With the month of NaNoWriMo upon us, we might wonder about the value and difficulty of various styles of drafting. For example, some might see NaNo’s goals—where we try to write 50K words in 30 days—and think about “fast drafting” or word sprinting, like on Twitter’s #1k1hr hashtag.
But we all have different writing processes, and what works for one might not work for another. Or more frustratingly, just because something works for us one time doesn’t mean it will work for us all the time. Our process might evolve with more experience, or adjust as our situation, our mood, or our connection with the story itself changes.
However, NaNo can be a great time to experiment and see what works for us and our writing process. So let’s take a look at some of our options for how we get our first draft down on the page.
There’s No “One Right Way” to Draft
Everyone’s brain is different: what we notice, how we process information, what gets us stuck or unstuck, what motivates us, what helps us connect to our characters, etc.
There's no “one right way” to draft our story, so we need to discover what works for us Click To TweetOur situations are different: our free hours in a day, the distractions or other obligations in our lives, our support system, etc.
Our goals are different: the types of stories we want to write, the sacrifices we’re willing (and able) to make while in draft mode, what we want out of the NaNo (or any) drafting experience, etc.
I call myself a pantser (as in, writing by the seat of my pants), but for some stories, I’m pantsier than others—and that’s okay. The point is to find—and use—whatever works for us. In the end, there’s only one thing that matters: the finished story.
What Kinds of Options Do We Have?
Whether we’re just starting off and trying to discover what works for us or we’re struggling with how to adjust a process that’s not currently working, let’s look at some of the options we can try:
- researching in advance vs. researching as the story calls for it
- outlining in advance vs. beat sheets vs. pantsing (or anything in between)
- writing linearly vs. jumping from scene to scene
- focusing only on dialogue (or whatever) in the first draft vs. writing a fully layered draft
- thinking of each scene as a short story (beginning to end and an arc of change) vs. keeping the threads of the overall story in mind
- editing as we go vs. only going forward during drafting
- fast-drafting vs. taking as long as we need
- working on one project at a time vs. bouncing between projects as needed for writer’s block or other reasons
- knowing how the story’s going to end ahead of time vs. figuring it out when we get there
- setting a story aside for a different idea when it’s not working vs. putting in the work to make it come together
What Motivates Us to Write?
In addition, our writing process also encompasses the tricks or habits we use to motivate ourselves to write:
- writing in the morning vs. at night
- using music vs. silence
- setting deadlines vs. not
- seeking support from other writers (NaNoWriMo, writing sprints, etc.) vs. answerable only to ourselves
- writing only when we have big chunks of time vs. writing in stolen moments
- aiming for a certain number of pages or words or hours a day
What Does All That Even Mean?
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all those options, and we might not know what some of those descriptions mean. For example, while some use the terms fast drafting and word sprinting interchangeably, technically, they’re different:
- What Is Fast Drafting? Fast drafting is getting the framework of our stories down as fast as possible without worrying what that draft looks like. The idea is to “discover” our first draft as roughly and quickly as possible by not letting our internal editor get in the way.
- What Is Word Sprinting? Word sprinting, whether with friends in a chat, on Twitter, or in a dedicated sprinting forum, simply refers to focused time for writing. The idea is that even when we’re struggling with distractions or procrastination, we might be able to deeply focus on writing for 30 or 60 minutes at a time.
Help! Which Options Should We Try?
Which approaches work better for us might depend on our strengths and weaknesses (in addition to the goal and situation variables mentioned earlier). Those who write by the seat of their pants wouldn’t want to use an outlining-style of writing process.
So we might want to think about what we know about our natural drafting style: How hastily are we typing? How deep in the “writing zone” are we as we’re writing? How well do we capture our voice? What’s our editing style? The answers to these questions might change everything.
How do we know what drafting style works best for us? Click To TweetI’ve noted before that I’m a slow writer. For me, 800-1000 words per hour is “fast.” But I’m okay with that because I’m also a “clean” writer. As I’ve analyzed before, sprinting/fast drafting doesn’t create an editing mess for me, which is good news for how my near-photographic memory complicates my editing process.
But what works for me is unique. Others might write a lot of garbage in with the good stuff that later needs to be heavily edited. Or drafting quickly might mean that we write bare bones and need to spend time later layering in setting, sensory information, and/or emotional responses.
Forget the Advice—Find What Works for You
There’s nothing wrong with any of those options. Maybe we’re really good at editing later, so a bunch of word vomit as we figure out what we really want to say works for us. Our personality can influence which drafting processes work best for us as well.
No matter what we decide, it’s important to listen to our own insights and not just follow what “others” say to do. Some might look down on “word vomit” or other approaches as being inefficient, but if a method isn’t causing us trouble, there’s no reason to fight it in our process—even if advice tells us otherwise. *smile*
How well does your drafting process work for you? Have you tried other options? If so, what made those options work or not work for you? Have you run into issues with the usual drafting advice? Does this post give you other ideas to try?Pin It