January 30th, 2007
FAST DRAFT–Why did it work?

PBW asked me to do a blog entry on FAST DRAFT once I finished participating in the exercise. My official ending date is on the 31st of this month. I started a couple of days later than everyone else.

I’ll begin by explaining what Fast Draft is (although the name is fairly self-explanatory). Fast Draft was created by Candace Havens as a way of getting the first draft of a manuscript down on the page. The point isn’t to necessarily complete the book, but to get the bones down. The object is to get 20 pages written everyday for 14 days, so that you end up with 280 pages.

I admit it sounds daunting. Two hundred and eighty pages in fourteen days. Yikes! I didn’t even think it was possible (unless you’re Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nora Roberts or PBW) to get that kind of page count daily–but it is. The key is to forget everything you’ve ever learned about writing and just let go. You don’t have to stick with a chapter if it’s not working, you can jump anywhere you like in the book. The dreaded internal editor has an extremely difficult time keeping up with you, when you do this. (wg)

Now I admit that I didn’t write 280 pages. I didn’t have 280 pages left of my book. I wrote 167 pages and finished the book. I plan to write ten more by tomorrow for a total of 177 pages. (Because like I said in the last post, I’m anal. *ggg*) Could I have written 280 pages? Yes, I could have. I didn’t know that was possible until I completed this exercise. If anyone would’ve asked me that question prior to doing Fast Draft, I would have said no way.

Which brings me to the question of why this worked, when other writing challenges haven’t. Three reasons come to mind. The first is that Candace is big on guilting you. I don’t mean that in a bad way. She makes it very clear before the challenge begins that there will be no whining and that if you don’t write the pages you’ll be letting the ‘group’ down. Now normally this kind of crap doesn’t work on me. Not because I don’t feel guilty about letting people down (I do.), but because I tend to have an abreaction (It pisses me off.) when I know someone is trying to manipulate my emotions. It also helped that Charli and I checked in with each other several times a day to make sure we were making progress.

The second reason I think Fast Draft was so effective was because of the time period. I’ve done ‘Book in a Month’ a couple of times. The first time it worked really well for me. The second time, not so much. I know a month isn’t a long period of time, but for some reason fourteen days seem more ‘doable’. The cut in days also erases any chance of making excuses. You only have fourteen days to get as much writing in as possible. You automatically see the light at the end of the tunnel before you ever write a single word.

The third reason I think Fast Draft worked is because the approach to writing was different than anything I’d done before. I had extensive notes for my manuscript, including two different chapter breakdowns. Before I started writing, I took those notes and placed them in my book as chapter markers. I didn’t care if they ended up staying where I originally put them. I just needed them on the page so that I had a loose outline to follow. Also, Candace encourages placing notes throughout the manuscript as you’re writing, so that nothing slows you down. All this made writing chapters much, much, MUCH simpler.

I’m not saying that Fast Draft was easy. (Personally, I’m still burnt.) But I’m not sure I would have a first draft completed now, if I hadn’t participated. Actually, I take that back. I know for sure I wouldn’t have a draft done now, if I hadn’t decided to participate. Fast Draft has taught me a new way to approach writing a manuscript. Like Charli, I’m not good at stopping and starting. I have to plow through to the end, then go back and ‘fix’ everything. Up until Fast Draft, I hadn’t been doing that with this book. I’ve been editing as I go along, which has slowed the writing process down to a crawl. This method is a way for me to get the bones of the book down fast without messing up deadlines. I will be using it in the future.

For those of you who’ve participated in Fast Draft, what was your experience? Did you find something that worked better for you? If so, what?

22 comments to “FAST DRAFT–Why did it work?”

  1. Jordan, congrats on your progress! Ever since you first mentioned Fast Draft, I’ve been meaning to look into it for myself. Is the link to the yahoo group (which doesn’t appear to have a lot of messages in it) the actual link for the Fast Draft workshop? I also checked Candy’s website but didn’t find specifics. I’m always looking to improve, both from a craft standpoint and a productivity standpoint.

  2. Lara, You need to sign up for the link above to receive notes from Candace on how to get ready for Fast Draft participation and other classes that she holds. She’s the only one posting to that particular link. There was another link, which was for the people participating in Fast Draft. I actually didn’t sign up for it, but here it is: Write_WorkshopChat-subscribe [at] yahoogroups [dot] com. Sorry that you’ll have to copy and paste. 🙁 From what I understand, the ‘chat’ link was a way for the participants to encourage each other and post their progress. I used Charli for that. *ggg*

  3. I’m thinking one of the best things about this is that I’m pretty lame at writing a proposal before the book is done, but if I can take two weeks and write a draft, I can write a good detailed synopsis from that…and the book’s done, too. *g*

  4. I think the thing of putting in chapter-marking notes *beforehand* is a really key idea. I’ve done Book In A Week, which is a very similar process, and for BIAW you’re supposed to write notes each night so the next morning, you can just start writing again w/o having to reread. But I think notes from the beginning is even better, because you have a little roadmap for where you’re trying to go, however sketchy it may be.

    OK, I’m gonna try that method right now. 🙂 Thanks for the informative post, Jordan.

  5. Charli, I hadn’t thought of the proposal/synopsis angle, but you’re right. It will make writing them much easier. 🙂

  6. Catherine, The notes helped tremendously. I actually spent my first two days of Fast Draft typing in all my notes. (I had twenty five pages worth of them.) :-O

  7. I can certainly understand how Fast Draft would do wonders for a proposal; and possibly get published authors, with agents, paychecks well in advance. If you feel your finished product and continuity turned out just as well, I dont see any downside except possibly in how much fun you still have with the actual writing. Although Ive written over twenty pages in a day, it was because the content and excitement of the plot drove me on. Im not sure forcing out twenty pages a day would be an enjoyable task, unless of course my next meal depended on it. All bets are off if a roof over my head, or the next meal was the driving force. 🙂

  8. Bernard, I enjoyed it well enough, mainly because part of my joy is getting the words down on the page. I get lost in my worlds on occasion, but not frequently. I have to make myself stay focused. *g* I don’t have to rely on my writing to put food on my table, but it is my career. And these days you can’t build a career with one book a year…unless you’re Stephen King or JK Rowling. (And even King has a healthy backlist. 😉

  9. Jordan, I’m glad you finished your manuscript. It freaks me out a little that people are discussing the class this way. I had no idea. And, um, I don’t see it as “guilt.” I like to think of it as encouragement. :-)-Candy Havens

  10. Candace, I think people are talking about it so much because they’re so excited. I know that’s why I’ve been discussing it. Prior to doing Fast Draft, this book was kicking my butt. Your creation helped tremendously. I know a lot of people who’d never heard of Fast Draft are suddenly wanting more information. 🙂 As for the guilt, maybe that’s just the way I ‘heard’ it. 😉 Thank you very much for creating Fast Draft. It is a tool I will use often. 😀

  11. Congrats on finishing the workshop! I did Ms. Havens’s fast draft workshop a while ago when she gave the workshop at Romance Divas. And although I didn’t finish my story because I got ill, it was a terrific experience. But too exhausting. I spent almost 5 months away from writing.

  12. Tempest, Thank you! Do you mean that you spent five months away from writing after participating or beforehand? The reason I ask is because for me, her workshop has been just the shot in the arm that I needed. 🙂 I do realize though that everyone’s experience is different. Hope you’re feeling better.

  13. I’m trying to figure out whether or not I should give this a shot. Since I tend to write two or three things at once, I dunno if I can focus on one thing long enough to do a fast draft.

    :o| thinking thinking thinking…

  14. Shiloh, I’ve tried working on multiple projects. It’s great. If you get stuck on one, then you can move to the next story. My problem is that working on multiple things slows my overall productivity down a LOT. I suppose you could try to do this and aim for twenty pages for each manuscript or ten pages for each manuscript, depending on how many you’re working on. I truly found the process helpful. It lit a fire under me. Give it a try. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

  15. Congratulations on finishing!!

  16. Thanks Syl! (((Hugs)))

  17. It’s interesting how my approach to my current WIP is very similar to Fast Draft. I signed up for it, but I didn’t join because well, last month was a bad time for me. I haven’t even had time to read Candy’s workshop posts! But what I did was plot, sorta outline it and write the scenes in whatever order I wished, writing just one line per scene if that’s what I wanted to do. It worked, because before I start writing scenes that may actually appear in the WIP, I have a beginning, a sort-of middle and an ending.

    Congrats Jordan!

  18. Thank you for the insight and the post, ma’am. 🙂

  19. Excellent work, Jordan, and many thanks for sharing your experience. It’s inspiring! I seem to keep getting interruptions at the moment, but I’ll give it a shot soon.

  20. Thanks May! I plot like you just described. My notes tend to be much more detailed. Some contain entire dialogue scenes, fights, setting, etc. Like I always said, it’s whatever works for you. 🙂

  21. You’re welcome, ma’am. 🙂

  22. Thanks Saskia! Candace leads by example with this exercise. Once you hear her schedule, you cringe. If she can get writing in, then anyone can. 🙂