CampNaNo Writers! Awesome Authors’ Fast Drafting Tips to Get You Through!

CampNanoSo every year, I try to take on the challenge of fast-drafting during NaNoWriMo – that’s the fab and motivating National Novel Writing Month, traditionally in November, for you newbies.

And every time I do it, by day five, I’m waving the white flag of doom and despair. This month, I decided to dig into their spring CampNaNo (and there’s another one in July for those of you who can’t commit right now!). To keep myself going, I asked some awesome author pals for their best fast drafting tips. Herewith, their wisdom.

Stop Procrastinating!

“Write first thing in the morning. I don’t care if you’re not a morning person, it’s a matter of avoiding the distractions that fuel procrastination. If you get up early, and write first, it’s done and you don’t have to stress about life getting in the way.”
Lamar Giles, author of Overturned, Endangered and Fake ID

“Don’t get caught up in talking about your book, rather than writing it. The more time you’re talking about the “book I’m totally going to write for Nano” the less time you’re actually dedicating to finishing it. Don’t be that friend who always talks about the book they will write one day. Be the friend who has written the book. Push yourself past all the planning and outlining that gets so many writers held up, and try to just get the skeleton of the story out.”
Eric Smith, author of Inked and Branded, editor of Welcome Home

Set Reasonable Goals

“Set bite-sized goals that are different from word count. It’s more organic and intuitive to think in terms of the story. I’ll tell myself: ‘These characters have to meet and have their first conflict before I head out for dinner.’”
Emily X R Pan, author of The Astonishing Color of After

Outlines Are Everything

“Every time I’ve completed NaNo or a quick first draft, I’ve always had an outline in front of me.  I know some people think the fun of a first draft is the pants-ing aspect of it, but personally, I stall out after 20,000 words or so if I have no idea where I’m going.  So before I jump into a draft, I always try to carve out at least 2 weeks before to really think about the story and sketch a road map, before jumping in.”
Lee Kelly, author of City of Savages and A Criminal Magic

“Think of the story you want to tell and just write that. Don’t get bogged down by details, don’t worry about the small things. That’s for later. Just do a quick outline of your beginning, middle, and end (and perhaps some stops along the way) and jump on in! The mystery will make writing it fun!”
Lauren Gibaldi, author of The Night We Said Yes and Autofocus

“A thoroughly detailed outline helps me draft fast. When I know what happens next, it’s pretty much already written in my head and I just need to get it down. Also, sustained writing time if you can get it. Big chunks of it, uninterrupted. Six hours in one go means you spend more time in the zone – which really helps with word count – vs having those same six hours all broken up and then spending most of that time just getting back into things.”
Elsie Chapman, author of Along the Indigo and editor of Legendry

Build the Bones

“If you have to be precious about anything this month in regards to time and thought expended, make it your story’s bones! Once you have articulated the main points, beats, movements – whatever works for you! – it will be easier to draw muscle and flesh onto your creation, and quicker to move through and sketch out dialogue here or make a note for further exposition there.”
Karuna Riazi, author of The Gauntlet

Know What’s Next

“Don’t get lost! And reduce opportunities for wandering. At the start of a chapter or scene, make sure you know the beat you’re aiming for, whether it’s plot, character, or world revelation. Drive every scene with purpose and you might avoid those dreadful doldrums of not know what happens next.”
Natalie C. Parker, author of Beware the Wild, Behold the Bones and editor of Three Sides of A Heart

Just Keep Writing!

“If you get stuck, add the phrase “something happens here” and keep going. Get ahead early to stay ahead.”
Nisha Sharma, author of The Perfect Ending

“Don’t look back, just keep moving forward in your draft so that you don’t get bogged down with writerly regrets.”
Justina Ireland, author of Promise of Shadows, Vengeance Bound and Dread Nation

Mix Things Up

“I’m a writer who hates writing. I love revising and editing—it’s where my story comes to life. But I can’t edit a blank page, so I fight through my fast-draft. One approach that always works for me is writing the story out of sequence. I write the scenes I’m most excited about first—all the high points (the fighting, kissing, deaths), and then once those are mapped out for me, I’m able to connect the dots and finish out the draft. That’s when the fun begins.”
Suzanne Young, author of The Program series

“Plot stalled? Try the 3 Ms. Add in murder, magic, or making out as appropriate.”
Justina Ireland, author of Promise of Shadows, Vengeance Bound and Dread Nation

Make the Time

No amount of time is ever ‘not enough time’ to write. Even if I only have ten minutes between tasks, or I arrive early at a cafe with six minutes to spare before my friend gets there, that’s enough to jot down something. I keep a laptop or a notebook open and ready at all times. I often hit higher word counts across these frantic in-between periods than when I sit down to write for a long stretch.”
Emily XR Pan, author of The Astonishing Color of After

“Short intense writing bursts. Those add up quickly and you can make it really fun with dance breaks in between!”
Kim Liggett, author of Blood & Salt, The Last Harvest, and The Rapture

“Make a daily plan. Have your mini-road map so you can stay focused each day, and know what you’re supposed to do. When you don’t start your day with a plan, it’s easy to not jump into that draft.”
Dhonielle Clayton, co-author of Tiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces, author of The Belles

Don’t Revise! Just Make Notes!

“To avoid getting stuck revising rather than writing new words, I take a few minutes to leave a note on what I want to change in a future revision, then I get back to drafting. I even highlight the revision ideas so I don’t miss them later.”
Amy Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, Love, Luck & Lemon Pie, and The Simplicity of Cider

“I find that stopping to look back through pages for a small detail or even going back to fiddle with a previous scene because you decided to go in a different direction later on in the story can be disastrous for fast drafting. Instead, I like to use the CAPS LOCK method. Basically, if there’s anything you can’t remember or want to change, simply make a note beside your current sentence in all caps. Ex., Maria LAST NAME decided she wanted to adopt the cat after all. CHANGE PREVIOUS SCENE WHERE MARIA WANTED TO ADOPT A DOG. These will catch your eye during the editing phase and you don’t have to waste time going back and forth when you’re drafting. Ta da!”
Sandhya Menon, author of When Dimple Met Rishi

Whatever You Do, Don’t Look Back!

“Don’t read what you’re writing. If that means putting a towel over your computer screen, do it. Do whatever you need to do to keep the critic voice in your head from turning on.”
Amy Reed, author of Beautiful, Clean, Invincible, and The Nowhere Girls

And Lastly, Let It Breathe

“When you finish that first draft, take a deep breath, celebrate, then put it away and start something completely different.”
Daniel Jose Older, author of Half-Resurrection Blues, Shadowshaper and Ghost Girl In A Corner

Are you doing CampNaNo? What are your best fast drafting strategies?

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