Although it may look like all I’m doing is spamming out my blog tours for NEED (sorry ’bout that), I’ve actually been deep in the writing cave pounding out a first draft of another novel.
That got me to thinking about the different ways writers get their rough stories onto the page, and whether any one way is more legit than another. There seem to be two camps:
Fast drafting is allegedly the most efficient way to upchuck a story onto the screen. The idea is to write as fast as you can by turning off your inner editor and all gate-keeping. The draft may suck (some pre-planning, like an outline, is required) but people who subscribe to this camp like to say, “You can’t revise a blank page.”
There are programs like Write or Die and events like NaNoWriMo that help (force) writers to fast draft. Candace Havens also teaches a class on the technique.
Anyone who doesn’t fast draft is a plodder (not to be confused with plotter — that’s a different post). These writers like to take their time, sometimes writing as swiftly as fast drafters, but not on purpose. They carefully craft their sentences and produce relatively clean first drafts.
A plodder’s inner editor is present at all times, causing them to commit the heinous crime of backspacing. (I know, look away from the horror.) And while they occasionally take part in one of Twitter’s #1k1hr writing sprints, it probably takes everything they have to ignore the voice in their head screaming at them that what they’re writing is utter crap.
WHERE DO YOU FALL?
Because things are only black and white in books and movies, chances are you fall somewhere in between these two camps. Hats off to the hardcore fast drafters, but IMHO, there’s nothing wrong with taking your time, either. Of course, deadlines have a way of turning plodding tortoises into fast drafting hares, but if you’ve got the luxury of time, I see nothing wrong with letting your writing simmer.
Also: real life. Not all of us can set aside an entire month to hammer out a draft. We have kids, summer vacation, carpool duties, spouses to cook dinner for, homework to check, unexpected overtime at work, etc.
IN THE END
Surely we writers are more evolved than to think we have to divide ourselves into to camps like Democrats and Republicans. (Oh, burn!) Seems to me that switching between the two is the most reasonable, depending on circumstances. And just like we love our children very differently (they are completely separate, unique people after all), there’s no need to say that one way is better than another. They’re just different.
How do you write? Are you a speed machine or a calculating craftsman? Do you change depending on the circumstances, like deadlines? Any resources we should know about?
I’m pretty sure I fall into the plodder camp. The thought of writing without correcting mistakes makes me shudder. I’d love to write a speedy first draft. One of these days, I might just force myself. Really enjoyed this post.
Glad you liked it, Amaleen! I’m with you. I’ll occasionally have fast bursts, maybe even for a day or two, but for the most part, I take my time.
I’m a total plodder – with an outline done first. AND I write by hand to prohibit that nasty backspace. The best part, is that when I put it into the computer, each scene gets a first round of edits!
Problem with being a plodder – takes FOREVER to write a novel! My ocd just won’t allow any other way, though. 😦
I’m a plodder even when I do NANOWrIMO, I still .. edit. Can’t help myself. If I don’t fix it, I’ll just obsess over it. (good post!)
C.M. Walker said:
I used to be an edit-as-I-go writer but I never finished anything because I was constantly re-working what I already had.
Now I’m a fast-drafter convert. BUT I have to have my plot planned out.
It takes me longer to to get my outline/plan figured out than to write my first draft. I don’t get the details of every scene down, but I’ll have a couple scenes I know well, and the rest I have at least a general idea.
Once I sit down to write my rough draft, I shoot for 2000-3000 words a day. I can do this in 2-3 focused hours, which means I can do it after my family goes to bed if needed. To keep at the 1000-or-more words an hour speed, I have to use Write or Die so my fingers don’t stop. 😉
Then comes the revision. That, too, usually takes me longer than the draft. But since my edit-as-I-go days, I’ve learned an important rule: revise for big stuff first, and little stuff last. I don’t mess with word choice, sentence structure, etc. until I’m in the final stages of revision, whereas it used to be that I would spend weeks on that kind of stuff in just a few chapters, over and over again!
Yes, I definitely think fast-drafting is a good practice for those who are never able to finish due to constantly revising.
And it’s so hard to revise for big stuff before little stuff. That’s something I still need to work on. Hats off to you!
I started writing as a plodder. I would write a plan for each chapter before I would begin and then write every sentence and paragraph carefully and not move on until I was completely satisfied. It took me ages! I could spend a few hours working on one paragraph. If I got 500 words written in a day (4-6 hours) I would consider that a productive day. Over 2 1/2 years I wrote 150k words for my first novel. When I started the big edit though I realised that writing so carefully might not be the best thing for me because I ended up having to delete entire scenes – scenes I had spent hours perfecting!!! So it was quite a waste. So for my second novel I thought I’d try something different. First I wrote out a plan for the entire novel and then wrote it out quickly just to get everything down (about 2-3 days per chapter instead of 2-3 weeks). Then, once it was written in full I read over it and did the big edit (ie. cutting out scenes where necessary, moving things around, etc.) Then when I was satisfied the story was as I wanted it to be I padded out all of my chapters and made them sound pretty, taking my time. It was much more economical that way. I didn’t end up wasting my time writing scenes that would just end up being deleted.