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How to Write a Fast-Draft Novel

If you’ve ever tried to write a fast draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) and been unable to complete it, you’re not alone. Plenty of people attempt to get that important first draft down on paper, so they can move to revisions with an eye for deepening characters and motivations, and finessing the plot. But more often than not, writers end their month of drafting with a partially-written draft that they’ll never look at again. It doesn’t have to be this way! Don’t go into fast-drafting alone and without a plan. Find some camaraderie, some writer friends who will hold you accountable, and then make a solid plan for the book you’d like to not only finish, but market one day. Here are a few suggestions to help you put a plan into place before you start drafting, so you have a better chance of success... GIVEAWAY: Denise is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Ron Estrada won.)

If you’ve ever tried to write a fast draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) and been unable to complete it, you’re not alone. Plenty of people attempt to get that important first draft down on paper, so they can move to revisions with an eye for deepening characters and motivations, and finessing the plot. But more often than not, writers end their month of drafting with a partially-written draft that they’ll never look at again.

It doesn’t have to be this way! Don’t go into fast-drafting alone and without a plan. Find some camaraderie, some writer friends who will hold you accountable, and then make a solid plan for the book you’d like to not only finish, but market one day. Here are a few suggestions to help you put a plan into place before you start drafting, so you have a better chance of success:

GIVEAWAY: Denise is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Ron Estrada won.)

denise-jaden-author-writer
fast-fiction-jaden-book

Column by Denise Jaden, author of critically-acclaimed fiction for teens,
including LOSING FAITH and NEVER ENOUGH. Her nonfiction books for
writers include Writing with a Heavy Heart: Using Grief and Loss to Stretch
Your Fiction and her new release Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and
Drafting a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days. She lives just outside Vancouver,
Canada, where she homeschools her son and dances with a world
renowned Polynesian dance troupe. Find her on Twitter.

1. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. The more ideas you have, the easier it will be to write quickly. Jot down ideas whenever and wherever they come to you. Out at a restaurant I might notice the nametag of Carly, the waitress. From there, my mind springboards into all sorts of ideas of what a character like Carly could be like. Perhaps I’ll even come up with some motivations for Carly (she wants a raise), and an obstacle coming against that motivation (but she just can’t stop dropping dishes). All in the space of an hour, while visiting and having a meal, I have come up with a fun new character and a bit of background. My family and friends are quite used to me whipping out my phone to jot down story and character ideas, no matter where we are. The key is to always keep your eyes open and mark down every little idea, before it gets lost to your swarming everyday thoughts.

(Writer's Digest asked literary agents for their best pieces of advice. Here are their responses.)

2. Write YOUR story. The idea for my debut novel, Losing Faith, sprung from feelings I still carry around about losing my best friend when I was a teen. While the situation in my book is much different than my own teen trauma, I had strong feelings when I wrote the book about the confusion during the loss of someone close. I don’t think anyone else in the world could have written Losing Faith. And I don’t think anyone else in the world can write the story you have passionate feelings about writing. Dig deep, and don’t stop looking until you discover what that story is.

3. Use visual or audible cues. Once you have a story idea and a few characters in mind, gather some visual and audible props to help you discover more about them. Look through Google Images to find pictures (or draw them yourself) of your characters and setting. Add these to your computer desktop, or print them out to display in your office. Make a playlist of songs to go with your new book before you even write it. Music can be very motivating—just look at how many people have ear buds in at the gym! Having visual and audible cues will help keep your story fresh in your head when your motivation to write is sluggish

4. Set a measurable goal to finish. You don’t have to set a word-count goal, if that feel too inorganic to your writing process, but set a goal that you can measure, and make your overall goal for the completion of your book. As much as it may feel like a great accomplishment to get halfway through a draft in a month, how many half-written drafts do you already have on your computer? Half-written drafts, more often than not, don’t get completed. So set yourself up for a chapter a day, or a scene per day, or 2,000 words per day—whatever you like. But make sure however many days you have will tally up to a finished product.

(When can you finally call yourself a writer?)

5. Pull it all together. Once you have a lot of ideas with visual and audible cues, a measurable goal, and a passion for the story you want to write, give yourself a plan for that story. Make sure all of your relevant ideas are written down in one place and set in an approximate order. In my new book, Fast Fiction, I use a Story Plan, and give directed guidance on how to fill it in before attempting a fast draft. You can find an example of my story plan setup on my website at http://www.denisejaden.com/storyplan.html . Whether you use my plan or your own, I recommend pulling it all together in a place that will serve as a quick-glance sheet throughout your fast drafting.

If you’re thinking of trying to fast draft, but don’t know where to start, drop by my blog for two features I’m running to help writers get started: Writing Prompt Wednesdays and Fast Fiction Fridays at http://denisejaden.blogspot.com. If you have any tips for getting a draft down quickly, I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Happy fast-drafting!

GIVEAWAY: Denise is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Ron Estrada won.)

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