Writing Tip #3: Fast Drafting

Have the courage to write badly. Yep. You heard me. Write badly. Okay, I don’t mean you should deliberately write badly. Simply don’t allow your inner editor to judge your writing the first time around.

Did I say “simply”? Yeah, I know. That’s not so simple. As a freelance editor and writer, I can tell you it’s hard for me to shut that damn editor off so I can get some pages written. However, some days are worse than others. I noticed I’m a lot more affected by my inner editor when I’ve been away from my manuscript for a while. Time has allowed me to remove myself from the characters and their story, which is great for editing but not so great for writing.

So, what is a writer to do? Well, you could push forward and force yourself to write without editing, but when that doesn’t work, try fast drafting. Ever heard of it?

This method is a great way to get you back into your story again and allow you to increase your word count without editing along the way. How does it work? You skip details, which could be setting, narrative, or action, and get right down to the dialogue, omitting dialogue tags and all the rest. This will move the story along, then you go back and add the details later.

For example:

Don enters the bar and goes over to his employee. (That’s all you need to write for the setting at the moment.)

“What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at work.”
“I needed a break.”
“I’ll give you a break all right. A permanent one. You’re fired.”
“I don’t think so. Not unless you want your wife to find out about your interest in me. Not only have I kept every sexually suggestive e-mail you’ve sent me, but I also installed a hidden camera in my office a few weeks ago. And you remember what you did in my office yesterday, don’t you? Yeah, I thought so.”

As you can imagine, there should be plenty of body language and internals here. I’m just not taking the time to include them until I go back to rework the scene. Yet, I still have an idea of how I wanted the scene to play out, so I’m able to move on to the next one.

The point of fast drafting is to get the words down as you feel them. The dialogue is more authentic that way, you can get further into your story, and you’ll recognize problems in scenes without investing too much time into the project. Since you’re not writing full scenes, only the dialogue, your inner editor won’t bother to harass you.

Once you’ve completed the story—dialogue only—you start round two and add the setting, action, and descriptive details to really bring your story to life.

Why does this work? Because it’s obvious you’re leaving parts out and will have to go back to rework the section, scene, or chapter, it’s a lot easier to allow yourself the freedom to write badly. Crazy, right?

This may not work for everyone. If dialogue isn’t your strength, you’ll struggle with this method, so change it up. Write out the action scenes and add a little “Joe has to explain why he cheated on Mary here” remark. That way, when you go back, you’ll see what you skipped and know where your head was when you wrote around that part.

Have you ever tried fast drafting before? What other methods do you use to turn off your inner editor?

Lynnette Labelle

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