More than a place--it's a writer's muse.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Down and Dirty: The Fast Draft or Dirty Draft Process to Writing Your Novel in Two Weeks

Recently I got asked by bestselling author Ann Aguirre (Grimspace, Wanderlust, Blue Diablo & upcoming Doubleblind) to beta her YA WiP. Flattered (okay, stunned as if by a brick to the head) I asked what stage she was in with the writing and she responded that she'd be fast drafting it starting the following day so she'd have a draft done in two weeks.

Yep. You read that right--a novel draft in 2 weeks.

I'd heard about fast drafting at RWA Nationals this year while sitting in a restaurant listening to author Candace Havens (The Demon King and I & Dragons Prefer Blondes) talk about writing challenges and goals. Candace does workshops on the fast draft technique (and surviving what she calls "Revision Hell"). I wrote 13 to Life (my debut YA paranormal--out in June 2010 with St. Martin's Press) in 5 weeks. Did I dare cut more than half that time out of the initial process?

I asked Ann if she minded me tagging along on the fast draft journey. Ann said no problem. So each day we acted as accountability partners and checked on each other. Set our goals, adjusted our word counters on our blogs, and pushed ahead.

On Twitter some of my followers asked about the process, so I tried to to simplify it. Here's what I said (with additional characters of explanation--140 character limit--puh-leez ;-):

1.) Turn off your internal editor (you don’t need her complaining right now anyhow).

2.) Start writing ("Butt in Chair" as many say), accepting the fact this is a draft & drafts aren’t perfect. (#2 is muy importante ;-)) Keep in mind most people don't get published, but then too--most people don't EVER complete a manuscript. Don't be like them. Tha's an order. :-)

3.) Write 5k each day for 14 days. This is what some call a dirty draft. Yes. It's grueling some days. Yes, there are MANY excuses you can make at the end of the day (we are creative people) about why you couldn't quite hit 5k... Don't spend time on excuses! Spend time on nailing your goal. You will feel freakishly empowered the first or second time you hit it (or surpass it).

4.) In two short weeks this gives you 70k (a real, honest-to-gosh book length manuscript). That length is my approximate that's listed in my multibook deal with St. Martin's Press, so it's a seriously viable number.

5.) Take a step back–set the manuscript somewhere for at least a few days without editing. No touchy!

6.) Approach it with fresh eyes (yours or a crit partner’s) and a positive attitude. Look at what you've already accomplished! Now you're going to make it strong--make it shine. Look for gaps in the plot. Any spots trucks would try to drive through? Fix it. Are your characters evolving in a logical way? If not, wrangle them back in or discover why things changed with them (can we say "subplot" or "backstory"? I think we can!). ;-)

7.) Play “yes and” with your crit partner or yourself while revising – this means accepting changes ("Yes, that's a good idea and I think it'll help if I also...") and by giving the “what if” & “what else” questions your story raises more opportunity to grow.

8.) Polish, but not obsessively (obsession is not healthy & breeds self-doubt). Remember that inner critic we stuffed away in step one. Let her get a peek. If she gets nasty--back in the box! ;-)

9.) Get your query and synopsis super tight – high concept tight.

10.) Send your baby out and reward yourself. Regardless of what editors or agents may say (and many will probably have something you can learn from) you have already taken the hardest first step in this journey. YOU WROTE A BOOK!

~Saoirse Redgrave

Author of the 13 to Life YA paranormal series hitting shelves in June 2010 (why are you reading this last part--you have 5k to write! ;-).


Robin said...

Thank you Ann Aguirre for introducing you, and in turn, us, to Dirty Drafting. It is like a giant mindstorm, getting the bones of a story to flesh out. Highly attractive to me. Having an accountability partner is smart, too. this may be the cure to the numerous manuscripts I have half-finished because I get caught up in reference work. More often than not that great book plan i had in the beginning is gone by the time i finish looking up stuff on the computer.

Saoirse Redgrave said...

Absolutely agreed. At my workshop in Ohio (Spring 2010) at the RT Booklover's Convention we'll be trying to get folks organized so they have an AP to help cheer them on!

And Ann is awesome (though she's trouncing my word count today)!

Gail Hart said...

Wow, 70,000 words in two weeks - I'm impressed, maybe even intimidated!

SarannaDeWylde said...

What a great post!

I know I can do this! And really, it is so empowering like Saoirse said to hit that goal. And keep hitting it.

I finished my true crime memoir in a week. So, I know I can do a more reasonable rate. I like having an accountability partner. It helps motivate me.

Saoirse Redgrave said...


Don't be intimidated by the numbers, just forge forward with a story concept. Today I hit a spot where I wondered "How the heck are they getting out of that?" I took a break, cleared my head and suddenly--ohhh. That COULD work. ;-) Then back to the thump-thump-thump of me typing (hunt and stomp style :p).


I have no doubt you can do this. The feeling you get from achieving a creative goal--awesome stuff! And I agree, a good accountability partner makes all the difference. I occasionally need to know someone's going to be peeking at my progress. :-)

Liane Gentry Skye said...

Ohhh, you're my hero. I took Candace Haven's class last year and wimped out on day five LOL. I'm convinced my internal editor must be squelched with copious amounts of chocolate martinis. Anyway, I'm trying again. :) Thanks for the reminder that this is doable!

Liane Gentry Skye said...

I claim thee, Saranna as my accountbility partner. Let's do it! Race you to the keyboard. :P

SarannaDeWylde said...

OOH! I accept, Liane!

*cracks the whip* I want my 5K! <---Maybe this is why I get to be the leather clad villainess?

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