editing. Just OMG LUV and high-fives.)
7) Remember that unless you don’t start, you can’t fail. That’s the great thing about NaNo. You can “win” by writing 50,000+ words, but you can’t really lose. If you write 10,000 words, you have a fantastic start on your book, plus all the planning and time required to actually put words on the page. You’re gaining, you’re making progress, you’re creating something every day you put down words. No matter how many words it turns out to be, creating isn’t failing.
Are you doing NaNo? Do you have an awesome project in the works?