Sunday, 15 December 2013

Fast Drafting Series, Post #2

This post looks at the fast drafting experience and the aftermath. Post #1 is here.

The whole fast drafting experience

The Good Stuff

Firstly, there's the sheer exhilaration gained from words flowing from my fingertips, words that I had not consciously thought of writing. There's something about having your logical mind focus on the wordcount goal that frees up your imagination and inspiration to create without censure. This was my main motivation in trying the fast drafting, getting away from my inner critic and just letting the magic spill out of me.

Then there's the immense satisfaction of reaching the daily wordcount and of seeing the story progress. It might not work for everyone, but if you're someone who enjoys a challenge and will not back down no matter how difficult the challenge appears to be, then fast drafting could very well work for you.

Then there's the sense of fulfilment that comes from finishing a first draft. Actually finishing it! Until now I've been stuck with the mindset of "Writing is difficult, it takes AGES to achieve something tangible and it's all an uphill battle, blah blah blah", when the fact is that it doesn't have to be that soul-destroying or tedious. It can actually be fun and fulfilling and satisfying as well as yielding results. Until I tried fast drafting, it did not even occur to me that I could actually write a first draft in 2 weeks, or that others had been doing just that since Candace Havens created the method.

Lastly, I have finished the first draft of a WIP that has been 'stuck' since 2004 or so. I cannot express the relief I feel that the thoughts of "You're blocked, the story's going nowhere, it's a bad story, give it up and move on". Those thoughts warred with the belief inside me that the story was worth telling. Worth it to me. I very much wanted to explore the themes that had developed since the first initial writing I did in 2004 and to have fun with the characters who have grown over the years. And I have. <happy sigh>

The not-so- good stuff 

Some days were plain hard to get the writing going. I had to tackle immense resistance within myself to stay sitting down and just write. Those were the days when I hadn't done my warm up exercises (which I wrote about in the first post).

Some nights I fell into bed completely exhausted because I'd started writing late in the evening when I was already tired. And no matter what time I went to bed at, I had to be up the next morning as soon as my little guy woke up and started bouncing around the bedroom. :)

Perhaps the most difficult part of fast drafting is the effect it had on my little guy. There were nights when I didn't make it home from the library in time to say goodnight to him. I wasn't around very much in the afternoon and he was aware of that absence, too. And when children feel unsettled, they act up. The sad thing is, that's the only way they can communicate those unsettled feelings at that age. And it's important to be understanding and gentle with him when his behaviour does not look like it used to. It took him about two weeks after I finished fast drafting to realise that things were back to normal, including the bedtime ritual of me tucking him into bed and sitting with him holding his hand till he falls asleep.

And of course, I didn't get to spend time with my husband either. He'd come in the door from work, I'd have his meal on the table, kiss him goodbye and head out to the library, my head full of my characters and scenes. So not only was he working during the day, he was not getting much down time afterwards. Pretty full on for him! And yet I couldn't have done this without his support and encouragement. So, hon, thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.

The aftermath

I had a few ideas for what I could do to get started on the revisions and re-writing.
  1. Martha Alderson's PlotWriMo in December. She has also produced an ebook, Blockbuster Plots: Before the next draft for anyone who wants to work through the process at their own pace whenever they want (not just in December, I mean);
  2. Rebecca from the Perth:South team in NaNo Land is organising a regional NaNoEdMo in January and it's going to be great to have other writers to work alongside;
  3. Susan Dennard's guide to revisions (Scroll down the page to the section headed Revising Your Novel.) I found this while I was googling for revision-related articles and tips and I've read through the guide. It's thorough. This is definitely one resource I'll be using in January;
  4. Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris. The blurb sounds great - an easy, learn-as-you-write process;
  5. Holly Lisle's How to Revise Your Novel bootcamp. I'm still mulling this one over. If Susan Dennard's guide was thorough, this is major revision surgery. MAJOR! But by golly you'll have a story that's tight by the end of it;
  6. The EDITS lectures by Margie Lawson. I'm also seriously considering adding this resource to my revision toolkit for January. Margie is a psychologist who helps writers to go deep into their stories to make them the best they can be;
  7. Jamie Gold's workshop on Story Planning for Pantsers also included some ideas for how to use the beat sheets for revision. I need to go back and listen to the recording to refamiliarise myself with the procedure.

So, do I recommend fast drafting or not?

Yes. But with caution.
  • If you want the cleanest fast draft you can possibly produce, and you're at the start of your writing career, then fast drafting probably isn't for you.
  • If you do NOT want to cause any upset in your family's routine, then fast drafting probably isn't for you.
  • If you are more interested in being a writer, rather than doing what is necessary to become one, then fast drafting probably is not a sane challenge to undertake.
  • If you like to take your time, mull things over, wait until the perfect word or sentence has been created in your mind before you write, then fast drafting is definitely not for you.
  • If you don't enjoy challenges (insane ones, anyway), then fast drafting is not for you.

  • If you want to get the WIP written and bypass your rational thinking mind at the same time, fast drafting could be for you.
  • If you want it written quickly so that it causes the least amount of disruption to your family (in terms of how long it takes to knock out that first draft), then fast drafting could be for you.
  • If you're a scanner-writer, fast drafting could very well be for you! (It was for me.)
  • If you have limited time - for example, a holiday or short break from your day job - and you'd like to get that WIP knocked out, then fast drafting could very well work for you.

So, that's been my fast drafting journey. I hope these two posts have been of some use to anyone who's thinking about fast drafting. I would recommend checking out Candace Haven's workshops page to see when she's running the next Fast Drafting workshop because I'm sure she'll have tips and tricks to share. I had to learn what works for me the hard way, and I could still be missing something that would make the process easier.

Anyone else fast drafted? Have you any thoughts to share?

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Fast Drafting Series, Post #1

My completed first draft. Woo hoo!

As promised, I've put together a few posts on my experience with Fast Drafting for NaNoWriMo 2013.


Why I decided to Fast Draft

One of the first motivations for trying out fast drafting was reading about Scanners in Barbara Sher's book "Refuse to Choose".

A scanner has a 'fast' brain that knows what it wants and knows when it's got what it wants ( i.e. its  reward). Scanners may appear to flit from one thing to another, but, taking this idea of rewards into account, what is actually happening is that the scanner has found their reward, in however long the time frame was, and they're now ready to move onto the next thing. (There's an excerpt from the introduction of "Refuse to Choose" here:

I could see myself in a lot of Sher's description of a Scanner, so with this in mind, I decided that the best thing I could do was challenge myself to fast drafting 5K words a day. If my brain is 'fast' then it stands to reason that it probably isn't a good idea for me to eke out the writing of a first draft over the course of three months...

(One thing Barbara Sher does advise Scanners to do is choose a project and see it through to the end, no matter how much they might wish to move on to the next thing. This discipline is important for a Scanner. They need to be able to see that they can achieve something - a finished project - and not simply flit from one interest to the next.)


How I fast drafted

I'd never fast drafted before I took up the challenge on November 1st. It would have been immensely useful to have taken Candace Havens's online workshop (all about Fast Drafting and Editing in a month) , but it started on November 4th which was too late for NaNo, so I did the next best thing. In the weeks leading up to NaNo, I researched how other writers had tackled the fast drafting process, or even just writing to a deadline. The following resources were the ones I found the most helpful.


Rachel Aaron's Triangle of Productivity

I first read this article a year or more ago and the Fast Drafting challenge gave me the opportunity to apply the three essentials of her productivity formula - Time, Knowledge and Enthusiasm - in each fast draft session. I kept these three elements in mind as I went about planning tools and techniques and drawing up spreadsheets to help me fast draft and keep track of my daily productivity.


Jami Gold's Story Planning for Pantsers web class

I took this class just in time to start NaNo and I cannot express just how much what I learned helped me through the fast draft process. Jami's Worksheets and Beat Sheets gave me a road map to follow with a list of destinations to reach by a certain wordcount which I could correlate to where I needed to be each day of my 14-day time limit. Not only that, it helped me sort out my different plot, subplot and character arcs!

And the fantastic thing about all this is that I never felt constrained by what was in the Beat Sheet. It was precise enough that I knew what sort of event had to happen at each point, but vague enough that I could still 'discover' the event as I wrote.

These beat sheets and worksheets are now a very important part of my writing process.


The Accidental Novelist's Start to Finish series of posts

 - particularly the early ones with the timed writing exercises and start lines. I used the timed writing exercises and start lines at the beginning of each writing session to immerse myself in two of Rachel Aaron's productivity elements, Knowledge and Enthusiasm.

Before I started my fast draft session, I warmed up by using the start line "The next scene that needs to be written is ..." and then free-writing for 5 minutes. Then I picked out a sentence from the middle of the writing, used that as my start line, set my timer for 7 minutes, and free-wrote again. I repeated this process one more time, setting the timer for 10 minutes. The more I free-wrote, the more the scene unfolded in my mind and I could feel myself getting excited about what was to come.

I discovered quite early on into the 14 days that it was difficult to reach the 5K wordcount if I skipped the warm up, thinking I'd utilise the time to just dive into the writing instead and be done all the quicker for the day. Not so. Those days did not leave me feeling satisfied with what I'd written, with how I'd felt while I was writing, or with the length of time it took me to grind out the 5K. Once I realised just how important the warm up was, it became an indispensible part of the process.

Taking the tips and tricks I read about on the web, I put together a Reference Sheet (which you can download from Google Docs) to remind me what to do and what not to do while I fast drafted, plus some inspirational quotes from Natalie Goldberg about Beginner's Mind. I taped this into the folder I kept each daily printout in and referred back to it occasionally if I felt the need.

I hope this has been useful. My next post will look at my experience of fast drafting, what was good about it, what was not so good, and my next steps now that I have a finished first draft to work with.