Creative ideas are fleeting, and sometimes the only way to make your idea work is to chase it as quickly as you can. And when you have an idea for a novel that just has to get out of your head or you’ll lose it, fast drafting is the way to go.

A woman in a yellow skirt sitting on a hardwood floor with a laptop on her lap, surrounded by coffee, a notebook, her phone, and a plant with the text "Fast Drafting: The Joys (and Woes) of Writing a Novel Super Fast"

There’s tons of writing advice on this here blog. I have written lots. I’ve studied lots. And I do think it’s important to state that writing mastery is only achieved through consistent practice. So, sitting down regularly and writing for a decent amount of time is the way to go. I won’t say how you have to write, and I do consider dictation to be writing. I will say that you just have to do it, though.

And for what it’s worth, you will probably never feel like you’re ready to write the book you’ve got an idea for. Every time I sit down to write, I know that whatever comes out of my head won’t be the grand vision I have. But then I remember that I always get to edit.

I re-learn how to write every time I start a new project. Sure, the process is similar: The first 10k is the hardest, when I hit 30k I despair, I take a long break, and the last 30-50k is written in a week.

It’s not ideal, but it’s my process.

Even so, I love fast drafting. If ideas swim around in my head for too long, I forget the details that make them shine. But with fast drafting, it becomes easier to get all the bits and pieces out on paper, and then I can connect it all when I’m ready.

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But before we get any further into fast drafting, I think we need to talk about slow drafting.

What is Slow Drafting?

Many non-writers think of a novelist, slowly typing up 100 words a day when they think of the writing process. And I think this is the version we see most often in movies. I would call this slow drafting.

What is slow drafting? Well, to me, it’s the process of slowly working through a novel draft. Maybe the writer spends extra time deliberating on a word choice or editing a sentence over and over to get the perfect flow.

Slow drafting is deliberate in a way that, to me, borders on incessant. I feel that way because it does not work for my brain chemicals. I can’t stand the idea of having so little visible forward progress. It seems like it would be very demoralizing to me.

But those who prefer it are typically the writers who edit as they go. (You know I’m team write first, edit later.)

And even though I don’t like it, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a valid way to write a novel. So, if you prefer a slow pace, taking your time, and getting every little piece of the novel just right before you move onto the next, this is the method for you.

What is Fast Drafting?

Now, let’s get down to business.

What is fast drafting? It’s the process of writing a novel draft fast. The idea is to get the bones of the story out on paper as fast as possible so you don’t lose that idea. You don’t worry about typos, continuity errors, or the finer details if you don’t have them in mind yet.

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Instead, you get out every idea. You put it in your notebook or Word Doc. And at the end, you have a scrawny, error-ridden story skeleton.

It’s not a full novel. You’re left with a discovery draft.

But from there, you have all the stuff you need to turn that draft into a novel. It’s just a matter of reading through what you have and figuring out what the story needs.

Which may make it sound like you can do it all rather quickly. And some authors can. But know that the speed at which everyone fast drafts isn’t universal. So, even if you feel like you aren’t moving as quickly as other writers, that’s okay.

If fast drafting sounds like it may be something you want to try, I recommend checking out this post on how to write fast, as well as this post on how to write 10,000 words a day.

Fast Drafting a Novel

Fast drafting a novel isn’t for everyone. So, don’t feel obligated to try it if the idea makes you squirm. Not everyone wants to write that way, and you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

However, next November, if you find yourself wondering how to win NaNoWriMo, fast drafting may be your answer. Now, I’m not saying winning NaNoWriMo is a necessary goal to achieve in your life. Many writers never win and still write amazing novels.

But if that’s one writing feather in your cap you don’t have, and every time you stare at a NaNoWriMo calendar, you feel that goal slipping away, fast drafting might be a fun choice.

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And if you’re interested in maybe using November as your time to try out a new writing method, and you’re curious about how to write more words, fast drafting can be a really fun option.

So, if you’re down, here’s how you’re going to do it.

  1. Think about the novel idea you have.
  2. Think about your characters.
  3. Think about the setting.
  4. Then write like the damn blazes.

Don’t worry if the ideas aren’t connected. Don’t worry if you have 13,000 words about one event in the story and then a series of bullet points about another. You’re just writing your little heart out and getting everything out of your head. Those bullet points will get fleshed out later.

Do you Fast Draft?

Are you a fast drafter? Do you like to sprint through your writing sessions and come back and edit later? How do you get all the ideas out of your head before they feel like they disappear? Do you know any slow drafters?

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