« Writing

How to write your first draft in six days (a play in eleven acts)

January 15, 2015

Act one: Get laid off

If that’s not possible, make some other kind of drastic/heroic/insane move that will make step number two possible.

Act two: Experience a rush of adrenaline that causes your temporarily addled brain to decide to write a book in three weeks

Books are just lots of words. You know lots of words. Perfect.

Act three: Announce it to everyone you know

Don’t worry if your friends and family look at you like you’re nuts. This is a good idea. Believe it.

Act four: Outline your book with zealous pride

Remember that time you wrote yourself into a deep dark hole and couldn’t write your way out of it? Not this time, my friend. You are going to know where this thing is going, and you’re going to like it.

Act five: Make best friends with Scrivener

Beware of the manual. Don’t even look at it this behemoth. You don’t need to know how to set up a manuscript that your eighth grade English teacher would be proud of. You just need to write. (But maybe figure out how to use those little cards. They’re kind of awesome.)

Act six: Delude yourself into thinking that you’re not writing for as long as possible

This isn’t writing! This is filling out tiny cards with tiny sentences and then putting them together like a puzzle. This is a puzzle! Pay no attention to the word count at the bottom of your screen.

Act seven: After three days of non-stop “puzzle time”, realize that you are writing lots of words and watch your progress slow to a trickle

Do not panic. This is totally on purpose. Part of the plan. 

Act eight: Keep writing, even though you know this is going to take the rest of your life, and you will never finish, not ever

This is your life now. A lonely laptop-based existence where you only get up for food, water, and the relief of your bodily functions. Yes you can shut the door, small tiny humans who I vaguely remember are my children. Thank you for anticipating my needs.

Act nine: Cheat. Be a cheater and cut out half of the chapters you were going to write just so you can get finished with the first draft faster.

Remind yourself that simplicity is holiness. You are doing everyone a favor, really. You need a clean, sparse manuscript from which to grow that second draft. It says so in all the books.

Act ten: See the finish line. Immediately fall on your metaphorical knees in happiness and disbelief, and proceed to drag yourself towards it by the strength of your finger muscles alone.

It doesn’t matter if it’s already midnight and there are those four sections left. Cut that broken one off, you don’t need it. Ignore the blood.

Act eleven: Congratulations, you have a first draft.

Remember, delirium is only a problem if you can’t write about it later. You, my friend, have proven once and for always, that you can.