Fast First Draft Tips

Do not let concerns about plausibility – or style – slow you down in your first draft. Snakes-head exhaust pipe on classic sports car, Liverpool 2014

I’m currently writing a fast and horrible first draft. Fast because I have the attention span of a gnat on Red Bull, and horrible because I need to just rattle out ideas regardless of style or grace. To do this I need to forgive myself a host of writing sins. I’m finding this very useful and rather relaxing. Here are my top 6 things I cast gleefully aside in order to get the words out.

  1. Adverbs. Oh, how the adverbs spill out joyously, easily, triumphantly once you switch off the inner LAZY WRITING alarm. My characters are free to speak firmly, to turn awkwardly, or swoon completely away. It’s bliss, I must say. Strong verbs, take a break. I’ll be back for you later.
  2. Accuracy. Was Hyde Park in existence in 1820, so that my characters can go for a drive in it? Does it take two days to get from London to Hastings, or only one? Or a week? Is my novel in fact set in 1820 – or some other year when there may, or may not have been the Napoleonic Wars still happening? I’ll look it up when I’m done with the plot.*
  3. The exact order of events. Often I’m flying along in Chapter Six when I realise that something ought to have been referenced in Chapter Five, but I forgot to mention it. Quick, go back and between some asterisks, insert the line which will tie it all together. So what if it breaks up the flow of the dialogue? It’s one less thing to remember for the second draft.
  4. Typing and punctuation. Obviously. Unless it makes your writing incomprehensible, leave all the your/you’re stuff for later. Especially if, like me, you’re typing it all on your phone, under the tyranny of the AutoCorrect. Every single ‘the’ autocorrects to ‘Rye.’ All of them. It’s highly irritating, but I’m not changing them now. I haven’t got time.
  5. Repetition. Your hero just flicked his fingers at a servant, and then two paragraphs later, your heroine flicks a crumb from her skirt. Aarrgghh. Never mind, you can it in the second draft.
  6. Finding the exact right word. Sometimes I can see the scene very clearly but cannot pinpoint the specific thing which will call it perfectly into the reader’s mind. When this happens I just write all around it, hoping that when I return to it, my mess of over-description will prompt me to the phrase I need. The sky was, um,  dull, silvery, grudging, the colour of a dented teapot at a service station. One of those will call up the required mood, and I’ll decide which one on the way back.

Those are the main things I throw out of the window when I need to write fast. Anyone who’s read my recent posts to The Write Practice may have noticed a slight dip in, uh, grace. But I cannot stop for beauty. I must Get This Done. And on that note, I’m off. More next week.


*Or I won’t bother, since this is alternate-timeline historical fantasy. Maybe the Napoleonic struggles happened a bit earlier or later. Maybe I’ll just put a massive caveat inside the front cover asking readers not to contact me with all the anachronisms. Maybe I’ll worry about that in November.