Phase drafting and writing faster

Writing faster than greased lightning is one of the holy grails of writing, or, at least, it is in my world. The thought of being able to whip out a decent first draft in under two months makes me giddy, let alone one. While there are many methods that can help you do that, phase drafting is the one that works for me.

At it’s most basic, phase drafting is the step between your outline (if you have one) and your first draft. If you’re a pantser, it’s like outlining without actually outlining and if you’re a plotter, it’s a way to test drive your plot, fill in holes and follow any interesting tangents that come along. For a more comprehensive description, read ‘It’s Just a Phase’.

Note: the Self-Publishing Podcast team uses the same method, but with a different name, which they explain in episode 64 of their podcast. They’ve also provided a sample document, which is well worth the download. 

Good for pantsers and plotters alike.

What’s awesome

  • Helps you write faster.

What’s not-so-awesome

  • Doing it without an outline makes me want to hyperventilate.

The awesome

Although, I’m yet to achieve greased lightning status, the best thing about phase drafting, is that as a method for writing faster, it works.

In her post ‘How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day’, Rachel Aaron flags knowing what she’s going to write as one of the key requirements of writing faster (the other two are time and enthusiasm). By pre-planning what happens next, either through an outline or phase drafting, you can cut out a lot of the time spent staring at the screen wondering where the story is going, and free yourself up to write.

This is where phase drafting comes in. Using quick notes, you roughly sketch out a scene or chapter (example below), which you then translate into a paragraph or two, when you write the first draft.

Example: POV Hero. The Bellona is in orbit around Asherah, a water planet in the upper sector. Observe planet on holo-screen. Sapphire waters, small green dots of land. Feels trepidation about the mission, something doesn’t feel right.

Because it’s more comprehensive than an outline, phase drafting enables you to stop agonising over the little things, like what shoes your hero is wearing, and concentrate on the writing.

The not-so-awesome

This is where we separate the plotters from the pantsers. If you’re the former, you may find phase drafting without an outline a little too much like pantsing for your comfort, if you’re the later, you’ll probably be right at home.

For plotters, I worked around this one by slipping my phase drafting between my planning and first draft stages, letting it form a half draft (or just a very, very rough one).

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