20 September 2012

Authors Ask: More Questions for Amy Fellner Dominy (about writing that first draft FAST!)

My Q&A with Amy Fellner Dominy, posted here and on the Teen Lit Authors group on Monday, generated some additional questions about fast-drafting from other YA authors on the loop. Amy was kind enough to check in with answers:

Q: I'm always curious about how authors find time to write and juggle writing time with family time, running errands time––and all of those other sorts of things authors have to do. You seem to write pretty quick. How many pages do you write in an hour? Any secrets/systems/tips for getting the story down quickly?
– Janette Rallison, author of MY UNFAIR GODMOTHER 

Amy Fellner Dominy
A: Thanks for the question!! Probably the best thing that happened to me was that I used to write slowly. I wanted to make everything "perfect" so I would edit as I wrote and contemplate the best word choice and craft my sentences just right. As a result, I had some very nice chapters finished and no books. (By the time I got halfway into the story, I'd forget where I was headed!) I knew that method wasn't working. Then I met another writer (Robin Brande) who sold me on the idea of writing a first draft FAST. I tried it, and I gotta tell you -- it really works. Once I start a first draft now, I don't stop until it's finished--I don't miss a single day without adding at least 1,000 new words. It keeps the book fresh in my mind and I don't lose my way, or my enthusiasm. (Just my sanity.) :-) 

Of course, the first draft is a mess. It takes me months to rewrite, fill in the gaps, and do the crafting I skipped the first time around. I still don't think I'm a "fast" writer--but I don't spend 2 years on a book anymore, so that's progress. 

Q: Speaking of revisions, what is your process like? How long do revisions usually take you? Any suggestions for people who are new to fast-drafting and now have a huge mess to revise?
– Caryn Caldwell, author of FLYING OBJECTS, 

A: It helps me to think of the revisions in stages so it's not so overwhelming. My first draft is really rough--just the bones of the story. For instance, I'll leave notes for myself that say "Describe the school here"--that kind of thing. I might spend a month on that first draft and then I'll spend 2 months filling in the story, fixing plot threads and adding the details. I'm still not worried about making it "pretty." At this point, I usually hand it off to a critique partner and don't touch it for a month! I really like the clarity I get from the time away. My third revision might be minor fixes or a plot overhaul if I've got bigger problems. Then, it'll be time to polish. Every book is different, but my revisions on the last couple of projects have taken 3 to 6 months. (And that's just to get it ready for my agent -- she'll have more revisions or my editor will.)

I think of it like a manicure--you start with a basecoat (which doesn't look like much of anything.) Then you add a coat of color and it starts looking nice. Then you add the second coat and it's suddenly much richer. Finally, you put on the top coat and it shines. It all happens in stages.

Hope that helps--but everyone has such a different process. You really have to experiment with what will work for you. 

Thanks again, Amy! 

Readers, more questions are most welcome! If you have one of your own for Amy, please post it in the comments.

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