by Susanne Dietze
First drafts, according to author Shannon Hale (Austenland, The Princess Academy), are about dumping sand in a sandbox. Later, during editing, you can build a castle out of it. But first, you've got to get the raw material into the box.
|Shovel sand into the box with me! (This one's from Lowe's.)|
BIAW, the act of writing the first draft of a novel in seven days, is intimidating (if not downright crazy). I've tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and committed to write 50,000 words--1667 words a day--during the month of November before, and it was HARD.
But 50K words in a week (or two)? Does it sound doable? Impossible?
I think it's both, depending on the day. It takes some intense prep work, but that leaves an author time to do nothing (supposedly) but write over the course of the commitment.
Now I can get on to editing what I've written into something prettier, smoother, and richer. But if you're interested in writing a quick first draft by trying BIAW (or BIAF or even NaNo), these tips worked for me. Perhaps a variation of them might help you with your first draft, adapted to your personal schedule and preferences.
- Pray for discipline and diligence. And grace and creativity, too. God has given you this story to tell, and He alone knows the plans He has for it. Maybe publication, maybe not. But if we write to honor Him, He'll be glorified in what we accomplish.
- Prep your non-writing life in advance. Plan easy dinners, choose a week without appointments or events, and figure out what sort of time frame is best for your work/family schedule.
- Prep your story in advance. I have a synopsis, a Pinterest story board, character worksheets with goal/motivation/conflict etc, and an excel spreadsheet broken down by chapter and scene, all ready to go before I sit down to write. Then when I camp out at my computer, I consult my excel chart and see what happens in what scene, and in whose Point of View I think I it should be. This helps guide my writing.
- Get a hot mug of coffee or tea, a snack, and a blanket so you have anything you might need at hand. Also have something to take notes with: either a Word document or a pen and notepaper/scratch pad .
- Set a timer for 45 minutes (or whatever works for you: I tend to listen to an album on my phone that lasts about 45-60 minutes). Write nonstop during that time, and then when the timer goes off or your album ends, take a break. Your body needs to do something other than sit all day (and your brain needs a break, too). Use the restroom, fold laundry, walk around your house, do some jumping jacks, brew more tea, add veggies to the stew in your crockpot.
- Take notes if something changes as you write. This happens to me a lot. As I write, I realize a character has a dog or a friend--or would never do what I have neatly written in my excel sheet that she does. No biggie. Jot down the info for reference.
- If I'm stumped by something happening in the story or need to do additional research, I make a note in the text (I use ***), add a note to myself on my scratch pad (ie "figure out if John does X and why") and then skip ahead to something easier to write. I go back later.
- I just said it but it bears repeating: Do not do research online. Or check email or Facebook or Twitter. This is time to get words on a page. To Dump Sand Into The Sandbox.
- In the same vein, this isn't the time to fuss over adjectives, syntax, or imagery, either. If it's not flowing, leave it to fix in rewrites, which are far easier for me than first drafts anyway. Sometimes, this means flat writing. "She wore a white cloak and bonnet." "He wanted to kiss her." etc. Just spit out what the action is and (wait for it) Come back to it later. (I just skipped an entire chapter because things weren't flowing, but the next chapter's fight scene was calling me ahead. It's OK!)
- The crock pot is your friend. Dump food in it in the morning. Family is happy at dinnertime. This takes some pre-planning, but I've got a recipe below to get you started.
- Some days you will get not meet your goal. That's ok. You may not even finish the whole book in your week/fortnight/month. That's ok too, unless you're on a publisher's deadline. But assuming you're not, just start again tomorrow and remember Life happens.
- BIAW/F is an extraordinary thing, not the norm. At least not for me, as my physical and emotional health seem to suffer a bit from the isolation, prolonged sitting, etc. However, some people might thrive under this sort of self-imposed deadline. Either way, BIAW/F can be an effective tool to shovel sand into the box. Throughout it all, I tried to stay mindful of how it affected me and what tools I can adapt to my non BIAW/F-writing schedule.
Meanwhile, I'm happy to report this week I'm building a castle out of all that sand I dumped into the sandbox. I love the fine-tuning, the layering, the edits. Will it turn out to be pretty? I sure hope so. I'll let you know.
|I like the details!|
1 pound chicken breasts or stew meat or pork roast
1 cup salsa, from a jar or fresh/deli style
dash vinegar (to make the meat shred easier)
Chopped tomato, onion, etc, if you have the time
Add above ingredients to the crockpot. Set the crockpot on low if you start it in the morning or high if you make it at lunchtime. At dinnertime, shred the meat and serve with:
the rest of the salsa
sour cream & guacamole
chopped veggies and anything else you like
Served with a can of refried beans, rice, and a salad (kit! This is BIAW, after all), you've got a complete meal.
Susanne Dietze's novella, Love's Reward, is part of The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection, coming in May, 2015. She will probably do BIAW/F again, once she's recovered from this round. You can visit her on her website, www.susannedietze.com.