Guest Post: Laura Roberts on Writing “Rebels of the 512” Crazy Fast

Just popped my head out of my little foxhole to see if the world is still basically the same. Kind of, except that I found out that Laura Roberts has published a book: Rebels of the 512, her NaNoWriMo entry from last year, as a matter of fact.

I first met Laura interviewed me for her Black Heart Magazine about novel writing and blogging about it just over a year ago. I sponsored her 30-Day novel, and sent her a few notes about Rebels of the 512 I had after reading that first draft. Then I saw she released it on Amazon, and promptly put “buying a copy” on my list of things to do.

A couple of weeks later, I actually did it.

Here’s a guest post about her own novel-writing experience – but this time writing as fast as possible.


Crazy-Fast First Drafts

by Laura Roberts
Laura Roberts - Rebels of the 512The great writers of our time have, traditionally, labored over their texts. Flaubert once famously took a comma out of his manuscript in the morning, then spent the rest of his day pondering whether he ought to put it back in.

On the other end of the spectrum, Georges Simenon claimed to have written most of his books in 11-day frenzies, living in his character’s skin.

Personally, I’ve done it both ways. The ponderous, never-ending work-in-progress is a literary take on the sex trade entitled Naked Montreal, while the crazy-fast first draft was written in just three days and is currently available on Amazon as Rebels of the 512.

So why should you spend years writing your first draft when you can write it faster?

Think about it: just writing the first draft is a struggle. You may have an outline or character sketches, but until you start writing down the bones of the thing in your first draft, you haven’t really got a novel. And the longer you take stabbing in the dark, the more lost you’re likely to get. This is why the world has writing challenges like National Novel Writing Month, where both new and seasoned writers from around the world dare themselves to write an entire manuscript in just 30 days.

Of course, there’s another alternative: you could write that manuscript in 1/10 the time.

Oh yes, you could write the 3-day novel.

I’ve written one, and while some will argue semantics with me (“That’s not a novel, it’s a novella!”), the fact of the matter is that it’s written, it’s published, and it’s OUT THERE while lots of other writers I know are still bemoaning their inability to finish anything they start.

Do you want it perfect, or do you want it done?

Personally I’d like both, but I’ll settle for done. Especially given the fact that our fabulous new digital publishing tools and technology make it ridiculously easy to go back and correct any mistakes you find, leaving your newest readers none the wiser. (Consider it a never-ending Work In Progress, if you like, and learn while you earn.)

I’ve been there, striving for perfection, too many times. It’s time to kick the “slow first draft” to the curb and get that wild and crazy 3-day energy back. It’s a lot easier to do what Simenon did and live in your story for three days straight than it is to try to sustain that same energy over a month or a year of getting to it after all the rest of your work is done.

It’s not the only way to write a novel, but it’s definitely my favorite way.

Why not give it a whirl? Grab yourself a long weekend, disconnect your phone and your internet connection, and just write. It’s an amazing feeling to emerge from a 3-day writing binge with a real, live novel finally done.

And then? It’s time for the edits.

Laura Roberts is the author of a 3-day novel entitled Rebels of the 512. It’s the best satirical novel you’ll ever read about pirates, ninjas and evil politicians in Austin, Texas, and you can buy a copy on Amazon or read more at

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4 Responses to Guest Post: Laura Roberts on Writing “Rebels of the 512” Crazy Fast

  1. Emily says:

    An interesting point of view. But I could never do that! I spent several years writing my first novel and I needed every single second.
    Emily’s most recent blog post: Feed me or die: an ode to brunch

  2. Graham Strong says:

    Hi Emily,

    I know the feeling. I’m now at 18+ months on my own WIP…

    On the flip side though, crazy-fast writing is not unheard of. Ray Bradbury wrote the first draft of Fahrenheit 451 in nine days. Hunter S. Thompson tried to write Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in one draft (I think he ended up with three…) Stephen King is a million monkeys on a million typewriters all rolled into one.

    At the risk of speaking for Laura, I have a feeling that this is an exercise in its own right — that as she said, it wasn’t so much about getting perfect as getting it done.

    It’s interesting — in this digital age, there is much more room for experimentation. You can advertise your 30-day novels, and people may buy them knowing full well that they aren’t downloading The Great Gatsby (I’m gonna burst my own bubble on this one and say they pro’ly will know that already…) Now that things don’t have to be indelibly marked onto paper for eternity, we feel lighter perhaps, a little more willing to be loosey-goosey with our words.

    Of course, there are boundless examples of the downside of easy access to the publishing keys. But I think Laura is showing what’s right with it too.


    • Agreed. It’s the “getting this first draft out of the way” thing that I like about writing quickly. I definitely find that if I can get a big project finished, that is a good mental hurdle. Editing can take as long as it needs to, but once you’ve got the basic manuscript done and on paper, things feel a lot easier to deal with.

      On the flip side, I’ve been working on Naked Montreal for… 2 years now? Not regularly, of course, but sporadically. And no end in sight. So I am definitely going to sit down and do another 3-day session on that manuscript to see what happens! (Actually, I just joined a group called “Book In a Week,” which encourages members to set a page count goal for a week’s worth of writing, and then check in daily with totals to keep on task. Seems like a good way to literally write a book in a week, or even just get a bunch of writing done toward your finished manuscript.)
      Laura Roberts’s most recent blog post: D is for detonation

      • Graham Strong says:

        Exactly. It’s nice to get some instant gratification, especially when working on a longer project.


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