In April I usually start a new novel or nonfiction book that I have planned for a few weeks and I write as much of it as possible during April. I usually plan for no more than 1,000 words a day. If I do more…bonus! If I don’t, that’s okay. What I don’t get completed in April, I complete in the first few weeks of May. But by May 30th I have a first draft of a novel or nonfiction book!
So, here are a few things that I have learned over the past ten years to make writing your fast draft the most successful.
- Determine what YOUR goals are for the month. Make sure that this is something that YOU want to do and not something you think you should do because all your writer friends are doing.
- Plan your book ahead of time so that you could sit down and merely write in April.
- Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. The more ideas you have, the easier it will be to write quickly. Jot down ideas whenever and wherever they come to you.
- Enjoy the process—rekindle what you LOVE about writing and then plug into that energy.
- At the end of every week, regroup and evaluate how you are doing. This will help you to keep what’s most important at the forefront.
- Work on at least one other project during the month. I usually try and work on another personal fulfillment project and that helps me to reconnect to the excitement and creativity that you need to do your best writing.
- Write YOUR story. The idea for one of my novels sprung from feelings I still carry around about losing my best friend when I was a teen. While the situation in my book is much different than my own teen trauma, I had strong feelings when I wrote the book about the confusion during the loss of someone close. I don’t think anyone else in the world can write the story you have passionate feelings about writing. Dig deep, and don’t stop looking until you discover what that story is.
- Use visual or audible cues. Once you have a story idea and a few characters in mind, gather some visual and audible props to help you discover more about them. Look through Google Images to find pictures (or draw them yourself) of your characters and setting. Add these to your computer desktop, or print them out to display in your office. Make a playlist of songs to go with your new book before you even write it. Music can be very motivating—just look at how many people have ear buds in at the gym! Having visual and audible cues will help keep your story fresh in your head when your motivation to write is sluggish.
- Set measurable goals to finish. You don’t have to set a precise word-count goal, if that feel too inorganic to your writing process, but set a goal that you can measure, and make your overall goal for the completion of your book. Set yourself up for a chapter a day, or a scene per day, or 2,000 words per day—whatever you like. But make sure however many days you have will tally up to a finished product.
- Pull it all together. Once you have a lot of ideas with visual and audible cues, a measurable goal, and a passion for the story you want to write, give yourself a plan for that story. Make sure all of your relevant ideas are written down in one place and set in an approximate order.
- Set Daily writing goals and stick with them. And this is the holy grail of fast drafting rules: Make a daily writing goal and do everything you can to meet it. Your daily writing goal will likely be 1,667 words (assuming you plan to write every day). If you have Scrivener, you can set a goal and time frame and every day it’ll recalculate the words you need to write to complete your goal. If you don’t have Scrivener and you miss a day, don’t fret—just re-calculate your daily writing goal and keep writing.
Other Tips to Write your Fast Draft Which Work GREAT!
Speed tip #1: Lose grammar
Don’t bother putting together well-constructed sentences. Just string words together to create content, and worry about form later on.
Speed tip #2: Don’t look back
The best way to tangle yourself up with completely unimportant decisions for hours on end, is to edit your text while you’re writing it. If you want to write a lightning-speed first draft, you’ll have to just keep on writing. Imagine the arrow keys on your keyboard, as well as the [Backspace] and [delete] buttons, have been rigged to explode on touch. Don’t set them off!
Speed tip #3: Use short sentences
Crafting a long, elaborate paragraph that strings together several ideas into a single long and winding sentence, can be confusing and vague not just for the writer but also for the poor reader. Don’t you agree?
Speed tip #4: Use bullets
Bullets are great for speed-writing. They allow you to toss in disjointed thoughts at random order, and worry about arranging and connecting them later on.
Speed tip #5: Use simple words
Forget your arsenal of fancy vocabulary. Later on you can furnish language, searching for just the right word for the particular undertone you wish to convey. For your speed draft, just use plain language. Remember that the first draft should be all about broad strokes, not subtle ornamentation.
Speed tip #6: Use abbreviations, acronyms and codes
Get used to writing abbreviations (like ‘sth’ for ‘something’ or ‘vid’ for video) and acronyms (like like CW for ‘CreativityWise’). Even if you type really fast, this habit will speed you up considerably. It will also help you avoid fancy language in your drafts.
Speed tip #7: Turn off your phone, unplug your internet
For some of you, this is surely the most impractical and annoying advice. What if something important happens and I’m not reachable to respond?
Do remember that the whole point is to be working FAST – so all we’re talking about here is 20-30 minutes of unplugged quietness. Can you not unplug for just 20 minutes? I think you can. Challenge yourself to get used to that. It really makes a huge difference in your ability to focus.
Speed tip #8: Go to the bathroom before you begin
Sorry if this sounds too silly, but when nature calls it’s no less distracting than when your mother-in-law calls; and unlike your mom in law, you can’t ignore the call or say “I’ll get back to you later, sorry”. If the secret of fast draft writing is focus and flow, then not even your own body should be allowed to interrupt.
Speed tip #9: Use a simple editor
Here’s a surprising piece of truth: word processors are really awful writing tools. They are excellent, amazing, phenomenal tools for editing; but they suck for writing, because they’re just mind-bogglingly distracting! They offer way too many options for stuff that isn’t purely writing: choosing fonts, designing headlines, finding synonyms, fixing grammar and spelling mistakes in one click (that’s one too many clicks!) and so on.
One of the best writing tools is good old pen and paper. It also helps you avoid too much editing, making it physically difficult to do. If you’re happy with writing by hand, this should probably be your weapon of choice.
If you prefer typing (like I do), there are quite a few great writing programs that offer liberating simplicity. I use the Q10 writer, which you can download for free. If you’re using an iPad, try the iA Writer. It is available here…https://ia.net/writer/ios/
Speed tip #10: Write in a series of short bursts
If you’re anything like me, a countdown clock starting with as little as 15 minutes will get you going like a demon. (Q10 actually has an internal countdown clock for exactly that reason). So light up that fire in your eyes, and start typing! You’ll be amazed how far you can get with a 15 to 30 minutes countdown. Here’s an online 15 minutes counter you can use straight away. Try it!
By taking these steps, you will be connecting to that center within yourself that propelled you to start writing in the first place—your writer’s soul. Don’t ever forget it otherwise you will get lost in distractions and sooner or later you won’t be able to acknowledge the real reason why you started writing in the first place.
And remember…. DISCIPLINE IS JUST CHOOSING BETWEEN WHAT YOU NOW AND WHAT YOU WANT MOST.
So, join me on this blog in April, and I will be sharing with you how to write your lightning draft. Follow along, and you too can have a book written in April.
Let us know if you are on aboard!
Until next time!
Irene S. Roth