Mini Experiment: Fast Drafting

Today I intend to bite the bullet, take the bull by the horns, grasp the nettle, swallow the pill, and all the other other cliches that mean I ‘m going to stop moaning and making excuses and just do this. And by this, I mean (cue ominous music and peals of thunder) Fast-drafting.

What is fast-drafting?

“Fast-drafting is quite literally the process of writing the first draft of your novel (or short story, novella, etc.) as quickly as possible. No hesitation, no excuses, no editing-as-you-go.”

Image by meminsito from Pixabay

No editing as you go? Is such a thing even possible? Well, gentle readers, I am about to find out. I have come to this sorry state because progress on my current manuscript has slowed to a miserly trickle instead of the gushing torrent I’d expected as I neared the end.

Seriously, after more than 100,00 words of my first draft of Skalsinger, I was hoping for a quick dash to the finish, something like this:

Image by Simon Steinberger from Pixabay

And instead, for two weeks, I’ve been getting this:

Image by Marlon Ferrer from Pixabay

And I’m tired of it. It’s time for some drastic action. So, as much as the whole idea of fast-drafting makes my cramped, nitpicking, perfectionist soul cringe and flinch back with a gasp of horror, I am feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Enough cliches? Fair enough. On with the experiment.

The task:

Begin a fresh scene. Write using Scrivener for 30 minutes, then immediately switch to a pen and notebook for the remaining 30 minutes, so I can compare results between the two drafting methods.

The Rules:

  • Write as fast as possible, with no breaks
  • Ignore the voice that says it’s all rubbish and just carry on
  • Do not use the BACKSPACE or DELETE keys (ouch!)
  • Do not change anything once it’s on the page (double ouch!)
  • Do not use references to check for consistency with the rest of the manuscript
  • Do not make notes as I go about how to improve it later (yes, I do this)
  • Do not stop until the hour is up, no matter what

The Experiment Begins:

So, this is it. I am about to start fast drafting.

For one hour.

Using Forest App, which I’ve just downloaded to my phone.

Here I go. Wish me luck, and I’ll see you on the other side.

The results:

First 30 minutes (using Scrivener on my laptop):

I waited until I had the first sentence in my head, then started the timer. The first time I produced a typo, I went to use the backspace key, but just stopped myself in time. This kept happening for a while, but then the impulse faded as I got into the scene. And I really got into it: 759 words in 30 minutes, and I was till typing when the timer went off to switch to the notebook. The last time I churned out 700 words in a single session was three weeks ago, and that took two hours. As for the quality of the words, they are better than I expected. There’s some waffling and repetition, but that’s easy to tidy up later, and there’s some good stuff there, too. I’m more than happy with my progress in the first part of the experiment.

Second thirty minutes (using a notebook and pen):

There was a slight delay when I realised my fountain pen had run out of ink and I couldn’t find a new cartridge, but I grabbed a ballpoint and started in. Immediately, I noticed that my writing was much slower than my typing. I couldn’t get the words onto the paper quickly enough. No typos, though, and only one word scribbled out before I remembered I couldn’t do that. And the words kept flowing. Not only that, but the scene took a sudden new direction that I hadn’t foreseen and am quite excited about. More excited than I’ve been about this draft for quite a while, to be honest. I stopped writing about thirty seconds before the timer went off and left it at that. As I’d already known, I got far fewer words in this session: only 340. But I was writing the whole time, so I know it’s only because typing is faster, and not lack of inspiration.

Oh, and I planted two virtual trees in my forest. Strangely satisfying.


I know this is only a first attempt, but I have to call it a resounding success. All my fears of fast drafting have disappeared. I wrote 1099 words in 60 minutes, and I’m excited to get back to this scene tomorrow. I call that a win.

I thought my usual editing-as-I-go method was giving me time to think, time I needed, but it wasn’t true. Reading back what I’ve written today, it’s just as good as anything I’ve produced this month (barring quite a few typos, but they’re easily corrected).

I will definitely continue with fast-drafting, but from now on I’ll be sticking with Scrivener and the laptop. Handwriting is just too slow, and now that I see a way to increase my productivity, I don’t want to handicap myself like that.

Fast-drafting rocks, and I like the app, too. Double win.

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Have you tried fast-drafting? What methods do you use to write?

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