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Fast Drafting Fiction (Or Any Other Kind of Writing)

When last I communicated with you, I told how I was taking a hiatus to finish my novel.  As my grandbabies would say, done! (This must be accompanied with both arms raised in the air.)  I finished the first draft on August 31st, and seeing as how my goal was to complete it by the end of August, I was happy.

It took me nearly a year to write it.  I wasn't writing steadily the entire time–I took whole months off here and there while I floundered.  By the standards of the class I'm currently taking, that is an eternity.

I am enrolled in a class called Book in a Month.  The first two weeks you write a draft and the next two weeks you revise.  Candace Havens, who teaches the class, urges her pupils to commit to writing 20 pages a day, gasp.  But, to my great relief, most of us in the class are not doing quite that many pages.  The main rule seems to be that you must write something (and post it on the Yahoo group page) or she may kick you out.  So, since I'm in the midst of getting ready to teach in France, I've committed to 10 pages a day.

This comes at an inconvenient time, I will admit.  I have 50,000 things to do before I leave and all. But I hope plan to be getting in my word count on the plane and the train from Paris to Beziers.  And I really wanted to take the class because I've long suspected I can write faster, and I was curious as to Candace's techniques.  To nobody's surprise, the techniques are simple: write.  

Make a commitment and write.

Ha!  Would that it were that simple.  Oh wait.  It is.

So, I'm a few days in and I'm already learning a lot, mostly that I need to unlearn a lot of stupid rules about writing that I carry around in my head.  Though my rules are likely different than yours,  I thought I would share them with you as instructive examples.  

Stupid Writing Rules

1.  I can't write fast.  Instead, I must sit and stare out the window at my giant Kiwi bush that is slowly taking over my whole backyard and wish that the kiwis would tell me what to write next.  Also, accessing the internet for research periodically is vital.  And, of course, going on Twitter to report my progress (or lack thereof) is also essential.

2. I need lots of uninterrupted time to write. To nail 10 or 20 pages a day, one must have hours of time in which to get words on the page, right? Wrong.  You can do it in small increments and many people do.  Earlier this week I wrote some in the morning, broke to talk to a friend and eat lunch, went back to writing for a bit, went to a Labor Day barbecue, wrote some more, had dinner and watched a little TV and came back to finish my final two pages.  Worked fine.

3. I can't write at night. I am a dedicated morning person, up most days between 5:30 and 6, and it is in these early hours that I like to get my writing in.  I'm at my best in the morning, as long as I have some coffee to write with.  Because of this, I'd started to believe that I couldn't write at night. Wrong!  See #2.

4. I can't write after I've had a glass of wine.  Not true.  The other night I enjoyed Happy Hour with my husband, ate a bite, watched my current favorite TV show, (which is, embarrassingly, Running Wild with Bear Grylls)and then went to my office to get two more pages in.

5. I can't finish one novel and go right to the next. Um, no.  Finished the one I've been laboring over for a year and opened a new file and started the next.

6. I have to have an outline!  I am a confirmed plotter.  Anybody who has worked with me knows that I advocate the benefits of a loose outline, just because it really helps to know where you're going.  But with this novel, I'm running blind.  I had a vague idea as I started and I'm must following where it leads me.  I'm not entirely convinced it will all hand together in the end, but I'm willing to try!  So, for the moment, I've joined the ranks of pantsers.  (Which means, for those who don't know, writers who fly by the seat of their pants with little planning.)

7.  Writing fast produces crap.  This is maybe the biggest surprise.  I'm quite pleased with what's on the page so far. In many ways, I'm coming to believe that writing fast is better for getting your true voice and style on the page.

So that's it, that's what I've learned thus far.  And I really urge you to consider some fast drafting for yourself.  I believe it bypasses the internal critic that slows us down and allows us to get a truer voice on the page.  

What do you think about writing fast? Yes or no?  Have you tried it?

PS.–Guess what?  I can get Typepad on the new Surface tablet I bought to take to France so I'll be blogging from there (she said, hopefully).  Last year I didn't know that I couldn't blog from my Ipad until I got there, sigh.  And by the way, I'm in love with the Surface 2.  It is a tool for work, as opposed to an expensive toy.  Just saying.  For someone who travels as much as I do, it will be a godsend.

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Book Review: Fast Fiction

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.

Fast Fiction          FastFiction_cvr_hires

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?

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