Thursday, July 8, 2010

First Draft 15: How to deal...or not.

(A new plan from fabulous guest poster Hélène Boudreau)

Do you suffer from writer’s butt? Is your waistline expanding in direct proportion to your word count? Don’t worry; help is on its way.

Just like those extra pounds that plague freshmen in their first years of college, the First Draft 15™ is the near inevitable by-product of parking your tushie in a chair for the innumerable hours it takes to pound out a novel.

And is it any wonder? There’s the snacking, the sipping and the hours upon hours of near immobility as you put one word in front of the other. Now, perhaps you’re one of those hateful, naturally-thin whippets and this isn’t a problem for you *daggers* but for the rest of us, the First Draft 15 is as unavoidable as paper cuts and chocolate stains down the front of our shirts.

But, how do we arrive at the First Draft 15 value, you might ask? Well, let’s do the math. When I write a first draft, I can usually eke out about 500 words an hour (breakneck speed, I know…). My upcoming novel is about 45,000 words long.

500 words/hr x A hours = 45,000 words

Where A= 90 hours (thank you, calculator icon in my sidebar).

90 hours. Really?

It seemed WAY longer than that. Though, that doesn’t take into account all of the other hours when I just stared out into space, recalculating the distance from my chair to the fridge in metric and standard units.

But, nonetheless, those hours add up and they equal to the amount of time when your metabolic rate approaches zero. Cause, let’s get real: despite the fact that your fingers are busy, busy, busy, tapping out your masterpiece, those small muscle movements, astonishingly repetitive as they may be, aren’t doing much to maximize your aerobic output.

Your First Draft value might be 3 or 5 or 10 lbs but…my own personal metabolic equation is, 90 hours to the power of cheese divided by a variable and AMAZINGLY (or maybe not) this ALWAYS equals 15 lbs for me.

90 hours cheese = 15 lbs

The variable (B) is, um, variable for each writer. Your variable might be fancy Starbuck’s coffee or salty carbohydrates. Mine happens to be cheap chocolate.

I’m not gonna lie. I gained my initial First Draft 15™ quite a few years ago and wear it with pride but writing 2-3 books a year has the potential to add up (but, I won’t bore you with the math. I PROMISE.).

So, herein, I’ve come up with a few handy tips for writers to deal with the First Draft 15™(or not).

TIP #1: Choose low-fat/no-fat alternatives: This just makes good dietary sense. Cheese is still cheese, even if it’s made with skim milk. Plus, with the calories you save, you can cut the slab nice and thick and add a cracker. This makes for a more satisfying snack, necessitating fewer trips to the cheese block, ergo, increasing your writing productivity. And, isn’t that what we all want in the end?

A cautionary note about crumbs: for each crumb dropped, you decrease your overall intake, but you also increase the incidence of ‘whydoesn’tmyspacebarwork?’.

Practice safe snacking and always keep a source of compressed air handy for such occasions. For stubborn cases, view:

TIP #2:
Don’t Drink Your Calories: Yes, yes…we all know that a can of Mountain Dew has enough calories to power a light bulb for six days and I suppose we should talk about that, but, even more concerning is the potential electrical hazard of drinking while typing. So, in the spirit of preserving your hard drive—instead of drinking your calories, I suggest hands-free, gravity-fed consumption for best results.

TIP #3: ‘Exercise’ is Not a Four Letter Word: In fact, ‘exercise’ is an EIGHT letter word. I haven’t crunched the numbers but it stands to reason that using exceptionally (13 letters) long words in your manuscript has the potential of increasing your calorie burn by as much as 63%. (Oops, I promised we wouldn’t do any more math…) Yes, I know I said that typing has negligible aerobic benefits but the numbers don’t lie.

So, there you have it; easy, practical tips you can implement RIGHT NOW to deal with (or not) your First Draft 15™.

* Results may vary.

** First Draft 15™ is not a registered trademark but the ™ just looks more official and adds credibility. Kind of.

*** I don’t have a third postscript. Just wanted to thank you for reading until the very end. If you are my agent or editor and you are reading this, I apologize for the chocolate stains on my last revision.

Hélène Boudreau fully accepts the realities of the First Draft 15™ though struggles daily to strike a balance between her love of cheese and cheap chocolate and marathon walk training in order to avoid the Fifteenth Draft 50™. She is the author of the upcoming tween novel, REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS, Jabberwocky, December/ 2010. You can visit her at


Kathleen Peacock said...

So awesome! Thanks for a great post, Hélène!

Hmath said...

I <3 math! And loved that Barbie pic. :)

LM Preston said...

First drafts are so hard to finish, and the ripping apart of them can be cumbersome. But when it's finished it's a butterfly.

Unknown said...

Hilarious. And so true. Having just finished another first draft, I refuse to divulge my math, but I'm sure it's similar.

Janine said...

Laughed out loud! Thanks for the smile...

leslie said...

The Barbie photo is hilarious, as is pretty much everything else! And also for me, depressingly true. Thanks for a great post and letting me know I'm not alone!

Theresa Milstein said...

This is so funny!

Math is not my strong point. Read any of my posts about subbing math to find out how bad I am. That said, it's way more than 90 hours. How many minutes do you sit there, thinking of the perfect word. Or jump onto the Internet or crack open a book to research something? All that non-writing/writing time.

Can you figure out how much coffee I consume when I write?

I think I lose weight when I write. It's all that rocking back and forth in a fetal position that burns calories.

Helene Boudreau said...

Thanks for inviting me, Kathleen (and the rest of the GotYA team!).

And, ahem, I have just been alerted to this Very Important Fashion Statement: writer's butt undies...

(I wonder if they ship to Canada...)

Annie McElfresh said...


Lois Peterson said...

Loved this. Thanks for the chuckle.

J.S. Wood said...

Great post!! Thanks! I laughed and thought about all of the chocolate I consume late at night writing. Plus the fingerprints on my keys :(

Debra D. said...

Bwahahaha..this was BEYOND awesome! And, OMG, the crumbs in the spacebar--I'm SO glad that it's not just me!

And, oooh, writer's butt undies? Where? Wear?



Thanks again, Helene and Kath--you ladies RAWK.

Katie Ashley said...

OMG! I totally feel you on the First Draft Fifteen. I have certainly put it or the Submission Seventeen on this year.

Great post! Too funny! Hope you'll come around and blog again for us!!!

Leah said...

Oh man, you had me hooked at the picture of chocolate.
Great post! Loved it!

Jamie Blair said...

FINALLY I know the name of my affliction! Do they make reduced fat M&M's? :)

Melody said...

Haha, I just read this. Funny!
(Why do I get daggers? *puppy dog eyes*)

Deniz Bevan said...

Brilliant post Hélène! I see now how math can actually be applied to my life outside of tax time... I've also got to stay away from chocolate because of the melting factor leading to more whydoesn'tmyspacebarwork - except when I'm writing longhand! I can eat anything I want then, right?

Barbara said...

Love it! Great pictures and posting.