Monday, November 18, 2013

Speed Writing (Eleventh hour help for all you NaNo people)

A few weeks ago, I tried something new, and it really sped up my drafting. 

After reading about how--doing basically the same thing--Ava Jae over at Writability Won NaNoWriMo In 9 Days, I thought I'd post this for my writer friends who are struggling to make their word count.


I typically write very clean, meaning I'm a picky polisher in my initial draft. It's closer to publish-ready than most, but it takes me forever.

Besides research, the main thing that slows me down is coming up with fresh ways to describe emotion, movement, facial expression, etc.  I decided to try something different if I found myself really stuck. (You know....when you sit there for twenty minutes, debating about a single phrase or word, and draw nothing but an icky cliche or a total mental blank. :P)  

I started putting a note-to-self (e.g. Show Harrison's outrage.) or a cliched/bad version of what I was aiming for in brackets, and then letting go and moving on. I've left blanks and notes in my WIPs before, but never to this extent. 

You know what? It worked! 

It helped me keep the momentum of the scene, which was good, especially since dialogue and flow of events come pretty easily to me. Now, when I go back to polish, I can open up my emotion thesaurus and other writing helpers and fix all that stuff at once. I think, in the long run, it will save time.


Don't give up. There are still 12 days left. 
You can do it! 
Go forth and NaNo!!! :D 


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33 comments:

  1. I'm like you. I'm picky and my first drafts are more like second drafts. But they take me about a year to complete (I'm also a very slow writer). But recently I tried the same thing as you, and yeah, it works. It's really hard in the beginning to resist going back and fixing, but you do get used to it. I think having a complete draft done in half the time is great incentive.

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  2. Melissa,

    Great tip! I too, am a meticulous first drafter (editors and CP's will love me). LOL. But yes, it is a time consumer, and yes, I want to get past that. I've tried the same...putting something nonsensical in brackets, or (because name choices are really important to me) I sometimes say "Person A" or (as in "Monty Tucker") Cousin A and Cousin B if I haven't decided yet.

    Participation in NaNo is for me to overcome that slowness. Please, someone just take care of all my other "stuff" so I can write! :)

    Hope you're feeling better. Hugs.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. I am better, thanks. But now, the last two members of the family have succumbed. I'll be glad when Influenza A has packed up and left the building. :P

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  3. I've been doing this too since a couple of months and it really helps. Thank you for recommending the Emotion Thesaurus. I'm definitely going to purchase that one.

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  4. I'm careful about my words and I'm a slow typist - even worse! But sometimes you have to just insert something lame and note to fix it later.
    And that book is indeed a big help.

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  5. Thanks for sharing, Melissa! I don't know if I'll have time to finish NaNo, but I should get a nice chunk of it done. :)

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  6. I do something similar for the nonfiction pieces I write (I stole this from Natalie Goldberg, so not my own idea). Sometimes I'll just stop and write, "What I really meant to say is...." and rewrite the idea again. It helps me dig a little deeper and later I can go back and clean it up.

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  7. Congrats on the progress. I don't write fast either, for many of the same reasons. I've also used notes to keep the story moving forward. I sometimes get sidetracked with researching, too. :)

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  8. That's what I've been doing on my WIP just so I can keep moving, and it works pretty well. Not 50K in nine days well, but still all right. The first draft is going to be Rough with a capital R, but I think it will be a lot easier (or at least I hope it will).

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  9. Great tips! I'm glad it worked for you :)

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  10. Excellent! Do you have any suggestions on convincing a 9-week-old to let you write?

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    1. Yup. Hand him to daddy and take your laptop to the local coffee joint. ;)

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  11. That's the way I do it as well. I'll even put "this is really bad" or "please don't use this description" in parenthesis and then go back and fix the cringe worthy stuff in subsequent drafts. Good luck and I hope you get your 50k words done in time!

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  12. This is a great tip and one I'm definitely going to keep in mind. Glad it worked for you! :)

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  13. Hey Melissa,

    Despite my satirical, light-hearted banter in regards to the Mork from Ork challenge, I do wish you well with it. I reckon that not putting pressure on oneself is half way there to a happy outcome. Notes to self are very practical and I'm glad it worked for you.

    NaNoNoNo :) I'm outta' here......

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    1. @ Julie. Thanks.

      @ Quanie and Gary - Oh, no. You two have misunderstood. I'm not doing NaNo. LOL

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    2. Melissa,

      NoNo, I know you are not doing it. It was in reference to your techniques. You commented on my posting that you weren't doing it. We both just support those who are torturing, sorry challenging themselves with it. I slightly mis-phrased it. Sorry for the confusion.



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  14. What a great idea! Never thought of doing that... and it makes perfect sense.
    Thanks for sharing Melissa.
    Writer In Transit

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  15. I do the same thing! My first drafts come out a little cleaner and more polished, but they take FOREVER to complete so I recently started doing something similar. I'll putting something similar to what I want to say and then I'll use the comment feature (in Microsoft Word or Google Docs) and I'll leave a comment on the side to guide me later when I come back for editing. It's working a lot better, but practice makes perfect so it's still a WIP. Thanks for sharing and good luck on your continued progress! ^^ :]

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  16. PLACE HOLDERS! I remember the first time I read about someone inserting NAME instead of taking the time to figure out a character's alias (or was it CAR TYPE), and I was like, "That's genius!"

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  17. That's an interesting idea and I shall have to check it out.

    I'm outlining WIP via the Save The Cat method (40 flash cards) and I love it :)

    PS... I also *love* your Halloween idea of the cans.... you should mention that next October :)

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  18. A. Thanks for this tip, I can see it being super helpful in just getting that first draft down, whether for NaNo or nay.

    B. Thanks for the tip on the emotion thesaurus, that's awesome!

    C. How the dickens did you set up that pre-fab Tweet, that's the grooviest thing I've seen for Twitter yet?!

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  19. This is a really great idea. I've heard plenty of other people giving the advice to "turn off your inner editor", but they never give specifics on HOW. This is really, really helpful, especially for momentum. I'll give it a try!

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  20. Awesome idea! And I always feel cheered after reading your blog.

    Sarah Allen
    (From Sarah, with Joy)

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  21. WOW - 9 days! Now I really feel like a slacker ;-) Thanks for sharing the link. I'll have to check it out. Best of luck with your own project(s).

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  22. Placeholders can be VERY important to pushing through a manuscript. I think we all want the fantasy of just plucking great stuff out of our heads as we go, but I don't think that's a reality for most writers.

    A typical "great one-liner", etc. might get re-worked 2-3 times before I finally nail it. I think it's important to view everything as changeable in the early drafts anyway--helps take the sting out of revisions. :) So what does it matter if you put something lame in there until you can fix it later?

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  23. Interesting, I hadn't thought about placeholder notes. I'll do that when I'm editing by hand - underline a sentence and write "fix this", for example - but I've never tried it while writing. I might give it a shot, but I can't help thinking it would drive me batty knowing there were words in the document that weren't part of the story. @_@

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  24. After reading your comment on Jeff-O's blog, I had to come over. I write exactly like you. I cannot forge onward if I know I'm leaving a trail of crap behind me. Plus, I can get stuck for days refining character and arc in a first draft. And sometimes I just hit a place I know isn't working and must puzzle out why. All these things take time, but when I revise I have a very clean draft to give my CPs, without any big picture issues. I've never tried fast-drafting, but I like your solution for those times the only thing coming are cliches. (Ugh. Hate those things...) Great post! :-)

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  25. Ah, this is me, too. I'm a very picky 1st drafter. The sole reason I'm not doing NaNo. I'm doing my own watered down version, but I'm only at 21k for a total. But that's okay. I'm good with that.

    Write on, any way you choose, Melissa. :D

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  26. Such great advice, Melissa. This is definitely something I could do better!!!

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  27. This sounds like a really great way to get drafts written faster. I'm excited to try this! Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

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  28. I like that. The last thing you want to do is get bogged down with fine details during NaNo, just get the story done. I tend to have a lot of gaps for characters' names, because they're not always obvious at first.

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