On rushing through first drafts

The season of NaNoWriMo is upon us. My writer buddies on Twitter are all aflutter with preparations.

I will not be doing NaNo. Not this year, anyway. I have three reasons.

1. Bitches, please. I write 50K words every month.
2. I will spend most of the month editing Before I Sleep, rather than writing new material.
3. Rushing through a first draft does not work for me.

I am a fairly “fast” writer, especially for being a novice. When I have a manuscript in the works, my daily goal is a minimum of 1000 words. Usually I get closer to 2k. On days when my daughter is in preschool, I often hit 3k-5k. My best day ever was 11k.

A lot of writing advice articles tell you to get the first draft done. Just write it. Spew it onto the page. The only thing that can’t be fixed is a blank page! All first drafts are terrible! You’re just telling the story to yourself!

My first book, Dark and Deep, just kind of fell out of me, over a two month period. After that, I was struck with serious stage fright while writing by second book, Promises to Keep. That one took 3.5 months, though I wrote two novellas and several false starts, interspersed with it. It still felt like I took a long time to write it.

When I began my third book, Before I Sleep, I had all of that advice about rushing the first draft in my head. I was also–I hope you don’t feel this is a spoiler–unhappy and concerned about the Smoking Crater in the middle of the book. I hated having my characters there. I wanted to get past it, so I wrote through it as quickly as I could, without taking many days to think, moodle, plot, and consider alternatives.

So I finished that manuscript swiftly. The total time I was working on it was about six weeks. Great, huh?

No. The amount of fixing, reconsidering, confusion, and outright throwing-away has rendered all of that progress moot. Right now, Before I Sleep is in Time Out until November 2. I fully expect to have to re-write about 20K of its 124K words, at that point. I know that things there aren’t right.

So there is my story. We all have our own writing processes. NaNo can be a lot of fun, and if you are the kind of writer who has a real Fear of Finishing, it surely could help you.

Don’t do it just because, though.


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