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.


  1. I love the way you fast-drafted! I do timed writing all day long to keep me going. I'll take the first half hour of the writing session to sketch out what needs to be done (if it hasn't been done the night before) and listen to my spotify soundtrack for that book. Then I'll set two index card in front of me of the scene (and its emotional aftermath). Set a timer for 25 minutes and just write.

    When I'm done, I have five minutes to update my word count and line through whatever parts of the scene I'd been able to get through. At the end of the five, I start again, continuing until I get through the dedicated scenes (word count for that story).

    When I reach the end of the word count goal for that book, I set it aside and spend half an hour listening to a spotify soundtrack for the next book I have to work on, making notes (if I didn't the night before) on what needs to be done. Then I do timed writing until it's done.

    Thank you so much for the Fast Draft reference sheet/lessons learned. Sooo amazing! And helpful for me too! :D I can't wait to see how you've done next week. Good luck on your goals!

  2. Thanks, Dawn, for sharing your process. I love learning about how other writers write, and your hard work is paying off, because you have several books ready for publishing in 2014. Congratulations!

    I imagine you work several hours a day - is that hard? Do you get tired, or do you find that the love you have for each wip keeps you going?
    Thank you for stopping by and I'll keep an eye out for your books. :)

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Lisa! It's really interesting. I'm still working on finding the process that works best for me, so I always like to check out what others are doing to see if there's something that might fit. I think I'm going to add Barbara Sher's book to my reading list.

    The link to your reference sheet isn't working for me at the moment - is it just me? I'd love to check it out.

    Happy writing!

    1. Thanks, Gypsyharper! Barbara Sher's book was a great read and certainly motivated me to think about how I write in terms of being a scanner. And the last chapter about making a commitment to a project - invaluable.

      The link to the Reference Sheet is working fine for me... I'm not sure what might be causing a problem your end...It appears that a link might not work if the user is not signed into a google account, from what I can gather by googling the issue. But it looks like you are signed in, so I'm not sure what the problem is. If you'd like to leave me your email, I'll send you a copy. :)

    2. It seems to be working today, so I guess it was just a computer glitch on my end. Technology! Thanks!

    3. No worries. I'm glad the link worked. :)


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