Part of the How They Do It Series
Please help me welcome Ava Jae back to the lecture hall today. November is fast approaching, and for some, that means NaNo! So if you want to get a jump start on this years race to 50K, Ava has some great tips on fast drafting to share. And for those who aren't interested in NaNo, but would like to write a first draft a little faster, these tips cams work for you, too.
Ava is a YA and NA writer, an Assistant Editor at Entangled Publishing, and is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. Her YA Sci-Fi debut, BEYOND THE RED, is releasing March 2016 from Sky Pony Press. When she’s not writing about kissing, superpowers, explosions, and aliens, you can find her with her nose buried in a book, nerding out over the latest X-Men news, or hanging out on her social media sites.
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Take it away Ava...
So I don’t quite understand how this year has gone by so quickly, but in two short months, every fast-drafters favorite month will be here.
That’s right. I’m talking about NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo is equal parts exciting and scary. Exciting because it’s an event that often gives writers the boost they need to finish, or get started, or make major progress on their book. Scary because the prospect of writing 50,000 words in a month can sound pretty daunting, especially if you haven’t done it before.
But not to worry! NaNoWriMo can actually be a really motivating and fun experience if you remember a few basic tenants.
As a permanent fast-drafter, I’m going to share some of my top fast-drafting tips, that should prove useful during the upcoming ready, set, write event. But of course, they can be used in any month, if you ever feel like giving fast-drafting a try.
1. Set a goal.
For me, at least, this is easily the most important part of fast-drafting. For NaNoWriMo, in order to reach 50,000 words in a month, you need to write 1,667 words a day. Whether I’m NaNoWriMo-ing or not, I usually aim for 2,000 words a day, which during NaNo, gives me a little extra buffer for those days I’m struggling. But having a daily goal, especially for an event like NaNo is key, because keeping on target helps tremendously in terms of keeping motivated to write.
Your goal doesn’t necessarily have to be daily, however. Maybe you know you can only write on weekdays, so for this month that means you have twenty-one days, which means you’ll need to write 2,381 words five days a week in order to hit your NaNo goal. Whatever you do, just make sure you set some kind of plan for yourself so that you can keep organized throughout the month.
2. Know (and accept) the writing might not be your best.
While writing quickly certainly doesn’t mean the quality is going to suffer—it can mean that sometimes what you write isn’t going to be fantastic. You might even glance back and hate it, but the truth is, when you’re fast-drafting, none of that matters. The point of getting a first draft down quickly is to get the story down so that you can then work with what you have to make it better. There are days when you might think what you’re writing is complete trash, but it’s okay. You can fix all of that later—what you want to focus on now is getting the story out of your head and onto the page.
3. Get ahead when you have the energy.
There will be some days when you hit your writing goal quickly and you still have energy to keep going. When you’re doing a marathon like NaNoWriMo, it’s in your best interest to take advantage of those days to get ahead while you can. Why? Because conversely, there will be days when every word struggles to get out and you’re halfway to your goal and utterly exhausted—and on those days you’ll be glad you got ahead early on so you don’t fall behind if you don’t hit your goal that day.
4. Keep your momentum.
Back in 2013, I won NaNoWriMo in nine days. This was not a normal pace for me, and it’s not a pace I’ve matched since, but the reason I was able to do it was momentum. I way surpassed my 2,000 words a day goal on the first two days of NaNo and I got competitive with myself and kept going without a break until it was done.
The key here is momentum—the more consistently you hit your goal and you get used to writing that amount every day, the easier it becomes. But if you break your streak or write inconsistently, it can be much more difficult to motivate yourself to get back to work. That being said…
5. It’s okay to take a (short) break.
Remember what I said about writing extra on days that you have the energy? Doing so allows you a day off, which you may find that you need partway through the month. Even if you don’t get ahead, however, if you find that you really need a day to rest, that’s okay too. Just make sure you get back to work the next day, and recalculate your goal to see what you’ll need to write every day to make up the difference (in fact, the NaNoWriMo site does this for you). Remember, it’s okay (and sometimes necessary) to adjust your daily writing goal day to day so that you hit 50,000 words at the end of the month. Just do your best to take care of yourself while making as much progress as you can.
6. Bonus: Have an outline ready.
While I’m not going to say it’s impossible to fast-draft without a pre-determined outline, I will say that in my experience at least, it is much easier to write quickly when you have a direction already set out. During NaNoWriMo, you don’t have the time to get stuck because you don’t know where you’re going, which is a big part of the reason so many NaNoers encourage each other to at least set down a loose outline before they dive in. Your outline can be flexible and you’re more than welcome to deviate from it (I always consider my outline more of a guideline rather than a rulebook), but having one can definitely help speed up the process and avoid writer’s block partway through the month.
So those are my top fast-drafting tips! Ultimately, if you hold yourself accountable and keep at it, you’d be amazed what you can complete in a month. Good luck!
About Beyond the Red
Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t top him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.
When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.