Monday, January 23, 2012

Advantages of Writing a Fast First Draft

Every one of us is different, which means we each need to discover what process works best for us when we write. Some writers meticulously plan out every detail of their story before they begin the first draft, some dive right in and wing it. Some writers will polish a chapter until they can move on, some power on and go back later to do the polishing. There is no right or wrong way to write, however this post is about the latter technique. It's about why I've found writing a fast first draft is advantageous:

1. To avoid the doubts. Doubts can make the writer question everything from the believability of their plot, the realism of their characters, and even the worth of being a writer. These doubts may raise some valid questions, but mostly they'll cripple the writer. As a result, the writer may veer from staying true to their story, or worse, quit. Writing a fast first draft will keep those doubts under control.

2. To be yourself. Similar to the point above: If you think about it too much, you could over analyse. The writing could then become stilted and 'proper' and you could lose your unique voice.

3. To keep the descriptions under control. If you are a writer like me, you can get caught up in the wonderful world you've created and indulge in rich descriptions. However, if you're moving quickly through the story to get it down in words, then you're likely not spending the time on descriptions. Descriptions can not only distract the writer, but when they're overdone they can distract the reader. I find it harder to delete a beautiful description than to add one later.

4. To stay focussed on the main plot points. Distractions have a way of veering the story away from the main plot, especially if you don't plan the story ahead. Writing fast will help an author keep an eye on the big picture.

5. To save time. I used to edit as I wrote because I loved to read my polished word. The problem was when I'd finished writing that first draft and read through it as a whole, I discovered some of those polished scenes had to go. I'd wasted so much time on sections I eventually tossed. Now I tell myself anything can be fixed… later! The main story structure is the most important element of the first draft stage. The rest can wait.

6. To finish. Many people start writing a novel, yet so few actually finish. Because writing a novel is a slow process, celebrating at key milestones is important to keep the motivation levels high. For me, finishing the first draft is one such milestone. When it's done I have a completed story in my hands. Don't underestimate the power of a finished story.

Do you like to write a fast first draft? What do you find slows the process down the most?

Reminder: This Thursday, 26th January, is Australia Day and I'm celebrating the date with a virtual BBQ. The idea is to visit my blog on the 26th, bring a virtual plate of food to share, then in the comments tell everyone about yourself and your blog, and come back and visit three other people who have left a comment. Thanks again to Karen Gowen for the idea. It's a great way to meet new blogging friends. Please spread the word!

52 comments:

  1. In other words, cranking through a first draft at NaNo pace is a good thing?
    There was a definite difference between my two books, as the first was written over a span of almost two years and the second one in about seven months, with most of the first draft completed during NaNo.
    And it doesn't matter what my pace - there's never any heavy description in my first draft!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Way good point about saving time. All that polishing, only to axe it? What a waste! Then again, if you write too fast, you can write entire scenes that are a waste (depends on how much you plan ahead, I think!).

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love first drafts but because I tend to self-edit and forget that I shouldn't, I get bogged down here and there!! But I love them! Re-reading them is not much fun though! LOL! Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
  4. Happy Australia day in advance! You know how much people from Down Under I love, from celebs to normal people!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Point 5 is a good one. I hadn't thought about that, but you're right. I'm with Carol, when I write too quickly without editing at all or looking at it to see if I'm on course, I end up throwing it all away. Moderation is good.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I like writing somewhere in the middle. I don't spend much time outlining, but do think about my story a lot prior and during the first draft. I do go back and edit a tiny bit, but nothing dramatic and I definitely don't drive myself crazy over it. Not even close to that.

    ReplyDelete
  7. thanks for the helpful tips...working on my 1st WIP. Trying to move faster in getting it done:)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Some things I love about the whole process:

    1. Having that spark of an idea and running with it.

    2. Finishing the first draft. Ahhh, what a feeling!

    3. Entering the slash 'n burn stage of revision.

    4. Getting an MS to the point where I can send it to a beta reader (this has only happened to me once. hehe)

    and that's about all I know so far!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great advice! I tend to stop before the last chapters for some reason - and digging back in to write those few chapters is harder than writing the rest of the draft! :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. As always you've written another winner post. I'm a panster and fart write the first draft. After, I go back to cut and polish. And I may do this up to six times before anyone sees it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. As I'm a fan of getting things done I agree with the notion of banging out a first draft quickly.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I agree, it's so hard to delete a passage of great description or a scene that was fun to write! I like to take the latter approach, although sometimes going back to perfect something can slow me down. This was a really good post!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love first drafts. I like the creative rush and experiencing the story for the first time as I write it. I do my best not to let my inner editor interfere, but sometimes she slows me down.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great post and great points, Lynda!
    Now if I could just follow suit.

    I'm not really sure why, but I get so much more enjoyment out of editing and revising my drafts. That's probably why I spend so much time on these stages.

    Plus, I made the mistake of submitting a less-than-perfect-as-it-could-be manuscript in response to a full request last year. Perhaps I am too gun-shy now.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Number five is probably the biggest complaint I have about the way I write. I write a pretty slow first draft because I like to fully develop scenes and ideas as I go. BUT I do often end up chucking a lot of those scenes during revision, scenes that I spent days and days perfecting on the first run through. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  16. All the points are so valid, and for me point 1 is most important. I just get on with the job and don't let doubt creep into my thoughts... awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm looking forward to your Australia Day BBQ! What a neat idea!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I am a huge cheerleader for fast first drafts. The only disadvantage is that, because I don't allow myself to go back and read anything until I'm finished, sometimes I forget things. There are a few characters whose surnames are 'thingy' in my first drafts - still, that's what editing is for :-)

    ReplyDelete
  19. I agree with the vast majority of this. One point though - writing fast can have different results in different writers.

    When I write slowly I'm editing myself to some degree without really being aware of it. This means I cut out descriptions as I go by not writing them in the first place!

    When I write fast (deliberately trying to reach a word count in a given time), I don't allow myself the time to even think about it, and so the long descriptions I'd usually cut end up in my first draft.

    Not that I see this as a problem - I just cut them later. In the mean time, these descriptions often hold something useful I can put in elsewhere in a single sentence of two.

    Guess it depends on who you are, and what your definition of fast writing is.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I like to get through it fast as well just to finish and know the ending (I don't plan the story ahead).

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great post. The first draft is always the hardest for me just for those reason. I need to focus on going fast. Thanks for the advice.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I write my first drafts fast for all those reasons. THis is a great article.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm really glad I read this post today. I finished the first draft of my second novel last November and plan to start edits in the next week. It took just two months to write that first draft. However, with my debut novel, it took almost 3 years. I took time out because of illness, but looking back, and reading this article, I realise my second novel may be more fun to edit.

    CJ x

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm doing a fast draft. When I get to a point where I think I need to research or add more details, I type in TK. When I finish the draft, I'll search out those TKs and begin cleaning it up. This is helping me stay focused. I'm not sure why I didn't do this before. :)

    ReplyDelete
  25. This is so true Lynda! I know for my last MS, I did the fast write, and then I went back in revisions and rounded out scenes that were too "thin" and fleshed out plot points.

    But I had the whole story--beginning, conflict, resolution--all down, and that made it SO much easier. Great advice! :o) <3

    ReplyDelete
  26. Alex, this isn't the case for everyone, but it certainly is for me.

    Carol, the chance of scene deletion reduces by how much planning you do ahead of time. That's why I'm very much an outliner now.

    Old Kitty, I was definitely the same. It's easy to get lost in the indulgence--plus it does work for some writers to write that way.

    Dezzy, thanks so much. I wonder where I fit in--a celeb or a normal... ;)

    Tonja, true, as a pantser this is harder to do.

    Trisha, all great milestones in the writing process.

    Jemi, oh my gosh, so do I!! I've always found those last chapters the hardest to write.

    Shelly, in many ways the first draft can be written like a detailed outline.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Bryce, I don't think a ms is ever 'perfect', but I know what you mean. I too love the editing stage.

    Luanne, yep, that's the way I used to write. It hurt so much when I had to delete the polished scenes.

    Sarah, oh yes! I do that too. I leave a space for a name or a note in brackets or I throw in a stupid name that's easy to do a find and replace on.

    Matt, absolutely. Each writer has to work out what works best for them. There are no absolute rules on 'how to write'.

    Crystal, that's so fantastic to hear. Thanks so much.

    Stacy, that's a great way of doing it!

    Leigh, yep, it definitely means the first draft will end up being messier, but the main bits will be there. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I started writing faster 1st drafts, too. Most of the work comes in the 2nd draft for me these days. Although I'm pretty much doing a simultaneous 1st & 2nd draft of my current WIP. Deadlines demand it.

    I think the more comfortable we get with constructing a novel...meaning practice...the better it goes.

    Cool on the virtual bbq. Looking forward to it.

    ReplyDelete
  29. YES to everything you said! I wrote my first book's first draft over several years, and it was terrible. (For many reasons.) I've loved writing my most recent first drafts much more quickly, for many of the reasons you stated. I love getting the story down quickly, and then being able to go in and edit it. I'm a big fan of rewriting. :)

    ReplyDelete
  30. What a great list of advantages! Someday I will think my writings out more :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Hi, Lynda,
    There's much to be said for getting that first draft done quickly. If I don't do that, it takes me years to complete. And I'm one of those writers who have to get the chapters right before I move on. Need to wrap my head around getting to 'The End' on the current project.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I can't really draft fast because my muse comes and goes as she pleases. But I pretty much write without looking back so that I can get all of the benefits you've mentioned. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  33. I do write the fast first draft too. The words just flow out quickly and then when the idea is finished, I go back and look at it a day or two later. If I don't give it time I tend to over think it. I like your idea to celebrate milestones- that's great advice!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Great post! I'm a huge fan of fast-drafting and now that I'm on the second draft of my current WiP, of fast-editing. I'm finding that I can ferret out those plot holes a lot easier when I'm moving quickly through the MS, loading it all up in my brain at the same time. As it were. :)

    ReplyDelete
  35. I like to crank out a fast first draft, so I have less time for doubts. But, nowadays I have no idea why, I am taking my own sweet time to write the first draft.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I agree that it's important to let inspiration flow. At the same time I'm much more cognizant now about really crafting those opening pages before proceeding forward.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Sometimes it's easier to know what to do after we have that draft. Even if we have to rewrite chunks! Even if we have to flesh out scenes or delete scenes.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Mary, yes, absolutely, it does get easier and certainly less daunting.

    Shallee, I'm noticing a lot of first books have taken many years. Mine took 9 years hahahaha.

    J. L Campbell, best of luck getting to 'The End'.

    Honey, yes, time between drafts is essential.

    Rachna, if you are happy with that, then there is nothing wrong with it.

    Laura, exactly right! Once I've finished the first draft, I find it so much easier to see what the novel needs.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I try to remind myself that simply finishing a novel is a huge deal. Sometimes we get so caught up in the un-success of it, we forget the big picture.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I am not a fast first draft person, but I wish I could be. I much prefer the revising.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Great point! I'm looking to power through a fast first draft for my next WIP. Number 5 is a biggie for me.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Being Yourself Speak with your body, think with your heart and love with your soul.

    ReplyDelete
  43. PK Hrezo, yes exactly. Finishing is an amazing milestone.

    Jenna, good luck with your next WIP :)

    ReplyDelete
  44. I'm working on my first draft now. I'm not editing as I go, and it's fairly bare bones. And even though I plotted it first, there have a been a few pleasant surprises along the way. Suddenly I'm enjoying writing the first draft more than I used to. I still love editing more. :D

    ReplyDelete
  45. I definitely prefer writing the first draft through without editing. To the point that I will make notations separately of things I want to go back and address, rather than fixing them right away. I've found that helps me in multiple ways. Great post!

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the A-to-Z; we're gearing up for the upcoming 2012 A-to-Z Challenge!

    ReplyDelete
  46. I'm a moderation, in the middle person...start fast...store it away...ponder...add some more. Wait a minute...maybe I am just extremely moody. "It takes all kinds" was always a favorite saying of mine...it helps me cope. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  47. And because it's an integral part of my mission, vision, and values statement. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  48. I love to fast draft! Love the points you make here. I've heard a lot of criticism of the fast draft technique (especially around the time of NaNo)!

    ReplyDelete
  49. Can I add another one?

    So you don't forget what you wrote at the beginning by the time you get to the end.

    (I have problems with this, even when I write quickly.)

    ReplyDelete
  50. Stina, yes, I prefer editing as well, but there is still something satisfying about writing a fast first draft.

    Shannon, yes, my first drafts have notes all through them for that reason.

    Carol, ha, yep, you have to find what works for you.

    Heather, well, it's what works for me. I'm sure agents and publishers dread the time just after NaNo ;)

    Beth, that's a great addition! I sometimes have the problem too. It's why I have to read through my manuscript a LOT.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Late, but oh, well. I'm a pantser--I don't outline at all. So I finish a new novel every month or two, and then they sit in the queue for editing, :)

    ReplyDelete

I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.