Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fast Draft Tips

I'm writing my third YA novel, but this is my first attempt at a "fast draft." I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo in the traditional sense since I started my WIP before the event began, but I am attempting my own version of marathoning a first draft.

I'm a pantser by nature. My first two novels started as ideas with a middle and an end and I made up the rest as I typed. I edited, revised, and revised some more as I went. There is nothing wrong in writing this way, but it can take a while - and it did for me. This time around I'm trying something different. I'm not full-out plotting with a detailed outline. No. I'm plotsering. Or, er, something like that. It's something between pantsing and plotting.

The most valuable tool I've used thus far in fast drafting is a beat sheet. I didn't even know what a beat sheet was until a couple months ago when another writer tweeted about it. (Thanks, Risa!) Blake Snyder devised a 7 and 15 point Beat Sheet for movie and television scripts. Many writers use these 15 "beats" to make a rough outline of a new project. You'll find gobs of info on the web if you Google "beat sheet," but, for your convenience, I've included a beat sheet below.

Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet for Novels

1. Opening Image - Sets the tone, mood, type, and scope of the project. A "before" snapshot.

2. Theme Stated - Secondary character poses question or statement to the MC that is the theme of the story.

3. Set-Up - Introduce or hint at every character in A story; plant character ties to be addressed later in story

4. Catalyst - Life changing event that knocks down house of cards

5. Debate - Point of no return; character makes choice

6. Act II - A strong, definite change of playing field

7. B Story - Often "love" story; gives us a break from tension in the A story; carries theme of the movie

8. Fun & Games - "The promise of the premise"; the heart of the movie; all about having fun

9. Mid Point - Threshold between first half and second half; can be false peak or false collapse; stakes are raised; fun and games are over

10. Bad Guys Close In - Bad guys regroup and send heavy artillery; hero's team begins to unravel

11. All is Lost - Opposite of midpoint; whiff of death/old way of thinking dies; give up/runaway moment; false defeat

12. Black Moment - Darkest point; MC has lost everything

13. Act III - A story and B story combine and reveal solution

14. Finale - Wrap up; dispatch all bad guys in ascending order, working way up to boss

15. Final Image - Opposite of opening image; show how much change has occurred

Random tips helping me "fast draft."

*If you're stuck and you're not sure which action should come next, try throwing your characters into a conversation. Focus on the dialogue and you can either come back later to fill in the action(s) and/or the dialogue will prompt ideas for the action.

*Take notes on what changes/edits you may need to look at when the draft is done.

*When you're writing time is over stop in the middle of a sentence. It sounds counter-intuitive, but when you sit down to start writing again you're put right back into the story.

*For those who listen to tunes while they write (I MUST), listen to the same playlist/artist/song as you did when you stopped writing. Again, this will help get you back into your story quicker.

Do you use a beat sheet? Do you use a different kind of tool? What tips can you give to those first-time "fast drafters" like me?


  1. What a great resource to provide for our readers! Thanks, Tonya.

  2. Great post! I use the Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet combined with Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure for a Character's Internal Journey. I've got a nifty little spreadsheet that I track my story beats, WC, locations, etc., on. I update it as I go and have inserted a pivot table for streamlined viewing. *geeks out* AND THEN whenever I'm stuck on what to do next, I use Mary Robinette Kowal's "Yes but" or "No and" technique. Does MC achieve the scene goal? Yes, but... or No, and... so *hopefully* things continue to get worse and worse for poor MC, especially during the "saggy middle".

  3. Like Cheryl Anne, I use Blake's beat sheet and Michael Hauge's 6 stage plot structure for the the character's internal journey (I got this from his workshop). I couldn't imagine writing a novel without planning it first with those resources.

    Great post!

  4. Yup. :) I was a pantser. Until I wasn't. I plotted a novel, started it, and finished it. Amazing feeling to finish a manuscript! ...and even though I still pants here and there, I always return to the beat sheet for the direction I need. Great post! Thanks for the shout out!