Thursday, March 21, 2013

The aaargh draft & the universe of Writing Fast

We all know about a certain anatomically impossible act frequently recommended but today I’m going to talk about another, less frequently recommended, but also anatomically impossible act: the plusses of holding your nose and typing. But, you ask, won’t I add to the “tsunami of crap”? The answer is yes, of course, but let me remind you that writing slowly and agonizingly can also result in unspeakable crap. So, you choose.
  • When you write fast, you get the engine running.
  • You quash the inner scold, that mahatma of negativity that rains on your parade. By writing fast, you don’t give yourself time to censor or second-guess yourself and you avoid obsessing over whether your hero should be blond, brunette or a power-baldy à la Bruce Willis. You can always figure out the details later and, more often than not, as the character engages and develops, hair color (or lack of hair) will become obvious.
  • Writing fast increases your chances of “getting into the flow” and gaining access to your sub-conscious or what Steven King calls “the boys downstairs.” Those “boys”—or girls if you’re of the female persuasion—are the source of creativity. They are the ones who come up with the unexpected (even to the writer!) plot twist and help you get the work done.
  • By watching the words and the pages pile up, you give yourself the gift of a sense of accomplishment. Where there was nothing, there is now something and the mere fact that there’s “something” where once there was nothing builds confidence.
  • Last of all, writing fast is professionally crucial in these days of self-publishing because new books help sell old books. Just ask Joe Konrath or Dean Wesley Smith.

Now that I’ve persuaded you (I hope!) of the plusses of writing fast, one obvious question rises: How do you make yourself write when you’re tired, distracted, uninspired or just plain “not in the mood.”
My friend Rona Jaffe used to “read something good.” Which meant one of her already-published books. For Rona, reading her own work reminded her of what she did well and what she’d been successful at.
Other writers read something by an author whose work they admire
Coffee works for some. Loud music for others. Vivaldi’s The Seasons for still others.
An external deadline can help: a contract or even a promise to someone else—including the dog who is in need of a walk.
Setting a word target, a time target, a scene target adds focus in the form of an achievable goal.
Do you respond better to the kiss or the whip? If the first, promise yourself a Dove Bar at the end of your just-get-it-down writing session. If the whip, then no dessert for you tonight unless you get your quota filled!
Shut the door, turn off the phone, the internet, do whatever you have to do to get the job done.  Adapt Nora Roberts’ approach: you will permit interruptions only in the case of “blood or fire.”
Roni Loren wrote 97k words in 55 working days and did the revisions in 5 days. She had always thought of herself as a slow writer but deadlines compelled her to speed up. She was surprised by the result and blogged about what she learned here.
Once you've done your prep work , whether you're a pantser who starts out with a vague idea or maybe some characters plus an incident or a plotter who loves detailed outlines, begin to write your story. Power through because once you’ve got something —just about anything—down on paper or, these days, on the screen, you have a point of departure. You can always fix it later. If you don’t have something down, there’s nothing to fix.
In the Universe of Writing Fast, there are a number of possible outcomes:
  • Might be much better than you think and just needs a light edit. Yay! Treasure the moment because you get to feel you're better than you think.
  • Might be pretty good but needs a careful edit. OK, editing is part of the job of being a writer so get on with it.
  • Might be dull, drab and needs major, butt-in-chair revision. That’s OK, too, because revision is also part of the job.
  • The aaargh! draft: So what you wrote is real crapola and needs a four-corners rewrite? Don’t let that get you down and don’t forget: It ain’t the writing it’s the rewriting. Professionals know it and the aaargh! draft is the perfect case in point.
  • Even worse than the aaargh draft is draft so putrid it threatens the integrity of the time-space continuum. We’ve all been there, done that and that’s why keyboards come with delete buttons. Just because you wrote it doesn’t mean you have to publish it or even that anyone else has to see it. Just trash it, see if there's anything you can learn from it, and move on.
  • Saving best for last: OMG! Did I write that? It’s just about the best feeling a writer can have and, when you write fast, you outrun your insecurities and second guesses, your tendency to “fix” and fiddle, you’re also raising the odds of the OMG!-Did-I-write-that? outcome.
So, dear readers, do you write fast? Or slow? Have you ever tried to change the way you write? How did that turn out?

As for me, I wrote THE CHANEL CAPER fast because the MC, Blake Weston, her voice, her attitude came to me one day more or less out of the blue. What did take time, though, was revising, editing and polishing that first draft. But that's the way the process usually works for me.

Kindle  |  Nook  |  Kobo


  1. I wish I could write faster. I find I can right at a pretty good pace (not like Roni's though) if the story is already outlined and in place in my mind. But when I'm still in the initial stages, simply writing a bunch of words can often result in a lot of wasted time. So I'd add the caveat: outline first or at least know the story pretty well--especially the ending. Congrats on the launch of the Chanel Caper!

  2. Thanks, Anne!

    You're talking about what I call the prep work. Whether you do an "official" outline or just have some characters, setting, situation, etc. You need to have some point of departure before you begin. I also find the ends of books go MUCH faster than beginnings. I always have to go back and rewrite/revise the beginning.