Speed-Writing Your First Draft: 5 Tips

What’s the one thing that makes us write slowly or stop writing completely?

Fear.

Fear of inexperience, fear of failure, fear of imperfection. Yet we know that to get better, we have to write.

To get a perfect draft, we need to edit, and you can’t edit a blank page!

How do you get past the fear and write quickly? Follow these five tips.

1. Get rid of distractions.

Turn off the TV and your internet (I use Anti-Social to block distracting websites).

Go somewhere where you can be either alone or undisturbed.

Be conscious about other distractions. If easily stimulated, write uncomfortably. You’ll write quickly to get it over with! I’ve written pages in the garage, crammed into the passenger seat of my car with my laptop.

Consider writing your first draft longhand! Writing by hand forces you to focus on the pen and the page. To write faster than Bilbo, however, read on.

slow-writing

2. Write recklessly.

Make adventure, discovery, and creation your goal. Be brave and take risks.

If you need a plan before you jump in, guns blazing, my 8 C’s plotting method demystifies structure while giving you plenty of freedom.

Remember the character + conflict formula for dramatic storytelling. Write as if your characters are in a video game. Ask yourself “What if ______?” and “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen right now?” Then write it.

3. Embrace the suck.

Go for speed rather than going for “good.” Writing quickly is about quantity, not quality. Save the slow, quality writing for revision. Pull a Buzz Lightyear—sure, this first draft won’t fly, but it can fall with style!

speed-writing

4. Don’t edit! 

Major editing before knowing your three acts and your theme is a waste of time—you won’t know what to cut, what to keep, and what to change.

If you have to, darken/invert the screen, type in white or pale gray, or type across the room with a wireless keyboard so you can’t read what you’re typing.

If you MUST fix errors, don’t dare edit until your scene is done! After you’ve finished the scene/chapter/book, you can go back and fix problems.

5. Just. Keep. Writing.

Write past the typos, the weirdness, the words-to-look-up.

Sure, switch tenses or points of view while drafting. Doing so helps you find your novel’s most natural voice! Revise later, once you’ve decided what works best for the whole story.

Make notes and comments in-text so you don’t lose your train of thought. I use three slashes (///) before and after these notes so I can find them easily while revising. Example:

in-text

(The fact that I didn’t fix “comepletely” is a true testament to my strong will.)

If you don’t know a word or fact, type TK—it means “to come,” but the “TK” combination isn’t found in common English words, so your find/replace function will filter out other words.

Do you have any other tips for writing quickly or recklessly? Share them in the comments!

you-can


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17 thoughts on “Speed-Writing Your First Draft: 5 Tips

  1. claragwrites says:

    Thanks so much for this. I usually write slowly and edit a lot as I go. I’ll be participating in nanowrimo and I think I’ll have to change tactics for the month. These are good tips for that. If you are also participating, find me as claragwrites.
    Thank you!

    • Lara says:

      You’re welcome, Clara! I completely understand. It took me 7 years to write 50K. Then last year, I adopted the practices above. By the end of the year, I wrote 20K in 24 hours!

      November tends to be the craziest month for me, but if I log on, I’ll cheer for you! Otherwise maybe I’ll see you around for one of the Camp NaNoWriMos 🙂

  2. Tara says:

    As I have just completed my word goal for NaNoWriMo for today. It is my second year and I am hoping to get farther this year than I did last year. Last year I managed a measly 11k words. While today I am feeling great about this upcoming month I also feel that I may need to read this blog post several times. Thanks for posting it, it came at a great time for me.

  3. Leigh Uranga says:

    I’ve spent the past 24 hours, in and out, clicking on several links on this website. I discovered you via Pinterest and I’d like to tell you that you’ve so far been the most informative and helpful of sites I’ve also seen in the past 24 hours hours that are like yours. For me, this post sticks out more than the regular posts you have on the sidebar because essentially all the items listed in this post are things I do. I love to read what I write as I go along. However, I have also feared going ahead of where I am because the plot hasn’t been fully developed. Yes, I know my ending (vaguely) and I have a good amount of the intermediate stuff fleshed out but fear has been the biggest reason why I haven’t been consistently writing as you pointed out. However, that has also changed because in most of your posts, it looks like I am doing the right thing and that is encouraging. Thank you 🙂

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