On Discovery Drafts and Writing Fast

In case you hadn’t noticed, writing fast has become quite the thing lately. This is for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that, if you want to indie publish, your fans expect you to pump books out one after another. And you can’t maintain that pace if you write slowly.

Photo from everystockphoto.com

Writing Fast

But I think it is also because writing fast works. Again for a variety of reasons:

— When you write fast, you access the subconscious mind, bypassing the conscious mind which tends to be, um, critical.

— When you write fast, you get something, anything, down on paper. And once you have something down on paper, then you have something to work with.

— When you write fast, you bypass perfectionism. And let me tell you, perfectionism breeds procrastination big time. Because if you’re putting yourself under pressure to be perfect, you’ll think of 5,000 other things you’d rather be doing.

— And besides, writing fast is fun!

It’s when you get to revision that the hard work begins. Which I am learning as I take the first draft of my novel, which I wrote really fast, just working to get the story on paper. Which leads us to…

The Discovery Draft

You’ll often hear the first draft of a novel (or a story, or a memoir, or anything) called different things. Like a rough draft, or a discovery draft. I’m guilty of most often calling it a rough draft, though I think the term discovery draft does it more justice. Because the most important thing to remember is that you are discovering the story.

Writing fast may lead to a manuscript that looks like this when it it time to edit!

You are not:

— Worrying about every comma and period.

— Fussing over not knowing everything. Instead, when you get to a place you don’t know something, you insert a TK and keep going. (Using TK allows you to do an easy search at the end. Learn more about the use of TK here.)

— Stopping writing for a month when you don’t know what happens next. Instead you start writing where you do know what happens.

— Reading back over your work and editing as you go. Forward motion is the name of the game.

In other words, you are writing fast, getting the story down. The discovery draft is for you to discover the story. Subsequent drafts are for you to figure out how best to present the story.

I am currently rewriting a discovery draft of a romance novel I finished in February, though in this case, the word rough really does apply. There are vast stretches where I’m not exactly sure how it all goes together, and these pages are full of TKs and all caps notes to myself. There’s lots of cursing and name-calling in those all cap sentences. Not that it does much good to call myself names and tell myself what a terrible writer I am. But it does the trick to get those thoughts out of my head so I can keep going.

What I’m finding, though, is that the bones of the story are strong. I’m rearranging like crazy, dramatizing long stretches of narrative that were flat on the page, and making the characters more complex. But my discovery draft, written fast, captured the story I wanted to tell.

So the moral of the story is: don’t agonize over every word. Produce those pages and get to the end of your discovery draft. You’ll be happy you did!

Novelist, writing teacher, coach. Workshops in France, Portland, and virtually. Sign up for weekly love letters and get a free Ebook: https://tinyurl.com/y9rfp3

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