Wednesday, May 25, 2016

#WeWriteBooks, Post 17: Write Fast And Free


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.


Welcome to week seventeen of #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays, where we are writing books together. This week I posted Chapter 15 of THIRST over on my author website. Click here to read it.

  

Recap

Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's my premise:
A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.


Week three was Storyworld.
Week four: maps and floorplans.
Week five: protagonists and main characters.
Week six: side characters.
Week seven: prewriting.
Week eight: plot structures. 
Week nine: Theme.
Week ten: creating a plot outline or list of key scenes.
Week eleven: point of view.
Week twelve: narrative modes.
Week thirteen: how to write a scene.
Week fourteen: Where to start.
Week fifteen: Prologues.
Week sixteen: Dividing Your Book Into Chapters and Scenes

Today's Topic: Write Fast and Free

We're at 17 weeks since we started our new books. I am a little over halfway done with this series, and I'm also a little over halfway done with my book THIRST. How are you all doing? This has been a lot of work! Give yourselves a pat on the back and feel good about what you've accomplished so far. Please don't get stressed out. Writing an entire novel is not easy. Many people work for years and never even complete a first draft. So today is encouragement day. But it's also a day with some tips to keep you going.
 
I've been a published author for about eight years now. And without fail, the number one thing I hear when I meet people who have been writing a book for years is that they just can't get those first few chapters right. It was the same for me. When I went to my first writer's conference, I had about 40% of the first draft of The New Recruit done.
 
A book at that level of "completion" is not complete at all. It is not ready to be pitched to an agent or editor. If you're pitching for practice, great. But if you think you're going to sell a book at that point, think again.
 
But I wasn't thinking. I was dreaming. And when reality hit, it hit hard. And it hurt. But it was good for me. I finally understood that I hadn't been respecting my dream. I had been playing. And I'd been rewriting the first three chapters over and over and over and over and over...
 
All that to say, when I meet people who've been stuck in those beginning chapters, I tell them to stop. Stop trying to find the perfect opening line. Stop trying to analyze whether or not you've started in the right place. Stop worrying if you're writing well or not. If you've got what it takes. Just stop all of that.
 
And give yourself permission to stink.
 
New writers are way too hard on themselves. No one creates perfection on their first try. People practice first. They practice lots. They make mistakes. And they learn from them. So rather than making perfection your goal, make finishing the first draft your goal. Give yourself permission to stink and plow through. This is why I love National Novel Writing Month. It teaches people to write fast. When I finally finished the first draft of The New Recruit, I threw out the opening chapters. Now that I knew how the story ended, they were irrelevant. That might not happen to you, but my point is, how will you know if you never reach the end of the story? Once you have a first draft complete, you have something to go back and fix, edit, perfect. This is when you can start worrying about opening lines and plot structure and whether or not your story is any good.
 
My first drafts are horrible. On purpose.
 
So here are some tips that might help you stay focused on the goal of finishing your first draft.
 
 

7 Tips to Get You Through the First Draft

1. Set goals and stick to them. Write a little every day. Or at least on certain days each week. Stephanie just launched another 100 for 100. These are great ways to train yourself into the habit of writing a little each day.
 
2. Resist the urge to edit! Don't do it. You can fix things later. For now, just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing (say this in Dory's voice from Finding Nemo).
 
3. Leave notes for yourself. I'm always leaving comments in Microsoft Word or highlighting bad sentences that I need to fix. Writing reminders for myself is so freeing because I carry Worry/To Do lists in my head at all times. Writing things down allows my brain to release that item, which frees up my brain to work. That's good. If I have an idea for changing something in a chapter, I leave a comment. It might say: "Rewrite this with Steve being the one who breaks the news." If I realize I've forgotten to plant clues, I might scroll back and post a reminder comment at the beginning of several different chapters that says: "Plant that Ralph is the bad guy." If I've written a horrible sentence and catch myself agonizing over trying to fix it and getting frustrated that it's taking so long, I'll highlight it. If I get stuck trying to write a fabulous and unique character description, I'll post a note that says: "Describe him better."
 
All those notes and marks are to remind me of things when I come back to rewrite. I will see my note, and at that point I will either delete it, if it's no longer relevant now that the story is complete, or I'll do what the note says. Either way, I saved myself lots of time in the first draft stage.
 
4. If you get stuck, skip that scene and keep writing until you get your daily word count done. Then you can brainstorm your way through that troublesome scene or ask some friends for help and you won't totally derail yourself from your writing goals. I get great brainstorming done while I'm cleaning or driving.
 
5. Stay offline! If you need to research something, refer to point 4. Get your word count in first, research later. Going online is a very dangerous move. There are just too many distractions. You'll tell yourself, "Ooh. I'm just going to comment on that one discussion." And the next thing you know, it's time for dinner and you've done nothing all day!
 
6. Get a writing buddy or even someone who will hold you accountable. For THIRST, my readers hold me in check because if I don't get my chapter written, I have nothing to post! It can also help to have a writing friend whom you do goals with and maybe even word wars. Nothing like a little friendly competition to increase motivation.
 
7. Give yourself a break. Don't try and write seven days a week. And when you finish a book, take some time off. I sometimes reward myself (Ahem! Bribe myself...) with a special treat after each chapter. The point is, you're not a slave here. Yes, writing is really hard work, but it's also supposed to be fun.
 
 

Archived Posts on Writing Fast or Finishing First Drafts

The point to remember is, first drafts aren't supposed to be perfect. Give yourself permission to stink. Have fun. But get that first draft done! We've talked about first drafts and writing fast before on Go Teen Writers. Here are a few archived posts that you might find inspirational.

Let Yourself Write Bad First Drafts
The Joy of Writing Fast
5 Tips for Finishing Your First Draft
How Long Should My First Draft Take?
Roll Up Your Sleeves, It's Time for the First Draft
  

Assignment Time

My goal for THIRST was to post one chapter a week, and I have my blog to hold me accountable. I refuse to fail! I will post one new chapter a week, no matter what. But I can't do that with King's Blood, so I have a one-chapter-a-day goal for that book, which I sometimes fail when the chapter is particularly challenging. How have you been doing at keeping up with your goals? Are you on track to finish as planned? Do you need to readjust? If so, do it. When I'm feeling behind, it always helps me to re-evaluate my daily word count goals and get my writing calendar organized again. Then I'm ready to tackle the new plan.

And if you've been stuck rewriting too much, stop and just keep moving forward. Leave yourself comment notes or highlight things if it helps you stop worrying that you might forget important changes you'll want to make in rewrites.

So, how is it going? Share in the comments. And let's encourage each other too!






42 comments:

  1. Well, this post couldn't have come at a better time for me. Writing's been hard lately, mainly because I've gotten myself stuck in a scene that I can't seem to pull myself out of. I have to remember that I can let it stink, because it's only a first draft.

    As for progress, I'd say I'm a little less than halfway finished with it.

    Thanks for the post, Mrs. Williamson!

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    1. Thanks for the update, Linea. Yeah, just push through it. You can fix it later!

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  2. I really need to learn to not correct my sentences until later. I always feel like my first draft needs to be perfect. I'm really going to try to keep myself going, even if something doesn't make sense yet or I write a really bad sentence.
    Thank you so much for the post!

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    1. You're welcome! It's habitual to want to perfect things, but training yourself to wait should help you accomplish more in the longrun.

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  3. Great post! I've a question though. In the first post in this series you said to participate in the competition the first chapter had to be less than 3k words and the first three chapters less than 10k words. My problem is, my first chapter is 700 words above that number and my third chapter ends 12k words into the story. I really don't want to omit any scenes as they all add to the story, and cutting words won't shed that much. What can I do? Is that rule hard and fast, or are exceptions allowed?

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    1. Hmm... I don't know, Jason. We're still kind of far off from the contest, so I know we need to take some time to look closer at the rules. I'll keep this in mind when we get to that point.

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  4. I'm actually working on my second draft, but the first draft was so short (11,500 words) I am almost starting over. Right now I'm rewriting it one chapter at a time, but I still tend to get a little more meticulous than I should, and it's delayed my progress. I've been trying to make each chapter perfect and it's made everything take longer, and my chapters are far shorter than I want them, so I m going to try to get through my second draft without being quite so hard on myself :-)
    Thanks for another great post Jill!

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    1. You are welcome! Keep at it. You can do it!

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  5. This is timely for me too! I'm working on the rewriting of the second book in a series, so it's pretty much like a first draft. I'm almost 25k into it, and the plot is just beginning now, so I've been kicking myself over the pacing issues. But this is a great reminder that I'm allowed to stink at this point in the process! And that beginnings especially are tricky things, and best left to tinker with later, when the whole book is written. Thanks, Jill! ^_^

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    1. You're welcome! Yeah, I think it helps to push through and get a full, logical story, even if there are lots of things missing or broken. Then you have something to fix.

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  6. I'm doing ... well, I'm doing okay-ish :D. I'm definitely not as far along as I'd like to be, so I might readjust a bit and start working faster. Because I REALLY need to up my game some, or my story is not going to be ready in time. So this post was pretty timely for me :).

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    1. I'm glad this was timely, Savannah. This is a lot of work, so give yourself some grace, but keep at it. You can do it!!

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  7. I'm afraid I'm too hard on myself. Lately writing's been hard and I've been pushing myself too hard. Including in my first drafts. I look up words in the thesaurus for crying out loud! I like writing, but lately I've been pushing myself too hard.
    Thanks for the advice! I will write free and wild. (At least in my first drafts). ☺

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    1. And take breaks too! It sounds like you need some. Breaks help the brain recharge.

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  8. Great post! Strangely enough, I tend to do all of your tips! My most recent temptation is getting online, though. There's so much good stuff on here!

    So, question, Mrs. Williamson (though I think I may be getting ahead of the jump here): My first draft is finished, and I'm ready for rewrites. The problem is, I keep sitting down to rewrite, trying different people's methods every time, and I have yet to rewrite the entire novel! Every different method has really good points, some of which work for me and some of which don't, but each one leaves me more overwhelmed and ready to throw this entire story (been working on it for two years) in the trash and start something new. I love this story. I know it has potential to be a great book, yet I don't have the motivation to rewrite into a great one. Suggestions? What would you do in this situation?

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    1. Why are you overwhelmed? Does it feel like there is too much to fix? Or that the problems are too complex?

      Unless I'm on a deadline, when I feel this way about a book I try to take a break from it and write something else. But if I'm under contract, then I have to do the work. In that case, I make a list of all the major things that need done, then tackle them one at a time. That way, rather than feeling overwhelmed by EVERYTHING that needs done, I focus on that one thing. Once that's done, I choose the next item on the list.

      Also, when I'm working on a major rewrite, I still give myself permission to stink. To me, a first draft isn't complete until the story is solid. So I will often get that rough draft done, then go in and rearrange scenes and do major rewrites until I know everything is in the proper order and I've got it all down. Then I can go In and start cleaning things up.

      It could be that you're overwhelmed because you're trying to do it all at once. That never works for me. In edits, I will take several times going through the book, focusing on a different thing each time so I don't overwhelm myself.

      Hope that helps some!

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    2. Yes to both. Too-complex problems and too many of them.
      I would take a break from this one (I am sort of working on another project at the same time), but I know that if I drop it entirely, I'll never come back to it. Just a bad habit of mine. And since I want to make writing my career (or at least a key part of it!), I know I need to finish this book.

      How many times do you recommend going through a manuscript, then? When in all that do you bring in beta readers (or alpha, gamma, delta, whatever?)?

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  9. I recently finished my first draft and almost immediately started the sequel. I'm doing the 100 for 100 and I think it will really help. Also what month is the Summer camp nano? I want to do that too.

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    1. I'm pretty sure it's July.

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    2. Congrats on finishing your first draft!

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  10. Love this post! Just fixed a cup of coffee (like I do most afternoons) and I'm diving back in to writing. Now to write faster!

    Blessings~~

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  11. I don't usually set concrete goals for myself. I more say, I want to finish this book by X, so whenever I have time to write I will make sure I do. This is not as much of a problem for me as editing. I don't enjoy editing and have to set specific goals for it, like a chapter a day, to even finish.

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  12. Awesome post! Just what I needed to see. ☺ ☺ ☺

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  13. Oh this couldn't have come up at a better time! I'm currently writing my second draft and trying to get all the new ideas together. I finished my first draft last year at just over 400,000 words (I know--WAY too long) and now I'm doing it all again. Never mind! We'll all get there eventually, with a bit of hard work! :)

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    1. Hope everything goes well! ☺

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    2. How do you do that? Write such long first drafts, I mean. My latest first draft was only 55k, and that's the longest one I've had yet!

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    3. Same here! I've been telling myself to write longer, but.... LOL ☺

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    4. It took me a year and a half to do it, and it basically just takes a lot of time sat in front of your manuscript typing and typing and typing... It helps that I'm really inspired by my idea, so make sure you're writing about something you love! Good luck to both of you--it might just take a bit of time :)

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    5. Most of my stories can't hold up that kind of wordcount. I have to work on making my stories more complex (that helped on this last one)- but not so complex that I give up before finishing the outline!

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    6. That's a massive book, Charlotte. Congrats on finishing it! And DeVall Girls and Gisela, very few genres should be that long. 55k is a fine length. It all depends on genre, target audience, plot, and how the author writes.

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    7. I'm writing epic fantasy. In that case, 55k *is* very short, isn't it?
      Most submission guidelines I see say 60k or more.

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    8. 55k is still fine for epic fantasy! Besides it might be quite nice to see something different than huge Tolkien-like novels.

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  14. This was such an encouraging post! I'm one of those people who edit as I go along.....probably not the best habit, oops.

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

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    1. It really works well for some writers, Ellie, so don't stop if the process works for you. It's just that the process doesn't work well for too many authors who keep doing it, and I have found that giving themselves permission not to edit helps.

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  15. This post was so helpful. I'm a perfectionist which is horrible when I'm trying to get through a writing session. Sometimes I cave and edit things and sometimes an edit is just so big that if I don't fix it at that very moment I cannot write anything that should take place after it. I'm such a linear writer it's ridiculous. And I was wondering has anyone else ever just written multiple scenes with only dialogue and left the description for later? Or is it just me. :)

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    1. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. In fact, that's kinda what all of my first drafts look like: bland character voice, dialogue, dialogue tags, and minimal description. I'm working on that now (or will be if my computer ever starts up).
      You know the other thing I've done? It went something like this:
      Paradise slammed the parchment on the table (*slip in description of Paradise*) "I shall not..."

      Okay, now I'm rambling. Sorry.

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    2. I rarely write description in a first draft. I'm all about the dialogue.

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  16. My update:
    So, I am seriously behind. I started #wewritebooks with only my initial story idea spark. I set a writing start date and everything was going great. Unfortunately, I got sick and wasn't able to get any work done for a long while. So now I'm back on track but I've only started writing my first draft now... I think I should still be able to reach my goal on time, but it will be a lot of work. Still, I'm having a blast reading the blog posts and writing so far!

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  17. Oh, since I've discovered the note feature, I've been using it like crazy. It really is helpful in freeing up your thoughts so you can focus on just writing and deal with editing in editing stages.


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbosityreviews.com

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