What I’m Remembering about Writing Fast

Okay, yes, if you’re going to get picky, right now I’m just plotting fast. The three-day weekend is coming up, and my goal–barring any rising creeks –is to take those three days and finish all my scene cards for the MG novel. I’ve been putting in a little time on this for the past couple of evenings, after I get home from work, and I think this is doable. And when done, I’ll be set up to fast-write the first draft over the summer. I wrote here about why I’ve decided to try this process again.

So, anyway, right now I’m fast-plotting. And I’m remembering all the delights and joys that come with fast-plotting (and, if I remember correctly, also with fast-writing.) There are many of them, and I’ll mention some below, but the underlying awesome feeling of them all is this: It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter if

  • You plot your hero behaving in a way that may, once you write it all out, turn him into a whiny brat in Scene 4, Scene 19, and Scene 23.
  • You forget the best-friend-soon-to-be-former-best-friend’s irritating new girlfriend’s name and “must” refer to her scathingly as whatshername every time you stick her into a scene.
  • You’re building the other best friend toward an act of strength and kindness, possibly setting him up to out-hero your hero.
  • You’ve created multiple siblings but keep forgetting to put various ones into the story.
  • You don’t know what the magic will do in Scene 15.
  • Every action you apply to one character makes him darker and darker, so that he could be awesomely wonderful in a Gary-D.-Schmidt novel (as area all his characters), but you’re probably not writing a Gary-D.-Schmidt novel.

It just doesn’t matter.

You may be thinking, oh, but it kind of does. Maybe you’re focusing on the part where you know (and I know) that eventually, I”ll have to make all this work. Or possibly, you’re thinking about all the time and energy I’ll put (even fast-writing) into a draft that will, when that draft is done, need to be turned into something drastically and dramatically different. Perhaps you’re thinking, but how can you even WRITE a scene when you don’t understand the magic?

Guess what? I’m thinking all those things, too. Every time I come to a question, stare at the screen, make a choice, I hear one of these questions in my head. I push them away, but they do keep popping up. And I try really hard to answer them with “It doesn’t matter.”

There is a trust implicit to this process, a belief that Anne Lamott is right when she says to write that shitty first draft. That vomiting that draft onto paper or into a file is a necessary first step. I have believe that for years, logically, but as I’ve said before–somewhere along the way I had stopped believing it in my gut. Stepping back into actively fast-plotting has brought the trust back. Of course what I’ll have at the end–at the end of the plotting, at the end of the first-drafting–will be a complete and utter mess. But…O.M.G. IT WILL BE THERE.

The contrast between how clear and happy my head feels as I plot this book to how it felt when trying to plot the last book is unbelievable. That one, the plot which I thought about, where I tried to track threads from the start to the end, where I asked myself questions about how something would work and then tried to find the answer–that one made me tangled and confused, tired and irritable. This plot, the one I’m pushing myself to speed through, is making my feel sparkly and creative and in possession of brain cells on fire. Add that to the excitement and anticipation of the fact that, if I can keep to this process, I will have A DRAFT at the end of this summer–a draft to chew up and spit out, to cut apart and glue back together, to kill darling after darling after darling….well, that feels like dancing.

It’s nice to be remembering.

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4 thoughts on “What I’m Remembering about Writing Fast

  1. It’s good to hear I’m not alone in this struggle. I’m only working on my first book, but my God is it hard. So many questions and unconnected thoughts. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees when I’m digging a trench beneath the canopy. I realized at some point I couldn’t plot the whole book because I didn’t know the individual stories, so I started figuring out what each character’s story is, and how they overlap. But even now, when I did my character story outlines seem to be more about how they grow and change and not enough about what plot points drive those changes, I wonder if I’m doing it “right.” My wife tells me to forget about “right” because it doesn’t exist, but… so I muddle through, trying to figure out how to do things in a not necessarily right manner which will produce even a crap first draft. Letting go and letting it not make sense while we work is really challenging…all the uncertainty can drive one crazy! But somehow I suspect there’s no other way, as your excellent post suggests. Thank you for sharing.

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