Usable Fast Draft

Or how I wrote a 76K book that doesn’t need a ton of revision in 33 days.  In fact, I fully expect to submit this book by the end of this month, maybe sooner.

These notes are for me as much as anyone else – I love posts about writers’ various processes.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that no book works exactly the same as any other.  Even though I’ve been at this writing gig for ten years this September, I’m constantly surprised.  My writing process changes from book to book depending on what I need and how I’m growing.

Please note, too, that I had a dismal few months of writing this year and so I was totally due for a breakout writing period.  I’m sure that helped create the perfect storm that hit me in July and let me write The Billionaire Submissive so quickly.

I broke all my personal rules for writing/plotting this story.

  • I still don’t have a picture of either the hero or heroine (usually I create a character cast) though I hunted down a picture of Lilly’s red stilettos at the very beginning (and pray to God they end up on the cover).
  • I never jotted a single note about their background.  I do not have a profile or even a few words ANYWHERE about them.  Boom, they showed up as they are.  Hello, so nice to meet you Lilly and Donovan!
  • I wrote the blurb first (so I had a very strong premise).
  • I did no advance plotting.  I started writing scene 001 with no outline, no plan, nothing.
  • I didn’t even jot down ideas for future scenes until I paused around scene 017 (the end of the first night where Lilly and Donovan were fully together on page from that point forward).
  • I skipped ahead and wrote the ending scenes of the book at that point (030-032).
  • I created scene layouts for what I wanted to happen in between – just a few lines – starting at scene 020-024.  Basically the last 1/3-1/2 of the book.  Those 4 scenes morphed into 18 scenes!
  • I never had a playlist for this book.  I finally added one song around scene 020e/020f but it totally led me in the wrong direction and I had to rewrite the scene 3 times before I finally got it right.  Those are the only two scenes I struggled with/had to rewrite before I was happy with them.
  • I didn’t write any of this Dark and Early, but rather Dark and Late, staying up until midnight or even 2 AM several times.  (I have to get up at 6 AM for work, but the story wouldn’t let me rest.)

Typical Fast Draft rules I broke

  • I reread daily, almost constantly in every free minute I had, if I wasn’t writing new words.  I used Scrivener’s compile and dropped the file into Dropbox each night.  Then during the day if I was stuck waiting to pick up Princess from band camp or driving around in the car or watching some boring TV show with That Man before he went to bed, I was reading my book, start to finish, over and over and over.  I’ve read it 3 times at least since I finished it too.  It just keeps sucking me in.  I’d say all in all I’ve probably read the whole thing 10 times already.
  • I made revisions as I went.  When I read, I made mental notes of things I wanted to fix and that was my chore for later that evening before I could go to bed.
  • As I reread at night on the computer, I would do line edits too, so each time I reread, the story was markedly stronger and cleaner every single day.
  • I rewrote the trouble scene over and over until I was happy with it (I didn’t skip it).  I didn’t let it stall me though – I’d already skipped ahead and written the end by that point, so I knew I could get there.  I just had to work through that problem scene.

Overall, I think these were a few of the key components that fed the perfect storm and helped me finish so quickly.

  • I had a strong premise from the very beginning that tickled my fancy, intrigued me, and made me smile/giggle every time I thought about it.
  • Writing hard and fast kept me in the zone constantly.
  • Rereading and editing as I went made the story constantly better, which helped keep me in the zone and kept the words coming fast and furious.
  • I wanted to know what was going to happen as much as the reader hopefully will.  No plot meant everything was a surprise and delight as it unfolded, although I already had the ending written fairly quickly.  (That pesky middle had lots of surprises.)
  • Because it’s a separate book from my other series, I was free of expectation.  I had zero expectation for this book.  It’s new, fresh.  I didn’t have to reread anything to remember some quirk about a character I mentioned 2 or 3 books ago.  I didn’t have to worry about disappointing anyone (other than my family who’d be shocked at the language and content in this book!) because the world, story, and characters are completely brand new.

I wish I could deliberately set up every book like this, but alas, I know that will never happen.  Some books need to marinate in my brain for long periods of time.  Some parts will fly and others crawl.  I think it’s important, too, to get it out of our heads that A). fast-draft books must be crap because they were written so quickly aka carelessly or B). that slow books are better and more intellectual or C). if I struggle to write the scene/book then it must be bad or wrong somehow.

I’ve written crap slowly.  I’ve written crap quickly.  It’s still crap.  I’ve plotted and written a 40 page outline with 3 spreadsheets and then threw the whole thing out, so a slow/intellectual approach isn’t necessary “best” either.  And I’ve been assured by my most trusted readers that even though I personally struggled with many scenes in Lord Regret’s Price and it seemed like it took forever for me to write it, that it doesn’t read like it was a painful slog.  (It’s been accepted but I haven’t seen my editor’s revisions yet.  Hopefully Tera agrees it wasn’t a slog or she wouldn’t have accepted it!)

It’s all about where I am in the journey at that moment.  Lord Regret was teaching me some things I wasn’t prepared for.  That road was dark at times, slow and lonely, but I still had to make that trek.  I can see it now in how easily Lilly and Donovan pulled off their story.  I couldn’t have written it if I hadn’t been in that dark place with Sig.  I couldn’t have written Sig’s story if I hadn’t already been whipped by Lady Blackmyre in Her Grace’s Stable.

And now that Lilly has beaten some sense into me, I think I’m fully prepared to face Mama C and Mal too.

But I’m not done with Lilly yet either.  Just last night she was whispering a very naughty idea to me for what the next book in her world should be.

Fast Draft Becomes MayNoWriMo

Well, I didn’t finish the novella like I hoped — but I’ll take my 26K+ and build on it next month.  I’m 10-15K from finishing, a very doable task the first week or two of May. 

A few things slowed me down these last few days.  I had a major commitment at the Evil Day Job come to a head this past week, and the stress carried over into my writing time.  I just couldn’t get as much done as I hoped – my brain wouldn’t cooperate.  This weekend so far, I’ve spent all my time catching up on laundry (never got last week’s done because the dryer quit) and helping Princess with her science fair project.  I edited her papers, summaries, etc. and then helped her print out all the documents.  Also used her raw data to create a cool line chart.

You wouldn’t believe her project:  Poop to Us, Food for Plants.  She took three kinds of manure from Papa’s farm — quail, horse, and cow — and compared the growth rates to Miracle-Gro and regular potting soil.  I was shocked that horse poop outgrew everything.  The quail poop never sprouted.  Papa warned that it was a “hot” manure and would work best if composted for awhile first. 

I’ll be glad to get our spare table back and all those smelly pots outside.

I need a serious mental health day after all the craziness lately — maybe a whole bottle of wine, sigh, which I don’t have.  It’d totally screw up my diet anyway.  (Happy to report I’ve lost 30 pounds!!)  I’ll spend tomorrow getting the MayNoWriMo list up and running, organizing my goals, etc.  Ideally, I’ll get into BGW too and set myself up well for Monday, but I’m not going to stress myself out if I don’t get that far.  My other goals for May will be to finalize the plot for Phantom — including a rough synopsis — and to get a first-draft plot outline for Lord Regret’s Price.  I had some interesting realizations this week that I need to jot down before I forget.

P.S. I’ve heard from my editor at Drollerie Press that the formatting for Return to Shanhasson is DONE!  We’re waiting on cover art now, but we should *crosses fingers, throws salt, etc.* be able to release in May!

Fast Draft Day 016

I admit, I’ve been getting a little discouraged with these 1K days.  That’s not “Fast Draft.”  Plus the month is almost over and I have at least 1/3 of a novella to write yet.  Then I remember that I have made great progress this month, and if I need an extra week or so in May to finish, so be it.  I’d rather have a solid foundation to revise than a bunch of crap slung on the page.

Speaking of which:  does anyone want to do a MayNoWriMo?  I’m not sure if I can commit to 50K in May, but I’ve had a few people ask me about it on Twitter.  I’m considering it — but I do wish I’d already finished BGW.  (By the way:  Coyote Con is postponed indefinitely because of Deena’s health.  We’re hoping to take a look at our fall schedule.)

Today’s words: 1,235

Total:  26,241

Snippet:

“I am a creature of magic, blood, and yes, violence.  The dreams we shared are only the beginning of my true self revealed to you.”

“Then show me some more.”

P.S. I won’t be shooting for Dark & Early tomorrow. I’m just too tired and too stressed at the Evil Day Job. I’ll shoot for a fairly early day on Saturday instead — and hope I can squeeze in another 1K over lunch or tomorrow evening.  If I post a day 017, it’ll be late as a result.

Fast Draft Day 015

Yesterday was a bit of a bust – I didn’t even break 1K.  I’ve had a touch of some kind of stomach bug the last couple of days, and my energy levels were just too low yesterday, even though I did get up Dark & Early. 

I told Raelyn this morning that I’m in the dreaded middle, leading up to the approach to the inner cave.  I’m tired.  I’m low on energy.  I can’t remember what I did this morning, let alone last week.  The novella is running longer than I planned, making the end seem even further away.

Now, more than ever, I have to keep pushing forward.  Once I clear the top of this hill–mountain–then it’ll be top speed down the other side.  The end should just unfold like a dream.  I just need to get there.

I had much better luck this morning, but I decided I wasn’t going to post until I finally broke 25K.  Just did it! 

Total:  25,006 words

Snippet:

You want to be afraid of me.

Fast Draft Day 013

I’ve lost a few days in there somewhere, so “013” is a guess.

As if 5:00 AM on a rainy Monday isn’t enough fun, my brain decided to dream that the alarm was going off at…. 4:45 a.m. instead.  I didn’t want to fall back asleep for fear I wouldn’t get up again, so I went ahead and crawled out of bed.  Of course my programmed coffee pot hadn’t gone off yet, so I don’t know that I really gained any time – but at least I didn’t lose any either by oversleeping.  (My backup alarm wouldn’t have gone off until 6:15 for That Man.)

We were incredibly busy this weekend and I’ve lost all sense of accomplishment.  I can’t remember how many words I had Friday.  I did get up D&E but never posted.  I’m guessing I had about 1K.  Saturday I slept in and then hauled the monsters all over town preparing for Easter.  We had company that night until almost 10:00 pm and finally watched Inception.  That Man had to work both days this weekend, and I didn’t want to face the horrible crowds at church without him Sunday, so we stayed home for Easter.  He ended up getting off early and was home by 11 AM, so we had a nice late breakfast together.

Then he decided we should try to run all the errands that we hadn’t had time to run earlier over the weekend, so out we went.  Of course nearly everybody was closed.  We came home so I could continue laundry…only to realize the dryer was broken.  Again.  Second time this year, same problem.  I think it’s got a wiring/short out problem that keeps blowing up the heating element.  So instead of dumping another repair bill into the machine, we bought a new one.

The Easter Bunny is delivering a dryer today, and somewhere in between the Evil Day Job and cooking dinner tonight, I need to get two wet loads dried.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much writing done yesterday at all.  I don’t have any idea of the breakdown by days, so I’ll just report my total:

23,000 words right on the nose

And we’ll continue from there for the rest of the week.

“In dreams, you could do whatever you wished with me, and on the morrow awake and go about your life as though nothing had happened.  Now I’m real, here, in the flesh.  You will have to open your eyes when you awake and see that I am there beside you.  You must then acknowledge what we have done.  I’m a dream no longer, where you were free to be what you want without worry of judgment or misunderstanding.”

Fast Draft Day 010

Oh, so hard to get up this morning.  But I made it.  I set a goal of reaching 20K.  And I made that too.

Today:  1,666

Total:  20,026

Snippet:  Tecun living and breathing in our world for the first time.

I cringed at the volume of Natalie’s voice.  When she got scared, she got loud.  And cursed.  A lot.  She’d taught the paramedics a few choice phrases as they resuscitated me.

The creature slammed against the door, rattling the opaque glass in its frame.

“What should we do, lady?”

Stunned, I stared at Jose.  He expected me to do something about that walking corpse?  What could I possibly do but kick off my ridiculous heels and run?  I hadn’t turned into Lara Croft overnight.

“She should stand aside and allow her warrior to decapitate the demon and send it back to Xibalba.”

Fast Draft Day 009

You know it’s going to be a long day when you finally wake up to the alarm…and realize it’s been going off for four minutes.

This morning’s D&E was sporadic at best.  I got up slightly late.  The family had to be up earlier than usual, and since Mom = official timekeeper and wake-up call, I had to stop every 15 mins or so to make sure they were up.  I got involved in writing between wake-up calls, so I actually got That Man up 10 mins late.  Oops.  Then I made the mistake of checking on my blog post – I’m over at Here Be Magic today talking about Barbarians Do It Doggie Style (in reference to Game of Thrones!) – and then I got involved in Twitter.

All classic mistakes during D&E.  I shouldn’t have even opened an IE window.

So while my daily count may look respectable, it’s actually padded by 500 words I got last night and didn’t report.  *sheepish*  As I said yesterday, I’m in a BIG sex scene – the first big fully explicit on page in the “real” world scene – and it’s slow going.  Writing good, interesting, non-skippable sex scenes is hard work, let me tell you.  I might have to skip ahead and get some of the action scenes done, and then come back, because I’m tired.  (More tired than the characters, evidently.)

Today: 1,128

Total:  18,360

Snippet:

He sighed, his arms tightening about me.  “There’s always great danger whenever I return to your earth.  A purpose awaits me.  Beware until I’m at your side.  You reek of my magic to anyone who can sense it.”

Darkness tried to claim me.  I fought that slow slide to loneliness, even though it was a losing battle.  Anguished, I cried out, straining to stay with him.

“Remember,” his voice echoed inside my head like thunder.  “I come again as called, but this time, I come for you.”

Fast Draft Day 008b

I got all messed up on my days after taking Sunday off, and then posting twice yesterday.  I didn’t bother changing “day 008” last night because it was late and I was tired — so I’ll just flag this as 008b and go from there.  It’s not important in the end, other than helping me determine my average word count.  This really is the 8th day I’ve been working on Fast Draft, putting my average (with this morning’s words) at 2,154.  Not bad.  Although I’d be far from upset if I could bump that up closer to 2.5K a day.  *winks*

So up D&E this morning despite the later night.  I actually woke up at 4:30 and almost got up then, but I figured even half an hour could do me some good later today.  I’m in another smex scene – gee, these characters are like bunnies!  (Although to be honest, this is the first full-blown non-dream scene — everything else has been lead up to this, so it needs to be GOOD.)  So it’s been a bit slower than I’d like.  It’s one thing to have a plot laid out on paper, but another when two people must get intimate between the sheets.  It takes me awhile to get the feel for each scene.  What’s at stake?  Why is she uncomfortable?  What does he risk losing?  etc.  All things that make a powerful, transformative scene.

Speaking of plot on paper, I did a gut check this morning to see how closely I’m sticking to my outline and how far I am.  I’ve reordered a few things — the fountain scene was supposed to come later, but it made sense to move it up.  I also didn’t allow more than 1 little block for the big smex scene I’m working on, which is stupid because it’s big!   The first full-on-page all-the-way I’m-not-dreaming-any-longer  intimacy. 

I’ve only completed 9/20 scenes and I’m over 17K.  That means unless the final two pages of outlines go by very quickly, I’m looking more like 40-50K than 30-40K like I’d hoped.  Sigh.  We’ll see.  I could still finish this by the end of the month if I keep up this pace.  I really think the last few scenes will go extremely quickly…although the “sacrfice” at the top of the pyramid will be a killer!!  In more ways than one.  *evil*

Speaking again of killing…I had a terrible thought occur to me yesterday of a character’s possible death.  Not sure if that will happen yet or not.  I think I could get a sequel out of it, which I didn’t plan at all, so I may do it, even though it’s terribly mean!  (For The Bloodgate Guardian readers, think the “caged heart.”)

This moring’s words: 1,059

Total:  17,232

Snippet:

I wrapped my hands in his hair and jerked his head back so I could see his eyes.  “How will I recognize you?”

Eyes heavy lidded, he lowered his voice to that bone-shaking whisper of menace that curled my toes.  “You will look at me and not be able to breathe.  You will remember my taste and your body will fountain with desire at the memory of me inside you.  If you allow me to mark you with my teeth, your skin will catch fire at the sight of me.  You will carry my magic within you.  You will always know me, in whichever age and world we meet.  We will forever be drawn to find each other, whether on earth, my world, or even Xibalba.  If you give me a taste of your blood, then not even my death or a locked gate will ever keep me from you again.”

Fast Draft Day 008

Oooh, I’m so going to regret staying up this late tomorrow, but I had to watch the first episode of Game of Thrones! Loooooooved it.  I’d forgotten how much I love this series (I read book 3 when home on maternity leave with the youngest — who’s now almost 8!)!  I did manage to break 16K though and finish the naughty scene in the fountain.  *fans self*

Tonight: 1,013

Total:  16,173

Snippet:

He rose up out of the water with a massive surge like a dolphin powering toward the surface.  Water streamed and plumed around him frantically, celebrating his arrival.  I don’t know how deep the water had been through the gate, but he stood in the pool before me, and now, the water only reached his knees.

Leaving him magnificently, dripping nude.

Head back, shoulders broad and square in that warrior stance that they’d managed to capture in his statue, Tecun closed his eyes and breathed deeply, his hands fisted at his side.  His nostrils flared wide and his head slowly turned toward me. 



Fast Draft Day 007

Technically this is “day 8” because I decided to take yesterday off.  Days off during Fast Draft (or NaNoWriMo) can backfire by breaking rhythm.  I definitely do better when I’m in the story every single day.  However, That Man had to work yesterday, so getting the monsters up and out the door by 8:30 am for church took a lot out of me.  Then we did lunch out and I took them shopping at Wal-Mart (what was I THINKING?!?!?) and by the time we got home, Mom was done.

I ended up playing games instead (thank you Big Fish Games!)

Getting up D&E this morning was doubly hard, then, because I was still tired from getting up early yesterday plus getting off to a possible slow start, so I primed the pump as much as possible last night when I went to bed.  What does that mean?  I deliberately put the story in my head before I went to sleep.  It doesn’t always work — if I’m extremely tired, I fall asleep too fast to make a difference.  But I had enough time last night to mull over the story before I dozed off, and I realized that I was getting a little stuck on Sat. because the scene was unfolding too quickly.

I needed some tension BEFORE the big event in the scene. *winks* 

So I got busy this morning with some tension and delay.  I had to re-write a little — the cardinal sin of Fast Draft — but I had to fix where I was going before I could continue.  Finally broke 15K this morning (Saturday’s goal, but I’ll take it) — but I’d be even happier if I ended up with 16K by the time my head hits the pillow tonight.

Today so far:  1,242

Total:  15,160

Snippet:

Throwing the blankets back, I started to get up, but a turquoise feather lay beside me.  Over two feet long and slightly curved, it had to be a quetzal feather.  If I’d found it on the floor or on top of the bed, I could have tried to reason with myself that it’d surely just fallen into my bed by accident.  But under the blankets? 

It hadn’t been there last night when I came to bed.  Natalie had laughed at my nightly ritual of throwing back all the blankets and sheets to make sure no creepy crawlies waited to snuggle with me…until she found a massive cricket licking her leg one night.

The windows were shut.  My door locked.  So how had this phantom feather made its way into my bed?