Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Welcome Wednesday: Karen Avivi’s Worst Advice: Force Yourself to Fast Draft

You have to write a book a year to be successful. Wait, make that two books a year, four books a year... The number of books per year that you must write keeps increasing.

When I mentioned to a writer friend that I wasn’t sure how I’d ever be able to write multiple books in a year, she said I had to learn how to fast draft. It seemed like a good idea. I’d done NaNoWriMo before, so I knew I could handle intense writing with a set deadline. I signed up for a fast-drafting class that involved checking in every day and being chastised by the moderator if you fell behind. 

It was horrible. I was in a constant state of panic, writing gibberish just so I could get my pages done and go to bed. I don’t know why I thought fast-drafting would work for me. I prefer endurance sports to sprints, I like baking better than stir frying, and I don’t pull all-nighters to get things done. For NaNoWriMo, my word counts were up and down, with some days high, and some low, but I kept myself on track my way and finished well before the deadline.

Fast-drafting reminded me of two bosses I had who couldn’t work until the deadline was on top of us. I suspect it was because it gave them an excuse: “We did this in three days, so considering the circumstances, it’s pretty good.” Ugh.

At the end of two weeks of fast drafting I had 30,000 words but I couldn’t even call it a bad first draft. Reading it over, I could feel the frustration and misery in every word.

I extracted notes about characters and plot points that I thought might be usable, put the rest aside and poured a tub. After a long soak I had an outline. That outline is now blossoming into a novel at a reasonable pace with weekly goals.

While I agree that you need to set and respect word count goals, you also need to be in your zone to produce your best work. If your zone is a state of panic with daily deadlines, then fast-draft away. But if you’re like me and you need to be relaxed for the words to flow, then adding stress and pressure will not help you reach your word count.

Writing faster is about being efficient, knowing yourself and respecting your process. The fast-draft method works for many people and is definitely worth trying, but it wasn’t for me. My advice is to try it but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t wind up with a book at the end. Find your own path to productivity. 

Has anyone else tried fast-drafting? Did it work for you?

Karen Avivi is never bored. If the weather is nice, it’s almost impossible for her to stay inside. Karen has tried surfing, skydiving, scuba diving, stunt classes, archery, winter camping, orienteering, mountaineering, mountain biking, and she even attempted a bike ramp once but it didn’t end well. If she’s not reading or writing, she’s usually planning a new adventure. Learn more on her website, visit her on Facebook, or Goodreads.

Karen’s contemporary YA novel Shredded is now available as an ebook and in print. Drop into the world of girls’ freestyle BMX for an action-packed summer road trip adventure.

“I would have preferred handlebars in the gut. At least when that happened I definitely saw it coming.”
Josie Peters thinks she’ll do anything to qualify for the Ultimate BMX freestyle event the summer before her senior year. She can handle road trips and rail grinds, but when flashy rider R.T. Torres tempts her with an easy way in, his overpowering world threatens to send Josie spinning out of control.


Kimberly said...

Thanks for stopping by and talking about fast-drafting. I've always worked best under pressure, but the fast-draft is super hard for me. Like you, I enjoy NaNo. If I can't get some good words down, I can double up the next day. If I decide to skip the weekend to spend time with my family, I can work harder the next week to catch up. But with fast-drafting, there's a certain level of stress that I can't handle. :-)
Your book sounds awesome! As a big scaredy cat, I don't surf or skateboard or skydive. But, I love to read about it and watch it. For a while, my favorite show was Fear Factor. I realized very early on that I wouldn't be able to do ANY of the stunts.
I sure love living vicariously through books though, and SHREDDED sounds like a great read! Good luck with the book.

Sheri Adkins said...

I agree, you have to know and respect your own process. As we go to workshops or network with others, we hear things that have worked for others, sometimes we're even told "that's what you have to do to make it." It's so frustrating. It took me a long time to understand and embrace my process, but now that I get it, I protect it too. Susan E. Phillips does a wonderful class on this--protecting your process. She says you *have* to protect your process. Oh wait...

LOL! No, seriously, she's great. And I agree. The only thing you have to do is what works best for you!

Great post!

Sheri Adkins

Unknown said...

Hi Kimberly,
I like the idea of extreme sports, but when I try I'm not particularly good - that's where fiction comes in handy :)

Hi Sheri,
I love SEP's books. I've heard her talk about Secrets of the Best Selling Sisterhood, but not process. I'll have to track that class down.

Jennifer McAndrews said...

Karen, great post! And here's the weird thing. I can't make it through NaNo. I get halfway through and then bail on it. But fast draft? Loved it! I was so excited to get to the page every day, and there was never any hesitation in "getting back into the story". It was there at every moment, just waiting. However, the moderator was MIA for my class, so I never felt like I had to get words in or I'd be chastised. I wonder if I had pressure to please the mod would I have had such a good experience? I dunno. But the process did work for me...and I wholly respect that it didn't work for you. Like you and so many writers have said, we all have our own process. Whatever works for each of us to get those stories on the page and hit "the end", that's the right way.
Thanks for sharing your experience!

CareyCorp said...

Welcome fellow indie! I love the advice we're getting. So glad you found a style that works for you. Best of luck with SHREDDED.

Unknown said...

Great post Karen, I wrote my last first draft in three weeks so I can say that fast drafting work for me, but...BUT I would have never been able to do that with some mod breathing down my neck. the big message is make your own challenges and be your own boss :)

See you at the next ORWA meet :)

Unknown said...

Hi Jennifer, Carey and Lucy! Maybe it was the moderator/boss that threw me. It could be an indie thing - I like being my own boss :)

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Great post, Karen. I agree that we have to find our own writing routine. What works for one person won't be a good fit for another. I did nanowrimo once, and it helped me get the book written. But since then, I prefer to give myself a certain amount of writing time instead of a required number of words. It feels less stressful somehow.

Liz Penney said...

I'm a muller who writes in fits and starts so fast drafting would not work for me. I also polish as I write. Yes, it's important to be disciplined but you can't force creativity.

Unknown said...

Hi Lynn and Liz, I've used both your methods: a set amount of time and polishing as I go. If one thing isn't working I try another - whatever it takes to keep making progress. :)

Maureen Fisher said...

I'm with you on this, Karen. I simply can't whip my creative muse to make her work faster. My subconscious needs enough time to kick in.

Madelle Morgan said...

For me, a fast draft would only work if I had already thought out the plot, characters GMC, and scenes. It takes me a while to invent all the elements and assemble them in my mind BEFORE I start writing.

When you have a series this advance planning is even more crucial - you have to have the whole series planned before you start writing, so the right secondary characters are in place, the setting is solid, etc.

Thanks for an interesting post.

Callene Rapp said...

Thank you so much! I seriously thought there was something wrong with me because when I tried fast draft, all I got was a pile of crap that was completely unrevisable. Like you, I kept thinking there was something that I should be able to salvage, but other than the characters which I had already developed, and a few tiny snippets, it was a waste.
It did teach me that I can write faster if I turn off the internal editor, so I'm grateful for that. But not for the months I spent trying to revise something that just wasn't going to work. I'm glad/sorry to hear others have had similar experiences.