The Seven Week Draft

Happy Super Belated New Year! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve been busy selecting a DVPit mentee and less fun things like the flu.

I thought I’d do my first post of the year on how to draft a manuscript in seven weeks. Hopefully, it’ll help some of you who are struggling to complete a project or have a new one in mind.

So, okay, why 7 weeks?

70,000 words is a good target goal for Adult or YA, generally.

Note: the goal will vary depending on category and genre. And also if you’re a chiseler (draft heavy and then slim down) or a painter (start with a sketch and build up in revisions). Know the word count guidelines. Love the word count guidelines. It will save you heartache in the long run. Here’s a good one.

I find that 7 weeks keeps me immersed in the story and voice of the characters. I get out a draft. I clean it later.

And now for math:

70,000 words breaks into 10,000 words per week (take that, college calculus). That’s under 1,500 words a day. 1,428 to be exact. I find this to be a workable goal… usually.

How to get 1,500 words/day

Aiming for 1,500+ words a day will give you 2+ days off in those 7 weeks. Of course, 1,500 words can be a big ask if you’re staring at Twitter. So,

  • Break it down into multiple sessions. 500+ words in the morning or at lunch suddenly gives you a goal of 1,000 at night.
  • The easiest way to get word count is writing sprints. Never heard of it? You and another writer decide to write without distraction for a short period of time. Say you start at 8:00pm, you give your starting word count, close out of everything but your WIP, write, and then check in at the agreed time with your ending count. I find 30 minute blocks most useful. Repeat until done.

There’s something about having an accountabil-a-buddy that makes you focus. Plus it’s embarrassing to admit that you got 17 words because you were looking up lyrics to Havana.

How can you find someone to sprint with? Twitter is great because there’s always someone who should be writing. Just tweet out that you’re looking to sprint. Chances are you’ll get a taker.

Rereading/editing as you go

I hate having a garbage first draft, so I tend to reread/edit the last chapter or section I worked on the previous day. I find this keeps revision to a decent level… usually.

That’s it. Remember to reward yourself at the end because finishing a book is an amazing thing. And then to let it rest for a MONTH before you look at it again. Seriously, you’ll catch so much more in revision if you let your MS rest for 4+ weeks, read other work, and then go back to it.

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