I suffer from an odd ailment–a plethora of ideas. It’s so difficult for me to focus on any one idea that I’ve got several stories ongoing at any one time on paper and four or five others floating around in my head.
You can imagine it’s hard for me to finish a draft of something when I have so many other ideas competing for my attention. Like a magpie, I am always in danger of haring off after whatever shiny new bauble of an idea catches my eye.
That’s where the idea of fast drafting entered my consciousness. Credit where it’s due: I’d never really heard of the idea until the brilliant Hannah Moskowitz (author of Invincible Summer and Break, plus several upcoming works) shared a little of her process. During the first draft stage she says she often writes 3,000 to 5,000 words a day. When I first saw that number, my mind simply boggled. I couldn’t accept it.
And then I tried it.
Writing 5,000 words a day is a uniquely terrifying process. The first time I did it, it felt like my mind had been totally blown up, and I carried that spacey, heady feeling to bed with me. The next day I banged out another 5,000. And then another and another. By the end of the week I’d written 30,000 words on Little Miss Perfect and finished my first draft.
Now I’m a believer. Fast drafting works. It’s ridiculous, but it works. I had to let go of several of my own prejudices to utilize the theory of the fast draft, however. One thing that often slows me down is that I hate to put a word down on paper if I know I may change it later. I want everything to be perfect. After a lifetime as a reporter (getting used to doing a single draft and being done), it is almost impossible for me to put down a word I don’t think will see publication.
But I’ve come to realize that writing a novel is far different than being a reporter, no matter how good I may have been. There is draft and redraft, the painful process of taking things out or putting things in. There is the re-reading and realizing you should have used the one word you meant instead of the four you didn’t.
It’s a tough gig, but it’s wonderful, too.
And the best thing about fast drafting? I MISS WRITING. After a week of conditioning my output to its optimum levels, I now am missing the time when I sat down to draft. I made myself take this week off, because no matter how effective writing at that volume is, it will burn you out sooner or later. A week off seems good to me, even though I feel antsy about not working at the craft.
My week off ends Monday, when I’ll choose between two projects. I’ll either rewrite an old (and I mean OLD–it’s at least a decade on since I finished it) manuscript or finish a partial manuscript I’ve been working on since the first of the year called The Bootlegger.
My aim is to have three finished first drafts by the end of the year, with one of those polished and out on submission to agents.
It’s good to have a goal.