Fast Drafting

How many words do you write each day…500, 1000, 2000 or more? I love the thrill of watching a first draft come to life. The more I learn about the craft of writing, the harder it is to stare at a blank page and figure out what to write…the rules all scream so loud, they muffle my creative side. There’s plenty of time for editing, but if I can’t lock my internal editor away for a bit, I’ll never have a first draft to whip into shape. That’s why I love fast drafting so much. 

Here are some fast drafting tips:

  • Do as much pre-planning as you can before you start your novel—which can include plotting, characters sketches, schedules, maps, research, etc.
  • Leave notes for yourself every time you leave your computer—some exciting things that should happen soon, and an idea of where to start when you come back. You can even type the first sentence or two in the next chapter (although you might get sucked in and finish writing it before you leave).
  • Create a block of uninterrupted writing time. An hour is great, but if that doesn’t work for you, a half hour, twenty minutes, even ten minutes several times a day can help you reach your goal.

                  * Go to the bathroom, grab water or your favorite drink, then turn off                         the phone and put a do not disturb sign on your door if you can. Set                         a timer and write, write, write!

                  * Don’t go back and revise your novel—this is a fast draft and your job                       is to keep going. You can put notes to yourself inside the text, plus                           keep a notebook of things that pop up that you need to know, like                             new character traits, more in depth setting info, etc.

                * If you think of something you need to do that isn’t related to your                             novel, quickly jot it down so you won’t forget, then get back to your                           novel ASAP. It isn’t going to write itself.

               * See if anyone wants to do a Word War with you. My favorite kind is                          when you share your current word count, start at the same time, and                        write, write, write! At the end of that period, you check in with                                  everyone and share your word counts. This also can work if you all                            promise to time yourselves for a set amount during the day and then                        share the results. You can even have a day long Word War! Plus, you                        can offer a prize to the winner—it could be a critique of a certain                                number of pages, their name as a character in your book, or anything                      you all agree on.  

If you’d like some extra motivation to write your novel ASAP, it’s almost time for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Don’t worry, it’s not too late to prep for it. Years ago, I had just finished revising a middle grade manuscript and was brainstorming the synopsis when I suddenly had a spark of an idea for another novel. The ideas started flying faster and faster, so I rushed to my computer to jot them down. It was the 7th of November, and I had already missed a week of NaNoWriMo. I didn’t think it would be possible to complete the challenge, but I figured the extra motivation would help me write faster than I had in the past. After jotting down some plot ideas and character sketches, I started typing, typing, typing…and couldn’t believe that I had completed my first draft (and more than the 50,000 words to win the NaNoWriMo challenge). Wahoo! It was such an amazing feeling.

Teachers and children who love to write: there’s a fun and encouraging NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program that kids can do on their own or as part of a class project.

Even though many middle grade novels are less than 50,000 words, I use the incentive to help flesh out my story and overcome weaknesses. Yes, a lot of it gets cut…but it’s still an incredibly helpful part of my process. Here are some ways you can do it for your novel:

  • Think about the area you often lack in your drafts. I’m usually dialogue heavy, but scarce with setting. So during NaNoWriMo, I make sure I zoom in closer to anything my character sees, hears, smells, etc. A lot of it gets cut during revisions, but some gems pop up that I probably wouldn’t have without this added challenge to myself.
  • I allow backstory to flow into my fast draft, which helps me get to know my characters even better. I start an orphan file to put in everything I delete during revisions, but if I have lots of great back story, it deserves a file of its own, in case bits of it could be tweaked and worked back into my novel.
  • If you reach the end of your novel but are a bit short of 50,000 words, think about what you’ve written and what might be missing from your manuscript—then write any scenes that come to mind. Not happy with the ending? Then write an alternate ending. And beginnings are so hard to nail, especially in early drafts. You can add some brilliant new beginning fast drafts, too.

I’d love to know what does and doesn’t work for you when fast drafting a novel.  

Whatever methods you use to fast draft, don’t forget to have fun. Writing a new novel is exciting, and it’s incredible what gems you can create when you stifle your internal editor. Don’t strive for perfection or try to use all your amazing editing tools. That will only tongue-tie your mind. Let the words flow—then you can switch gears, dig in deep, and start editing. Happy writing!

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Mindy Alyse Weiss
Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades.
1 Comment
  1. The biggest fast-drafting hurdle for me is . . . writing fast. 🙂

    I’m horrible at turning off my internal editor and often do plenty of sentence-by-sentence editing and revision as I go. Unfortunately, just as you mentioned, this can “muffle my creative side.” To overcome my internal editor, something I’m now experimenting with is spending “writing” time talking into a good ol’ cassette recorder. I start making up a story/scene on the fly, in a sort of just-for-me improv. I can riff that way for a little bit and see where it leads me. THEN I go back and actually write it down, allowing my internal editor to have his way.