5 Tips for Fast Drafting
First of all, let’s define what I mean by fast-drafting—it’s a somewhat new term in the writing world (or at least, I don’t remember encountering it when I first started studying writing in 2010), but the concept’s an old one.
Write the first draft of your your book as quickly as possible.
And some of you might be thinking, “Isn’t that what all writers want? To finish the book as quickly as possible?”
Yes, but here’s how fast-drafting differs from regular drafting:
You don’t edit-as-you-go.
You start Chapter One, and you keep going without going back to edit, until you type The End.
You’ll probably end up with a slightlier-messy draft than someone who fussed with it along the way, but you’ll also end up with a finished draft. No more blank pages to write, just messy ones to fix.
It’s not for everyone—some authors enjoy crafting each sentence carefully, many are invigorated by the blank page and potential. For others (*raises hand*) getting the first draft of the story out is painful! Fast-drafting allows us to get the worst part over with so we can start on the part we’re better at: revising.
Another benefit of fast-drafting is that you’re unlikely to fall not that author cliché of the ten-year novel. You know who I mean, right? Those writers who’ve been working on their masterpiece for a decade? I’m not saying it’s not a masterpiece ... I’m just saying it’s not done.
If you do want to try your hand and fast-drafting, here are 5 tips:
(1) Always know what you’re writing next.
You don’t have to have a full outline to fast-draft (though I'd recommend it), but it’s helpful to at least know at the start of your writing day/session the scene(s) you’re working on. That way when you get to the end of one scene/chapter, you won’t risk the dreaded “what next?! ” In order to fast-draft, you should already know “what’s next” for that working session, even if it’s just a loose scene idea jotted on a sticky note. If your goal is to write 5k words in a day, know what scenes will fill the 5k. If your goal is to write 2 chapters in one sitting, know what both of those chapters are before you start. The key to fast-drafting is minimizing those pause-points while writing.
My first finished draft usually has 100 instances of the letter TK. After I type The End, the first thing I do is a Search/Find for TK.What does it mean? It’s publishing shorthand for “to come.” As in, content that will be coming/added at a later date.
I use TK most often for names I can’t remember off the top of my head. That way I don’t have to pause in my writing to go back and look up the name of that restaurant, or the heroine’s sister’s name, etc. Pausing to go back and find a forgotten name sounds harmless, but the second you pause, you lose your rhythm, and invite all sorts of other distractions.
I’ll also use TK for character description details: her long TK hair slipped out of its ponytail as she ran, or his TK eyes narrowed in suspicion.
I also use TK if I’m not positive what month or day of the week a particular scene takes place within my story's chronology.
For those of you wondering why TK instead of TC — it’s because the combination of TK is relatively rare in the English language. Search for it in your manuscript, and you’ll likely only come up with the TK’s you inserted deliberately. TC is more common; if you were to search for TC, you’d get your deliberate TCs, but your search results will also bring up outcast, clutch, sketch, watch, itch, etc (you see what I did there?)
Freedom is an app that blocks your computer/phone/ipad/whatever from the Internet so that you can’t get distracted by Google News/Facebook/Celeb Gossip/Online shopping during your writing time. I don’t use it as much anymore because I’ve built up my “writing muscles” and can buckle down without assistance, but Freedom was GOLD when I was first figuring out how to write multiple books in a year. I’ve never been one for social media distraction, but man, I was shocked to realize how often I found the “need” to check the news the second I had to sit down to write, and writing felt hard. Learn more about Freedom here.
(4) Keep your goals achievable
I'm not saying don't have big juicy writing goals for your year, I just mean don’t sit down to a writing session thinking, “I need to write 50/a million words today!” You’ll freak yourself out. Instead, take everything in manageable chunks. Tell yourself you need to write 1,000 words that hour. Or 50 words in a half hour, whatever your writing comfort level. You should push yourself a little bit, but also set yourself up for the win. Know what you need to write right now. Use the butt-chair rule as guidance: "From the time I start writing until the time my butt next leaves this chair for a coffee refill, what's my goal?"
(5) Write or Die
This is a last-ditch effort on those days when I need to write but am really lacking in focus/motivation. Writeordie.com is a website that allows you to set your time/wordcount goal, and start writing (they have both a browser and app version). The trick: if you don’t keep writing down new words, it deletes your text. Risky. I’d never use it for long writing periods for fear of losing huge amounts of next, but sometimes 5 minutes on Write Or Die is what I need to get myself in the writing head-space. Then I just copy/paste whatever I typed in Write or Die into Ulysses (my preferred writing app). Writeordie.com isn't a long-term solution, but it’s a fantastic tool for training yourself to write fast and not self-edit during the drafting process.