A few weeks ago, I realised that I had a self-imposed deadline coming up. I looked at my diary and saw six days in Dubai at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature fairly quickly followed by four or five days in London. As I was moving into the last third of my work-in-progress, currently entitled Makeover at the Angel Café, I could see a problem looming. If I didn’t finish my first draft the time I left for Dubai then by the time I arrived back at my desk for the second half of March, my memory would have been wiped.
Picking up all the threads in order to finish the first draft would have been impossible. I’d have to go back to the beginning and edit my way through until I could gather my thoughts again. This did not appeal.
I don’t think I’m a particularly fast writer. I find the first draft takes a lot of thought, of toing and froing while I tweak plotlines and characters. But this time I was determined to reach the finish line by 1 March. If I didn’t, I could see myself being put back at least a month in my busy publishing schedule.
I decided to adopt the practice of writing quickly and editing slowly. It sort of goes against my usual MO but I thought it was worth a try. Here are my strategies:
- Abandon the technique of writing myself into each session by editing the words written the day before. It takes time and I am going to edit those words again in the second draft.
- Instead, at the end of a writing session, write a few notes in my ms about What Happens Next, so I don’t lose my flow when I come back to the book.
- When I have my middle-of-the-evening thoughts about my ms, type them into my phone and email them to myself so I can add the good ones to my ms the next morning.
- Accept there will be a greater number of ugly sentences and redundancies than usual when I reach the second draft. But my second draft is always for giving my WIP a rigorous shake up, so that’s fine.
- Reduce the opportunity for interruptions. This meant reducing my time on social media.
- Use the pockets of time I’d normally spend on social media to do small jobs (such as updating my blog).
- Work smart. For me, this has meant: making notes when I think of things that need to be changed in what I’ve written so far, rather than going back and changing them;
- and keeping a more detailed timeline than usual. On the face of it, this might seem like more work, but it saves me a lot of time when the information I might be hunting through my ms for is right there in my sprawly crawly handwriting.
- Roughly – very roughly – work out the ending to my book, expressing it as plot points on sticky notes and getting them (roughly, very roughly) in the correct order.
- Write almost every day. I know I can’t do this forever. If I don’t go out and enjoy the world, what am I to write about? But it’s fine for, say, a month, to write 6 or 7 days a week and it keeps my head more thoroughly in my storyline.
The second draft, of course, will be vital, to incorporate those notes and sort out continuity errors as well as the ugly sentences etc.
By the beginning of March, I should be able to tell you that the first draft is done. A few weeks later I hope the second will be, too …
Watch this space.