I was asked to review this book by the publisher. I received no money, though I did get a copy of the book. The opinions offered are mine alone.
by Denise Jaden
When I was offered the chance to review this book, I leapt at it. I have a lot of story ideas that I'm working on (a novel, several short stories, another novel all lined up and ready to go when I finish the first one) and then there are other things (like making a living) that take up my time.
So, fast fiction? I'm there.
The full title of this book is Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days. The author, Denise Jaden, was inspired by her experiences writing a novel during Nanowrimo, helped along by the fact that the novel she wrote the first time she participated eventually got published. She's such an enthusiast of the process that she offers her own Thirty Day Writing Challenge on her blog.
I'm good with Nanowrimo–I've participated in it and I know a lot of other writers who have, too. But what mostly appealed to me about this book was learning Jaden's techniques for writing fiction fast.
Before I tell you more about the book, let's dispel one notion right off the bat–just because something is done quickly, that doesn't mean it is bad, okay? I'm not sure how this idea got started, but it is prevalent. For my money, writing a first draft as fast as you can often means you get your deep true voice on the page better than when you labor over a draft. Of course, after completing said first draft you then go on to rewrite, revise and polish it in future drafts–that is a given.
Back to the book. So many writing books get me enthused at the beginning and then I get bored. But I've actually been working with the ideas in this one. As those of you have taken my novel-writing class or read many of my posts know, I'm a big believer in doing prep work before you start the writing. (In other words, I am not a pantser, but a proud plotter.) And this method is essentially Jaden's technique for writing fast. In Part One: Before the Draft, she takes you through all the prep work pieces that will enable you to write a fast draft. She includes tons of questions and prompts about character, setting, and plot that will help you lay out ideas for the novel.
In Jaden's world, after you've done all of the afore-mentioned exercises, you are then ready to create a story plan which you will follow in order to fast draft. I'm a sucker for anything with the word "plan" in it, so I decided to apply this to a novella I'm writing (it used to be a story but recently grew to a novella). I had some sketchy notes and a first scene written for this novella. I applied the 11 steps in Jaden's story plan(they include things like identifying what your main character wants and lining out each scene) to it, et voila, fast drafting is indeed much easier. (I've said it before and I'll say it again, not only to you, but to myself–writing works ever so much better when you know where you're going.)
Part Two of the book is a day-by-day guide for the actual thirty day drafting process. It's full of more ideas and prompts, the gist of it being that you refer to each page as you go along. I'm not doing the thirty day drafting thing, so I'm mining this section of the book for inspiration in a more random way. And Part Three of the book has some good thoughts on revision.
So, I give this book an enthusiastic thumbs up. Even if you aren't a believer in fast drafting, or if you are, gasp, a pantser, I think you'll find a lot of value in it.
What's your favorite book on writing? Do you have one that you go back to over and over or do you find yourself seeking out a new one?