What is speed writing? I define this first-draft technique as . . . well, writing with speed. There are several reasons why you might want to punch out a super-fast first draft. One reason might be that you have a quick deadline. You know you’ll need a high word count each day in order to finish that book on time, especially since you’ll need time to edit before you send it off to that agent or editor. Another reason you might speed write is to keep yourself from losing momentum on the project. (Ever hit that wall at about the 20,000-word mark and consider quitting?) I speed write to get the bones on the page as fast as possible because it’s my least favorite part. I’d much rather edit and play with my thesaurus than pound out a first draft.
But sometimes, when high word counts are the daily goal, writers get so focused on accumulating words that they forget to include one vital key in their scenes:
I’m guilty of this, too. I focus on hitting that “X-amount of words a day” goal that I find myself tempted to write like a preschooler just so I can reach that number. And don’t get me wrong, realistically speaking, your writing will likely be elementary while speed writing. It’s not the stage for beautiful poetry. And you know what? That’s perfectly fine. Normal, even. People slow down when they try to string beautiful sentences together, so if you want to speed write, then you can count on adding the finesse during the editing stage instead.
But sentence perfection aside, we all know that reading stories with the author’s heart spilled across the page is an amazing experience. When authors include heart, it’s obvious. If you don’t write with heart, with the intent to connect with yourself and thus, connect with readers, then let’s be honest: Readers won’t care what the words say. And the strange thing is, words can be altered later, but it’s pretty difficult to add in heart later.
I’ll just share what works for me. When I speed write, I keep in mind what emotions I need to play up. Before I begin each day, I figure out what emotion or underlying fear/hope/dream/etc. needs to be incorporated in the character’s POV. Then I hit my word count with that emotion in mind. Sometimes I know I’m going overboard as I describe the emotion in each scene, know I’m writing incredibly purple prose. But you know what? It’s a first draft! And when you go back to edit, look at all the material you have to work with. That’s where the tightening and smoothing happens.
Besides, deleting is easier than adding anyway.
Do you speed write? Do you find it challenging to write with heart?