Recently I wrote a first draft in 30 days. I’d love to claim that the idea was of my own creation, but I first must give credit where credit’s due. A great writer friend of mine turned me on to NaNoWriMo this past November. Writing a first draft in 30 days is their model.
If you’ve never tried NaNo, you should. It’s a great experience with a ton of support.
I decided not to wait until November to write another first draft, so utilizing their model, I made my own challenge with two very specific goals:
1) Complete a first draft in 30 days
2) Write a minimum of 2,000 words a day
You can adjust either of those goals to what’s realistic for you.
Regardless of the goal you set, I’ve compiled a few rules to be successful:
1. BE DISCIPLINED. My biggest goal was to write 2,000 words a day. Every day. I didn’t set a specific word count total for the end result. A book it going to be as long as it needs to be. And cutting comes later. But I wanted to focus on that daily writing habit. So skipping a day and making up for it tomorrow wasn’t in my plan. Whatever goals you set, stick to them.
2. BE REALISTIC. If your goal is to write 10,000 words a day, well, I hope you have absolutely no obligations. Not even a goldfish to feed. On the flip side, it’s easy to make excuses about how you don’t have time. This excuse might coax you into setting a low goal within your comfort zone. You need to push yourself a little bit outside that comfort zone, but remember sleep is important. Take into consideration your writing pace and your schedule. But don’t forget about those lunch breaks and the forty-five minutes between work and softball. You’d be surprised what you can accomplish in those smaller slices of time.
3. NO EDITING. No revisions allowed. It’s a first draft. If you don’t like something you wrote in chapter 3, and you figure that out in chapter 12, do NOT go back and change it. Write as if that’s how it’s been all along. If you go back and change details, you’ll get sucked into a revision vacuum you won’t easily escape. Revisions are for second drafts.
4. MINIMAL DISTRACTIONS. Exit out of that internet browser. Shut off your TV or shut the door. Eliminate as many distractions as possible. Life happens, so you’ll not always be able to avoid these distractions. But eliminate the ones you do have control over. So close out that game of Solitaire and get to writing! Your writing during that limited distraction period will be that much more productive. And you’ll hit a higher word count in a shorter amount of time.
5. RESEARCH CAN WAIT. If you’re stuck on a scene because you don’t know what chemical mixture will cause a purple foamy explosion, it can wait. You can use brackets or stars to indicate that you’ll need to research it later. [Insert really awesome purple foamy chemistry explosion here]. Research is one of those distractions you have control over. Save it for later. You can research in between the first and second drafts.
Writing a first draft in a set amount of time is completely achievable, but you must follow these rules to do so.
Feel free to share any writing advice you have as well in the comment section. These are simply rules I’ve learned the hard way, and I’d love to hear what your advice for writers may be.
I’ll be expanding on each rule in future posts, so please check back for more.