#FastDraft: How to Do It Successfully and What You Learn Along the Way


Hi Life Listers!  You may have noticed I haven’t been pestering you all as much lately on your blogs or on twitter.  And Facebook, well, I’ve barely logged in.  Don’t fret!  I still like you!

You see, I’ve been busy writing.  After attending the DFW Writers Conference, I met and am in awe of romance writer, Candace Havens.  Candace is amazing at getting things done.  She’s a film critic, romance writer, workshop leader, wife, mom and incredibly funny woman!

Candace Havens (examiner.com)

One of the key workshops Candace leads is a writing class called Fast Draft.  In today’s day and age, it’s not enough for writers to just write one book a year.  Not if you expect to make money at it.  The fact is our readers now expect the next book right away, and if they have to wait too long, they (and your publishers) might forget about you.  I wrote more on this topic in Celebrating My Writing Slump and Guerrilla Tactics For Writers.

So Candace champions writing FAST!  Fast Draft is a commitment to write 20 pages a day for 2 weeks.  In that 2 weeks, you would have a completed first draft.  Sound frightening?  Here’s how Candace gets you going!

How to Successfully Begin Fast Draft:

  • Prepare! Make it work for you!  Write your blog posts for the weeks ahead, put some meals in the freezer or save a take out fund.  Gift yourself with the time to write for two weeks!
  • Permission – Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft.  Do at least some plotting work to keep you moving.
  • Get Rid of Your Internal Editor!  You are not allowed to read what you’ve previously written the day before, just make yourself some notes and keep going!
  • Tell Your Friends and Family To Leave You Alone!  Promise a romantic weekend away, a trip to a Water Park with the kids, whatever it takes to get them to agree to give you 2 weeks to write.
  • Set aside a specific time to write and stick to it.  If you have to break it up into chunks throughout the day, do it!
  • Do your research after you’ve written the draft.  If your book is set in the Himalayas, then put some brackets down and write: {Insert geographical key points of the Himalayas here}.
  • Write When You’re Tired!  Be Positive!  Believe in the Magic of Writing!
  • Clear away the clutter in your writing space.  Make sure your writing space is a clean and open one.

If Snoopy can do it, so can you! (christinemareebell.files.wordpress.com)

Hopefully, many of you are reading this and thinking “Yes, I can do this!”  But if you’re still struggling to get going, here are the other helpful tips Candace recommends.

  • Vomit your words on the page.  It’s easier to fix a page with words on it than a blank one.
  • Get a Team!  You need people to report to daily and hold yourself accountable.  Never allow 0 pages!  Candace says the only excuses for writing 0 pages are DEATH and a COMA!
  • Whining is not allowed.
  • Keep a journal with you at all times. You never know when inspiration may hit.
  • Experiencing technical difficulties?  Use a pen and paper!
  • Know that everyone hits a stumbling block.  Keep yourself moving forward.  🙂
  • Stuck?  Try one of these:  Journal, write a scene for a character and keep going, write your end, move to another chapter, use writeordie.com, email your partners and ask them to brainstorm with you, move around and stretch, leave yourself notes with ideas, if you make your goal, give yourself a treat, if you think of a previous scene, just make a note in your journal.


It is possible!  And I can tell you this because I’m doing it!  I had the extreme pleasure of chatting with Candace while waiting in the LONG lunch line at the DFW Conference.  I told her she was the first person who really hit home in regards to having a similar schedule to me.  She has to drive to and from out of town movie venues, she writes her 20 pages a day, and she does have a family to take care of.  She puts in around 80 hours a week!

I work a 60 hour day job, keep up with my blog, and can now say I write for my book each day.  You know what, I don’t always get to 20 pages.  It’s rare that I do.  But I usually get to 10!  And that’s between 3 and 4,000 words!

Candace Havens may have saved my writing career.  You guys, I’m a terrible editor!  If you read my previous post about celebrating my writing slump, I shared how many false starts and re-starts and cut and paste starts I’ve tried!  I never made it much further than a few chapters because I thought it had to be perfect!  Now that I’m not re-reading my own work everyday, allowing my inner editor to tell me what a screw up I am, I am writing more and moving forward in my story!  That alone is worth everything to me.

Give it a try!  You never know what you might learn along the way!

Hungry for more? 

Kristen Lamb just posted 5 Ways to Get Out of the Comfort Zone and Become a Stronger Writer.

James Scott Bell blogged 7 Things That Will Doom Your Novel (And How to Avoid Them).

Or just hang out with the good (and tired) peeps participating in Fast Draft right now over at Twitter under the hashtag #FastDraft.

See you all there!  And don’t forget to share what Boot Camp or Baby Steps experiences changed your life and ambitions! 


26 responses to “#FastDraft: How to Do It Successfully and What You Learn Along the Way

  1. There’s a ton of great advice here Jess. I have trouble shutting down the internal editor. (I need to meditate more.) I also need to work on the ‘no whining’ part. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I think ALL of us struggle with that in whatever we aim to do. It’s human nature to judge ourselves. But Candace really helped me, just knowing someone else was out there battling the same kind of days/hours as me was a comfort. And that whole don’t read what you wrote before is crucial for me. I am terrified I’m going to get to revisions and discover my entire book is crap, but I’ll make you all pull me from the ledge when we get there. LOL

  4. I’m so excited for you, Jess! You’re doing great! I think these challenges, Fast Draft, NaNoWriMo, etc are not as much about doing it exactly as stated but learning that you can do more than you’ve been doing. Your life is particularly full and the fact that you’re getting 10 pages a day is phenomenal! I was stunned, at first, that anyone, anywhere, thought a 2-week draft was possible, but now I’m beginning to think I might be able to do that. My next book is my novella sequel (about 30,000 words) and I may try Fast Draft for that. Hang in there, girlfriend! You’re almost halfway there already!

  5. Candace Haven’s Fast Draft. Hey, I belong to that FB Group!

    Preparation ahead of time is crucial, thanks for the pointers, Jess. All so obvious, and yet… we think we can handle everything, until everything lands on our plate all at once. Shed the SuperWoman Cape and clear the schedule.

  6. I didn’t get in on this round because I knew I was going on vacation this week (and that my husband would have a conniption if I didn’t actually use the vacation to relax at least a little), but I want to try this soon. Increasing my daily word count has long been one of my goals.

  7. I live alone and don’t have people pestering me, but I do get distracted (I should check my blog comments, I should see if Lara wrote me back, I should answer the phone, etc.). About research afterward, great idea. When I’m writing – and in the zone – I don’t stop for anything. If I can’t snatch the perfect word for a certain sentence, I just type ___________ and keep moving. Same goes for some factoid I might need. And the ___________ helps me easily find the spots I need to fix.

    • Ooh may take you up on that ______ tip. I’ve been doing that. LOL. My thing is I’ve been using words where I’ll suddenly question the definition and whether I used it correctly or not, so when I get to editing I’ll have my dictionary nearby. Hahaha. Writing more in a day has really changed the process of it for me. I am feeling good about it though. This is such a learning experience.

      Oh and Karen, you live alone? Are you offering a writers’ retreat at your place anytime soon? I’ll bring the bacon and eggs!

  8. Preparation is the key to a successful fast writing. Your tips were really helpful. Thank you so much.

  9. Jess – Sure! Writers’ Retreat in beautiful downtown Minot, North Dakota. It snows seven months out of the year. Devastated by flood last June. No hotel rooms available. I live in a FEMA trailer, yes, but I can fit about another half person in here! Y’all welcome! We could pitch some tents in my “yard.” When you type _______, it’s easier to find when you are reviewing the MS.

  10. I absolutely love “Whining is not allowed”! You’ve got some great, inspiring tips up there and I’m itching to start my first draft! I’m not organized, though, so I think I need to give myself a deadline and just start. Great, great post!

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  12. Very timely. My critique partner and I are going to start a fast draft session soon. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

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  15. I’ve missed your wit and wisdom, Jess! Part of my own “just shut up and write the book already” hiatus has involved not just silence on my own corner of cyberspace, but a lot less blog-hopping. I’m so glad I let myself out to play today and caught this. First, I’m so glad to hear that you are doing this. I KNOW you will succeed! I have to admit I’m in awe of 20 pages a day. I’ve been averaging 4-5 several times a week, and for now I am really, really happy with that because it feels like waking up from a long slumber while still keeping the rest of my life in something that looks almost like non-chaos : ). Like Gary, I struggle to silence my internal editor. So on days that I’m stuck, I will do some re-reading. Usually, this ends up me with fixing something that was subconsciously bugging me about something previously written, and it lets me move ahead. And the idea of making notes (research this more, refer to this again in scene XXX, or so on and so forth) has really been working for me! It lets me move forward without fear that I’ll forget to come back to something I’m stuck on or just not ready to tackle until a scene that is gripping me more at the moment gets attention : ).

    • I’ve missed you Pam! 5 pages a day is awesome! I was doing around 10 pages the first week and had a tougher week during the second one. I know you’ll identify how work can get in the way. How are your projects going?

      • The book is finally moving along a a great pace : )! What I had to do was accept that as much as I wished otherwise, my crazy job and work hours weren’t going anywhere, so I have to use my limited writing time wisely. For me, that has meant cutting out all other writing – blogging, short stories, essays – until the book is a complete draft from start to finish. I’m shooting for that to be the case by sometime in September, and it looks I’m going to make my mark!

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