Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Have You Tried Fast Drafting?

Does your inner-editor slow you down? Mine does. Not that I mind, but it depends on what my goal is at the time. If I’m trying to substantially increase my word count, my inner-editor must take a very long nap. However, if I want my manuscript as perfect as possible the first time around so I have less editing to do later, then I realize my word count meter is going to suffer.

What’s more important? Getting the words down or less editing later? That depends. For me, up until recently, I would’ve said less editing was the better choice. However, I’ve discovered that approach may be holding me back. I’m spending a lot of time perfecting my draft, but then if my crit group finds major flaws in it, I have to scrap at least some of the scene. Now, what happened to that time I invested? It’s gone. This is not to say I shouldn’t hand in my best work to my critique group, but maybe I need to see the big picture first.

I’ve written my current WIP twice already and haven’t been satisfied with it. That’s a lot of time and work only to scrap most of it. I’m trying one last time because I’ve grown so much as a writer and believe it was my lack of experience that caused the death of the first versions of this book, not the story itself. But, this means I’m writing the chapters as I go and allows for more plot changes along the way, which could mean more re-writes or deleted scenes. Is there a way around this?

There are a couple. I could plot the whole thing out, which I’ve done, but I also did that the last two times and look where it got me. The other thing I can do is called a fast draft. I’m sure there are many ways of doing this, but the one I recently learned was based on dialogue. This is perfect for me as dialogue is one of my strengths.

How do you fast draft? You simply write every scene in dialogue using very few tags, not much action, no description. Instead, you add a brief action note to yourself that’s not actually part of the story (for now). See the example below.

(Dora enters the bar, goes over to her employee.)
“What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at work.”
“I needed a break.”
“I’ll give you a break all right. A permanent one. You’re fired.”

The point of fast drafting is to get the words down as you feel them. The dialogue is more authentic that way and you can get further into your story and recognize problem scenes without having invested too much time into the project. When you’ve completed the work, you go back and add in all the setting, action, and descriptive details to really bring your story to life.

Thanks to Liz Pelletier from Savvy Authors for showing me this new method of drafting. If you haven’t become a member of Savvy Authors, you should check it out. I’ve posted about them once before, but they’ve since upgraded their website and added all sorts of neat things. This month, for example, many of the members, including myself, are participating in a bootcamp to whip our butts and force our fingers to type away.

Do you have a fast drafting method? Have you tried this one before?


  1. I've never heard of this one but I'm tempted to try it! It'll be fighting my instincts all the way but I can see how it would get you down to the real mood and feel of a scene. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I've never heard of fast drafting, but it's a cool idea. I think the fastest drafting method was when I did NaNoWriMo. You have to be fast with it to write a novel in a month. Unfortunately, the edits of said novel can be painful.

  3. Whenever I realize what has to happen in parts of the story I haven't gotten to yet, I add little paragraphs throughout my first draft that summarize what needs to occur. It makes me feel like I'm leading up to scenes, and less worried that I'll forget my intentions. I tend to write linearly, so I have to "feel" the arc as I go :)

  4. I'm definitely a fan of the "craptacular first draft" school of writing. Get it down, and then clean it up. Haven't tried Liz's method but it sounds interesting!

  5. I can't fast draft. I become to scatter-brained and end up going back to fix the messy parts.

  6. I like the concept, but I don't know if I could do a dialogue-only fast draft... but maybe someday, just for fun, I'll try it with a short story to see if it works.

    I'm also competing with you over at SavvyAuthors -- Team 'Preternaturals'!

    May the most prolific group win...! :D Good luck on your word counts!

  7. I did about a week or two of fast drafting ONCE. I actually managed to write about 20K words that way and it wasn't bad. But that's not normally how I work. I just had to get it out of me that one time. That book is currently under submission with a few publishers so it wasn't THAT bad. LOL

  8. Oh, I do that! Not for the whole book, but whenever a great scene interrupts my attempts to plot. I jot down the important friction, then keep going with whatever I was doing originally.

    My notes are very messy.

  9. I absolutely hate fast drafting. I've tried it numerous times and each time I never like what I come up with. I always feel I write better dialogue when I have all the cushion around it. I'm not quite sure why =)

  10. I've never heard of that before..hmm, might be something to try. Thanks. :)

  11. So cool! And something I so need right now. I've got to try this. My drafts are slow and like you, I have a hard time shutting down my inner editor. In fact, I usually allow myself to go back and clean up a bit before I move on to something new for that day. Not always a good technique for me and I've been looking for new methods.

    So thanks, Lynette!

  12. That's a fantastic idea. I have a brutal inner editor and am a pantser (so I end up with so many scenes I have to cut b/c I was going down the wrong path), so this could be a good thing for me to try next time around. Thanks!

  13. Seems like fast-drafting a novel would almost give you a movie script.

    I do a fast-draft in synopsis form (present tense, mostly narrative) that works for me. I add dialogue if something good pops into my head.

  14. I am definitely not a fast drafter.

    I like to get things fairly well fleshed out before I move on.

    Having said that I am interested by the possibilities.

  15. I dot point key events and ideas and characters but when it comes to drafting I try to add more information than I need. Mostly because I find it much easier to hack useless chunks out of a story than to make essential details fit in during the first/second/third rewrite.
    Thanks for sharing this method.

  16. Lynnette, Sounds like a good method to a point.

    So far, I've found the best way is to just get it out of your head and on to paper. If I think of something while going at it, I will add a note in the text. I go back and edit if I feel stuck, sections at a time.

    I did Nano, and am still working through that novel trying to complete it. It's a real mess, but it's a story worth the trouble.

  17. I'm a proponent of the plot model. The fast-drafting sounds fun, though. It still might be a good idea to jot down a few of your ideas of where the story is going so that you can add to that. The level of detail is up to the individual writer.
    The best thing I find is just to experiment, take what works for you and use it, discard the rest, find something new to play with andd repeat.