An agile first draft is an excellent tool for authors who feel overwhelmed by writing a novel, are tormented with writer’s block, or who are looking for organization in a creative endeavor. But agile first drafts aren’t for everyone. Here are five reasons to not write an agile first draft.
Inspiration has struck, hard
Agile first drafts piece together the different story elements to create a great novel. If inspiration has struck, you don’t want to take the time to piece things together. You want to write as much as you can, as fast as you can.
Many authors have famously written great and memorable work in short bursts of inspiration.
- Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S. Lewis
- Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
- A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: 6 weeks
When the words flow, don’t stop them with process or structure. Write! And enjoy the creative flow.
Your preferred form of organization needs a little chaos
Some people thrive on structure, lists, repeatable and predictable steps. Others… don’t. Cage them in a series of repeatable steps and it amplifies their stress until they break out of the boundaries.
A good friend mentioned one time that she had to figure out how to get all her tasks at work organized, but every time she tried it barely lasted an hour. I suggested she get colored sticky notes and write the tasks on those. Then she should put the notes on a bulletin board or stick them to the wall. The collage nature of the task “list” along with the variety of colors would give her visibility with what she needed to do with enough of a chaotic element that she wouldn’t feel trapped.
If you’re the sort of person who organizes your story with colored sticky notes more than an outline, an agile first draft probably isn’t the right tool for you. It’s a lightly structured method, but structured nonetheless.
Quick draft writers need not apply
Cait over at Paper Fury has blogged about how she drafts, and the girl is insane. She once finished NaNoWriMo in two days. Sitting down to edit, she has said, is much more difficult, requiring more time and concentration. I’m the opposite. Drafting for me always takes effort, like trying to create a block of clay before you can sculpt it. The editing, though, is fun because I focus on each cut, each play of light and shadow without being overwhelmed by whether the whole sculpture looks like a person or a dog.
That innate focus on one thing at a time is a large part of how and why I constructed an agile methodology for writing. I have edited in iterations for years.
If you’re a drafter rather than an editor, an agile first draft is probably going to frustrate you. Though you might give editing in iterations a try and see if breaking the process down to focus on one thing at a time taps into your creative drafting energy at all.
Discovery writers proceed with caution
A discovery writer is a nice way of saying you’re a pantser. But that’s just an odd word so let’s go with discovery–you discover the story as you write it. A discovery process, rather by definition, doesn’t work with an agile first draft.
And yet. Many writers think they’re discovery writers only to find after a few books and trying out a few things that they’re really more planners than they liked to admit. Often, they’re planners who hate outlines, and trying to move away from outlines is what pushes them to discovery. Once they find a method of planning that doesn’t involve outlines their process really starts to come together.
So, if you’re truly a dyed in the wool discovery writer, an agile first draft probably won’t work for you.
But maybe give it a try anyway. You might find it’s the not-an-outline method you’ve secretly been searching for.
Thinking in pieces may break your brain
An agile first draft requires the ability to fragment your story, and in some ways your thinking as well. If just reading that sentence hurts your brain, then an agile first draft may not be for you.
Or you may need a bit of training and practice.
Like each of the points above, we all think differently. We organize and process information differently. We harness our creativity into words differently. Fragmenting a story is a necessary part of an agile first draft and in many ways it’s the toughest. It requires breaking ingrained habits you were taught in school, then practiced as a student and have now repeated who knows how many times as an author.
For some people, breaking out of an old method will come easily and be a relief.
For others, it will be a process that works but takes some training and some practice.
For still others it will be like being trapped in a dungeon writing with a blood quill.
If you’re one of the latter, don’t do it! Stay far away from an agile first draft process. Run from this website now.
If you want to take a chance on something a little different, check out workshop.
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