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Tuesday, October 6

Do You Wrimo? 5 Fast-Drafting Tips to Get You through November

By Jodi Turchin, @jlturchin

Part of The How They Do It Series


JH: NaNoWriMo is right around the corner. Jodi Turchin shares tips on fast-drafting your way through November. 

Jodi Turchin is a Young Adult novelist represented by Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary. She’s also a photographer, a high school English teacher, an adjunct college professor, and a former actress and director.

Website | Twitter

Take it away Jodi…

It’s October, and that means November is right around the corner. And for a lot of writers, November means one thing. The arrival of National Novel Writing Month – the challenge to write a 50,000-word novel starting November first and finishing by the thirtieth.

I’ve “won” NaNoWriMo ten times since I first heard of it in 2002. I’ve not won six times. But for me, the best thing about NaNoWriMo is stuffing the inner editor on a shelf for thirty beautiful days and just writing to finish. 

Some people love the revision process – I’m one of those writers who prefers the first draft process to what comes after. So NaNoWriMo works for me. Every year, I try to fast-draft a novel during November (and have done Camp NaNoWriMo a couple other times of the year!). 

Why fast draft? And how do you fast draft?


The why is easy, as I already mentioned – the inner editor must sit down and shut up, and at the end of thirty days, there’s a brand-new first draft to put through the revision process. I’m a plantser – part planner, part pantser, so here’s some advice if you want to give fast-drafting a try.

1. Have your idea BEFORE you start writing. 


The first time I did NaNoWriMo, I heard about it two weeks into November. I managed to finish but the novel went in a lot of places that made no sense. Effective fast drafting doesn’t mean opening a blank document and starting to write – for most of us, anyway. And if we’re giving ourselves a tight time frame, we want to make sure it’s efficient. 


It’s not necessary to have a fully fleshed outline if you’re attempting a fast draft. But it is important to know where you’re going. 

I tend to use The Plot Clock, a tool developed by my writing mentor Joyce Sweeney. It’s an easy way to break down plot points into the timeline of a good plot. I usually have a broad idea of what I want to happen, and I jot down some ideas for each quadrant of the clock on a paper template before I get started. Then I keep that template handy as the writing progresses to remind myself at a glance where I’ve been and where I’m going. 

Whatever type of pre-writing that works for you, be sure to engage with that strategy before you sit down to draft. 

(Here's more on As Basic As Plotting Gets: The Three-Point Structure)

3. Schedule writing time every day, if possible. 


The breakdown of 50K in 30 days is 1,667 words per day. Free the time in your schedule for those thirty days and set the word count goal in your mind. If you want to take days off – I usually try to finish before Thanksgiving on years I’m traveling to family – do the math so you know how much you have to write each day to achieve your goal. Then do it.

(Here's more on Taking the First Step Toward Your Writing—Every Day)

4. Write without your inner editor. 


This is the hardest part for some of us. We labor over the words – is that the best word choice? Should I use a better one? – and re-read what we’ve already written before we add to the manuscript. 

But if you’re fast drafting, you must learn to turn that off. To connect your ideas and plot points directly to your fingers on your keyboard or pen in your hand rather than let the brain ruminate over them. 

I don’t know about you, but if I reread too much of the already-written before moving on to the not-yet-written, I spend too much time trying to fix or change or worse – I don’t write at all because I’m too busy with what I’ve already written. 


Some people swear by the Pomodoro technique to write in a series of short spurts punctuated by breaks. Others use various websites and apps that lock you out of your social media for the time you want to focus on your writing. 

My favorite tool is a word processor – the Neo by Alphasmart. It is not internet enabled, only shows up to six lines of text at a time, and has enough memory to hold your entire NaNo novel. It connects to your computer via USB and sends your text to whatever writing software you use – I’ve uploaded my Neo writing to Word and Dabble. 

While a discontinued item, many used Neo and Neo 2 Alphasmarts can often be found online. For me, it takes away temptation to “cheat” on my manuscript and check social media or do Google searches when I’m writing. 

(Here's more on NaNoWriMo Prep: Get Ready to NaNo Your Novel)

Fast drafting is not for everyone. I like it for the challenge of completing a manuscript; being able to type “the end” in a short timeframe. The beautiful thing about writing is there is no one right way or wrong way to finish your manuscript – as long as you’re writing, you’re doing it right!

1 comment:

  1. Jodi,
    Thanks for the tips! Avoiding social media is my biggest distraction. I'll got to look up a fact and get distracted. I recently started typing ??? to keep myself moving forward.

    ReplyDelete