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#FirstDraft60 — An introduction and overview of the plan to complete a first draft in 60 days

Monday, August 31, 2015

#FirstDraft60 | KayeDacus.comAs I mentioned on Saturday, I’m challenging myself, and you, to complete a first draft of a novel in the next 60 days. This was inspired by the book Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. In her approach, though, you’re doing your planning along with your writing. And that wouldn’t work for me. I do a lot better with marathon writing if I already have most of my planning done before I start writing. So that’s why I’ve expanded it to 60 days, with the first 30 days for preparation.

With that in mind, here are a few things to start thinking about/doing today to get ready to start the challenge tomorrow:

What story are you going to work on?
If you’re anything like me (and every other writer I know), you have a couple of story ideas running around in your head at this very moment. If you’re on contract, you know what story it is. But if you’re not and you have the freedom to choose any story you want, now’s the time to figure out which one you think will keep you motivated to write.

Who’s your support team?
Any time we commit to any kind of challenge, we’re going to need the support and encouragement of people around us for those times when we feel like quitting. That’s one of the reasons I decided to do this publicly here on the blog. Everyone who participates is going to be my support team—and yours. But it’s important to have support from the people in your everyday life, too. Explain the nature of the challenge, especially the time commitment you’ll need in order to write the first draft of a full manuscript in thirty days (for a 75,000-word draft, that means writing an average of 2,500 words every day). If you’re married, talk to your spouse. If you have kids, explain to them why it’s important that they don’t disturb you during your writing times. (We will get into this more as this prep month goes on.)

What do you hope to achieve?
Um . . . to finish a draft of my manuscript? Yes—and no. Sure, completing a full draft of a story is a great accomplishment. But it needs to be more than that. Why do you want to finish a draft of your manuscript? What will that mean to you? (Just think about this right now—we’ll discuss this more in-depth in one of the upcoming Sunday Reflection posts.)

Do you really have the time to commit to this challenge right now?
Look at your calendar. What big events do you have coming up? What about your spouse/kids/family? Can you plan your prep and/or writing time around those events? Can you adjust your schedule to start after the big event? Or to even split the challenge so that you have time for your event between the prep month and the writing month?

Be prepared to set realistic goals—and adjust them as time goes on.
You may start out gang-busters and set a total word-count goal of 75,000—or more—for the challenge. But then, once you start, you may discover that you just aren’t able to write more than 1,000 to 1,500 words per day. That’s okay. Readjust your overall goal based on what you can realistically accomplish. Maybe it’s isn’t a complete 75,000-word manuscript. Maybe your goal should be a full outline and the first 30,000 words. Maybe your goal is to write the final 25,000 words of a manuscript that has been languishing on your hard-drive for a year or more. Maybe it’s to finally pull out that crazy story idea you had that one time and see if you can actually make something of it. Maybe it’s to try writing fiction for the very first time.

This isn’t a challenge to see who’s better or faster or more prolific. This is a challenge to get you (and me) to accomplish more than we’ve accomplished in the past with our writing.

#FirstDraft60 Schedule
30 Days of Prep Work
Days 1–6
Prep work. Figuring out what project you’re going to work on in the next 60 days and doing some advanced prep work before digging in.

Days 7–13
Digging in with your characters to get to know as much as possible about them before you start writing.

Days 14–20
Reviewing tips for draft/marathon writing, and planning goals and for meeting/overcoming obstacles and challenges. Use this week to catch up on/continue working on your character development from last week.

Days 21–27
After solidifying your premise and brainstorming plot points, you’ll write an outline of your story to help keep you on track as you write next month. Writing one-sentence and one-paragraph summaries will help focus you on your main plot as well as your story’s tone and theme(s). Plus we’ll look at your setting and determine what research you need to do before you start writing.

Days 28–30
Determine how you will organize your draft, state your goals and determine how you will approach the challenge, and review everything you’ve done throughout these 30 days, update your guides/notebooks, and write down any new ideas that come to you.

30 Days of Writing
In order to complete a 75,000-word first draft, you’ll need to average 2,500 words per day for the next 30 days. Obviously, I know not everyone is going to be working toward that high of a goal; NaNo has you work on a goal of 50,000. Whatever your overall word-count goal is, divide that by 30 to see what your daily word count should average to meet it. (You can write it in on the printable calendar PDF, linked below.)

Each day during this month, in addition to writing, we will have a specific focus here on the blog:
Sunday: Reflection with guided questions.
Monday: I’ll share some motivational words to get us geared up and ready for the week to come.
Tuesday: On Tuesdays, you’ll be challenged to do at least one 1k1h writing challenge.
Wednesday: Schedule a quick review of your story bible, revision notebook, and style guide to see if you need to update them.
Thursday: I’ll review some writing-craft topics that should help not only keep you on track but hopefully spur you on to better and faster writing.
Friday: Brag day! Check in with your accomplishments, and talk about or share your favorite thing you’ve written from the previous week.
Saturday: Catch-up Challenge. Today’s the day to figure out if you need to do any catch up with your word count, or if you need to readjust your goals for the next week.

Printable #FirstDraft60 Calendar
(PDF, will open in a new tab)

Now, before we get started, what questions and/or suggestions do you have?

  1. Daphne Woodall permalink
    Monday, August 31, 2015 6:53 am

    Thanks for the review of the next 60 days and letting us tag along for the ride. I’m a ‘seat of the pants writer’ so outlining makes me nervous. Though it might be what I need to stay on task.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Monday, August 31, 2015 8:33 am

      Hopefully with the way we’re going to break this down into pieces, preplanning your story won’t seem quite so intimidating as “OUTLINING” makes it seem.One of the things that writing three books a year on contract taught me was that even though I was still a seat-of-the-pants writer, having a 4 or 5 page synopsis before I started writing (from the proposals I sold the series with) really helped me out when I got to that mid-section and I lost my way and didn’t know what happened next. That’s when I pulled out the synopsis, re-read it, wrote scene cards for everything I’d planned to do but hadn’t done yet, and mapped my way out of writer’s block. That’s really what I’m hoping to accomplish this time, too. I’ve started working on a couple of stories but just a brief way into them (a few thousand words on the contemporary, and character casting on the historical), I’ve lost my way. It’s almost like I’ve forgotten how to structure a story in the last couple of years of not writing!


      • Daphne Woodall permalink
        Monday, August 31, 2015 4:45 pm

        Having read some of your books Kaye (which were page turners) I suspect it will be like getting back on a bike. So glad you’re at the helm.


      • Carol permalink
        Tuesday, September 8, 2015 1:58 pm

        I definitely need to preplan. Oh, so much.


  2. Monday, August 31, 2015 8:12 am

    Oooooo!!! I want in. I’m not sure what form it’s going to take though. I’m editing a novella due to the group project manager September 10. Then edits to a completed MS book 2 in this series, then novella 2.5 – I’d like both ready to release by the end of October. Book 3 isn’t written. I’d love to have it mostly written by the end of October. Plus ACFW in a couple weeks :). I’d love accountability!!

    Plus we have a great #1K1HR group on Facebook for anyone who wants to join :).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Monday, August 31, 2015 8:35 am

      Wow–I’m exhausted just reading that. I’m happy you’re going to join in!


  3. Dora permalink
    Monday, August 31, 2015 2:58 pm

    I will need a great deal of help and encouragement. As a lawyer, I write quite a bit differently than a novelist. Writing out of legalese will be my greatest challenge. Also, the story I have in mind is a bit unorthodox. Any help will be greatly appreciated.


  4. Daphne Woodall permalink
    Monday, August 31, 2015 4:41 pm

    Dora, sounds very interesting. The only lawyer I know who writes novels is Don Brown from NC. He is a practicing attorney who writes military themed novels. His background was as a Navy Jag and he writes some interesting stories.


  5. Carol permalink
    Tuesday, September 8, 2015 1:57 pm

    Late to the party, but I’m in. Thanks for doing this, Kaye. Have written so very little since NaNo last year. This is just what I need to help regain my motivation.



  1. #FirstDraft60: Day Zero—Are You Ready to Write a Story? #amwriting #nanoprep #nanowrimo |

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