For quite awhile now, I’ve been a huge proponent of the “get it done” school of thought when it comes to writing a first draft. Basically, don’t worry about how good it is, don’t worry about where it’s going or how many holes you need to fill…just keep writing until you hit “the end”. You can fix anything in revisions. And as far as new writers are concerned, I still think that’s the best way to approach writing. Finishing drafts gives you a confidence that you can only get by reaching the end. The longer you put that off, the longer it’s going to take to build that confidence and move on to the next level. So when it comes to just getting started writing, I say go for it. Don’t worry about plot or structure or story arcs or character growth, just write with wild abandon until you get to the end. Then turn around and do it again and again and again and again – as many times as you need to in order to realize with absolute certainty that you can write a book. Several, in fact. Fast draft until finishing a draft is old news. Or that’s what I did, anyways. I have absolute faith now that I can write full-length novels.
That’s just not good enough for me anymore though. I made huge, gaping mistakes in Her Private Chef, and trying to fix them proved nearly impossible. So now I’m re-writing the whole thing, and moving to the opposite method of writing: Slow Drafting.
As I write this draft, I’m taking time at the beginning of each writing session to go back over what I wrote the day before, and edit them. Line edits, revisions, making sure everything still fits together – whatever I need to do in order to not just get the draft written, but to write it *well*, right from the start. It’s a little scary for me, since that’s what I used to do way back when I thought I might want to be a writer, but could never finish anything. It’s part of the reason I could never finish anything – I was never happy with what I’d written.
This time though, I’m going into it armed with a few key bits of information. First, I know I can finish a complete novel if I just keep at it. Whatever else happens, I know that I’ll get my 50-60k words written eventually. Secondly, I know when “enough is enough”. I can generally tell when a scene isn’t working or sentences need to be rewritten, and instead of just barreling through with an “I’ll fix it later,” this time I’m fixing them the next day. I also have new plotting skills at the ready – I know where my story needs to go, and have a rough idea of how it will get there, which is far more than I used to have. And I also know from my serial novels that there’s no need to write a disjointed story – just a simple look back at what happened before is enough to keep me on track for the next scene. I just need to pay good attention to what I’ve already done. Sound cocky? I think writers *need* to be a little cocky. Focusing on what I do know gets me way farther than focusing on what I don’t.
There are still a few things I need to work on and be cognizant of while writing (and I’m sure there always will be), but the slower pace allows me to do that inline, rather than waiting until the end. And so far, I’m quite pleased at how it’s working. It feels good, knowing the story isn’t going farther down some rabbit hole as I race frantically towards the finish.
Will I ever fast-draft again? You bet – November’s coming, and I wouldn’t miss NaNo for the world. Heck, maybe someday I’ll figure out how to edit *and* fast draft at the same time…which would be the ultimate writing method for me.
What are your thoughts on slow vs fast drafting? Have you tried both? Do you have a preference? Have you figured out how to combine attention and “as-you-go” editing with fast drafting (and if so, share the secret!)?