5 Strategies for Completing a Novel First Draft: Confessions of a Pantser

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The next few Fridays will feature guest posts on the There Are No Rules blog. If you'd like to join the party, pitch a guest blog post idea to robert.brewer@fwcommunity.com with the subject line: Guest Post Idea for No Rules. Simple as that, and we'll get working on it together. Today's guest post comes from S.K. Lamont, who had a busy writing regimen in 2015.

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In 2015, I completed four first draft novels and found many successful strategies to produce a first draft quickly. Coming from a coaching background, I have helped many people install effective habits and achieve their goals. Now being a fiction writer myself, I apply these strategies to my own writing and have found them to be highly successful.

Here are my top five strategies for completing a first draft.

1. COMMIT

Make a decision. The truth is, writing 2,000 words a day is a pretty serious commitment, therefore you have to make it a top priority. If you don’t, then nine times out of ten, any number of things will come along and hijack your writing time. Because if you're not taking your writing seriously, then why should anyone else?

Set writing goals. At the beginning of last year, I made a decision to write six first draft novels, and to have one of these drafts ready for querying come January. I also set a daily writing goal of 2,000 words a day, six days a week.

Get consistent. Carve out the best time of day to write, and stick with it, hold your feet to the fire. At first, it will be tough, but it will become easier over time.

Be flexible. Of course, we all know as soon as we set a goal, something will come along and mess up our plan—life happens, so stay flexible. If you are being consistent, most of the time, you are making progress.

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2. WRITE FAST

Don’t think, write. I know this sounds crazy, but your creative side already knows the story you want to write. The only thing that stops the words from getting on the page is your thinking mind, analyzing everything, questioning everything.

First word that shows up is right. Just throw it on the page, and you can tweak it later. Right now what is most important is getting the words out.

Never look at a blank page. It's like looking into the abyss, and it will swallow you whole. As soon as you sit down, WRITE, let nothing stop you or get in your way.

Fix it later. Believe it or not you will be able to read your own mess, so if anything slows you down, ditch it and keep running.

Time yourself. I personally love to time myself and try to out do my own word counts. Sprinting with others can be a lot of fun too.

Outrun your inner editor. This is your creative time and not your editors, so leave him or her standing in the dust, as you sprint towards the finish line.

Write like no one’s watching. Write with wild abandon and with tears streaming down your face if need be, and put all that wild crazy stuff down on the page. Later, you get to decide what and if you want to share it with the world.

Capture distraction monkeys and put them in a cage. Turn off the internet and all notifications, I turn off wi-fi, airplane mode is great too. If you need to do research, make a note in your draft and move on! Jot down any brilliant ideas that decide to show up in a notebook and keep going.

3. BOOST YOUR ENERGY

Take a break. Feel stuck, slowing down—get up and move! I usually get up every twenty-five minutes and move for five minutes. Whether it's stretching, dancing or doing jumping jacks, I get it done, then get back in the hot seat and let those fingers fly.

Music is your friend and inspiration. If you’re feeling bogged down, or are about to write an epic scene, get up and crank the music. I love to dance, so I let the music infuse me, I am deep in my imagination and have had whole scenes play out in my head this way.

Eat a quick snack, or have a tea or coffee. I usually have a snack ready to go that I can enjoy in my five-minute break. Try and make snacks healthy, learn what foods and drinks give you energy, rather than steal it.

4. GET IN THE ZONE

I pray just before I write. I know that may seem bizarre to some, but I truly don’t think I’m all that clever. Sometimes these crazy stories just show up out of nowhere. I do not take responsibility for them, which takes the pressure off. Doesn’t matter whether they're good or bad. I step back, bow my head and let someone greater than little old me take the reins. I'm not here to tell you what to believe, I'm just sharing what works for me.

5. DO THE WORK

Just write. Lastly, if I had one piece of advice to give to my fellow would-be pantsers, it would be this—just begin, there is wisdom in this, you want to write don't you, so write! A great adventure awaits you!

I would love to hear what works for you or anything else you would like to share, please leave your comments below.

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S.K. Lamont

S.K. Lamont

S.K. Lamont, originally from Scotland now resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She uses her longing for her homeland to write exciting adventures in wild Scottish landscapes. She is also passionate about dancing, working in clay and has an unhealthy obsession with tea.

She lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband, five children and her crazy Jack Russell.

Connect with her at sklamont.com and on Twitter @sk_lamont

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