I present to you Books and Bark’s first official guest blogger and author, Megan Crewe! This (awesome) guest post is part of the blog tour of Megan’s new YA sci-fi book, Earth & Sky (which just came out October 28, 2014 from Skyscape!), and also part of my own November feature, SabriNoWriMo (though, really, it’s mostly just part of the blog tour). I was lucky enough to get my sticky little bookish fingers on an ARC of Earth & Sky; you’ll be hearing my thoughts on it next week! To kick November off, I give you Megan’s awesome tips on fast drafting! And, if you want to stick around, she’s provided an awesome giveaway for a copy of Earth and Sky plus some other awesome goodies. 🙂 Take it away, Megan! 😀
Hello Books and Bark blog readers!
I’ve offered to share some thoughts about drafting a book quickly because I know many of you are NaNoWriMo enthusiasts. First drafts are the most difficult part of the writing process for me, and I’ve dealt with that problem by getting the thing written ASAP. I average 1-2 months to complete a first draft, and when I’m writing I normally aim for a minimum of 3,000 words a day.
So how can a writer keep up that sort of pace? Here are my top tips:
– Plan ahead. I outline every book I write scene by scene before I start drafting it. This makes it a lot less likely to write myself into a corner I don’t know how to get out of or to end up stuck trying to figure out where the story should go next, both of which can leech away writing time. It’s easier for me to dive in and keep going when I have the basics of each scene already worked out.
If you find outlining stifles your creativity, there are a couple ways you can plan ahead without losing much spontaneity. One is outlining only the very next section you’re going to write, immediately beforehand. I prefer to do this later in the day after I’ve finished that day’s writing–jotting down the details of how I see the next scene, or the rest of the current scene, whenever I can steal a few moments: on the public transit, while cooking dinner, etc. But you can also do it early on, before you write that day. Either way, it gives you a guideline to follow to help you blast past the next blank page.
You can also simply prime yourself for your next writing session at the end of the previous. Stop at a place in the scene where you know exactly what you want to happen next and you’re eager to get there. If you’re stopping at the end of a scene, make yourself figure out at least the first few lines of the next before you step away for the day. Then when you start your next writing session, you’ll have an immediate jumping off point.
– Keep moving forward. Don’t let yourself go back and edit while you’re writing. Any changes it occurs to me I need to make, I make note of in a separate “revisions” document, and then keep going. The point of a first draft is just to get the story down–you can think about making what’s down there *good* later.
Similarly, if you hit a spot where you realize you need to do more research, brainstorm details, or something else that’s time consuming and not actually writing, square brackets are your friends. My first drafts are usually littered with “[teacher’s name]”, “[describe space station exterior here]”, and placeholders like that for me to fill in during the next pass.
– Minimize distractions. Figure out what tempts you away from writing and find ways to avoid that until your daily word count is done. For me it’s the internet, so I’ve gotten in the habit of not turning on my desktop computer (where I do most of my browsing) each night until I’ve finished my morning writing session. I’ve also started using the Freedom app on my laptop to stop me from being tempted to peek at my email or social media accounts there. You can use your usual procrastination tools instead as rewards for finishing–reminding yourself that you can check your email/read that blog/play that game after you get a certain number of words down can make for excellent motivation.
– Prioritize. No one can write at full tilt every day of the year. When you do need or want to get a draft done quickly, accept that you’ll be letting other responsibilities slide a little. You can leave your home untidy for a few weeks. You can postpone watching most or all of your current TV shows. You can tell friends you’ll catch up with them in a little while. You don’t have to cut everything out of your life except for the writing, of course, but if you find you can’t get as much done as you need to, it’s worth taking look at whether any other things you’re spending time on can be delayed or skipped.
– Look after yourself. Try to get in as much sleep as you need and your regular meals–you’ll be able to write faster and better the better you can focus. Protect your writing muscles by using wrist rests, maintaining good posture, and doing regular hand and arm exercises–you won’t be able to write at all if you end up in pain.
I hope that following the above tips will help you get whatever draft you’re working on finished quickly. But don’t forget that quickly is relative! For some people, finishing a book in six months or a year is quick for their creative process. The most important advice I think I can give to any writer is that every person has different needs and ways of working best suited for them, and if you find you write better when you’re finishing a page or two a day rather than ten or more, then please follow what works for you.
Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives with her husband, son, and three cats in Toronto, Canada (and does on occasion say “eh”), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she can’t look at the night sky without speculating about who else might be out there.
… And Now, For the Giveaway from Megan Crewe herself…
One grand prize winner will receive a Kindle Paperwhite with custom EARTH & SKY cover and preloaded with the ebook, and nine others will receive a signed paperback copy of the book. All winners will also receive an EARTH & SKY swag pack including star candies in Win’s favorite Earth flavors, signed bookmark, magnet, and sticker. (Open internationally)