Wednesday, April 13, 2011

5 Tips for Quickly Writing Your First Draft—by Alan Orloff

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Some writers I know bask in the writing process, savoring the time spent crafting a novel as the seconds turn into minutes turn into weeks (and months…and years). For them, writing is a drawn-out love affair.

I’m not one of those people. When I have an idea, I want to get it written as quickly as possible. Why? Because I’ve got a ton of other ideas, lining up on my brain’s tarmac waiting to take flight.

Here are some tips for writing your first drafts (note: first drafts) as quickly as possible.

Give yourself permission to stink. (Put your head out the window and take a deep breath. That odor you smell? I just started a new project.) Don’t worry so much about your grammar and sentence construction. Don’t try to describe your setting to the finest detail. Dialogue a bit wooden? Don’t fret about it now. All these boo-boos can be fixed during the revision process. Why waste time perfecting a certain passage when it might end up on the discard heap?

Don’t revise as you go along. Start writing and don’t look back. Plow ahead. Odds are, when you finish your draft, there will be tons of stuff (tons!) you’ll have to change anyway. Decide to change a character’s name? Fine. Highlight the new name and keep on trucking. You can go back and clean things up when you’re finished with the draft. Why waste time and effort?

Set a quota and stick to it. Use either the “words-per-day” method or set aside a certain amount of time every day to write. Don’t get up from your desk (or bench or bed or hammock or wherever you write) until you’ve satisfied your quota. It’s that easy (insert diabolical laugh here). To get even more done, “fiddle” with your quotas. For instance, you could start out the week with a thousand word daily quota, then increase it by 200 words per day throughout the week. Or you could pick one day a week to “double-dip,” where you write twice your daily quota.

Research? You don’t need so much stinkin’ research! Do only the barest of bare minimums of research. Some writers I know use “doing research” as a procrastination device (I know, can you believe it?). If you come upon something you don’t know—a fact, a name, the capital of Justrevoltedstan—just type XXX and keep on writing. You can go back and fill it in during the revision stage. Again, why waste time researching something that might not even make it into the final draft?

Stay away from that durn Internet and other shiny, distracting things. As my blog host Elizabeth recommends, set a timer for checking email and blogs and Facebook and Twitter. Then, when it goes off, your break is over and it’s time to get back to…ding!

Hey, gotta run!


AlanOrloffpic(1)The first book in Alan Orloff’s Last Laff Mystery series, KILLER ROUTINE, is now available, at your favorite booksellers and on-line. His debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, came out last April and was nominated for the Best First Novel Agatha Award. For more information about Alan and his books, please visit


Thanks for inviting me to your blog today, Elizabeth! I always enjoy my visits here (You have such nice blog readers!)

Thanks for coming by, Alan! Congratulations on your Agatha nomination and your new release!