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Monday, January 21, 2013

The Fast Draft Project

I read somewhere that telling people what you were planning on doing was as satisfying as completing the action so you shouldn't tell people about your Big Project. Fair enough.

The same week I read an article about writing a novel in three days. What author doesn't want a finished novel in three days?

Combine the two and you have The Fast Draft Project!!!! (cue the music)

I resolved to dedicate one week in January to writing a novel. I was going to bang that sucker out, max my word count, and have a shiny (okay shoddy) rough draft in under seven days.

Well... let's discuss some of the things the people who write a novel in 36 hours don't need to deal with: kids, carpools, basketball, gymnastics, sick people, hospital visits, car break-downs, grocery shopping, cooking anything, cleaning anything, interacting with people, and kids. The unifying theme of people who fast draft is the absence of family, domestic servants (or an abused spouse), a general disregard for personal hygiene, large quantities of drugs, and zero social obligations. I'm not saying it can't be done, I'm just saying that a normal adult with a family, a job, and responsibility for the feeding and maintenance of both won't be able to write for six hours straight a day.

For most authors the goal of writing a book in three days (72 hours) is ridiculous. Most of the people I know aim for 1000 words per hour, which means that writing every hour for three days straight will still leave you short of the 75k mark for a novel. My personal best is something like 2k an hour, which would mean twelve hours of uninhibited writing every day for three days. That's not physically impossible, but it's very hard to pull off as a (temporarily) single mom.

Now... could someone fast draft a shorter work in three days? A novella perhaps? Those max out around 50k, and would mean writing roughly 5 hours a day at a 2k/hour pace. That's doable, even with small kids at home. That pace would leave you with 30k (the length of EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE). Add a few sprints and you're fine.

Realistically I think it takes a month to write a novel, two weeks to write a novella, and a day or so to complete a short story under 5k. NaNoWriMo is a challenge for brand new authors who aren't in the habit of writing daily. It's a good place to gets back on the horse, but if you're writing daily you're probably maxing out at 2000-3000 words per day, and at 3k/day you will have a respectable novel in a month. At the same pace you can write a novella in under two weeks.

And how did my fast draft week go? I clocked in at 5k total. Two days were completely lost because of emergencies. I know Hemingway wrote a book in a day, but as human beings go Hemingway was a prick with no real redeeming parenting qualities and didn't have a life most want to emulate.

The modern author who is busy building their career has either kid or a job or both. No one makes a living off of writing short stories twice a month any more. So take reality into account while you make your plans to write. Make the time to write and don't beat yourself up if that time is limited, it means you have a life!


  1. Yeah, the fastest I've written a book was 10 1/2 weeks. Your comments about Hemingway are making me laugh. :)

    1. He really wasn't a very nice person. I don't aspire to his lifestyle.