Thursday, 18 September 2008

The Secret of Rapid Writing

I've always been amazed at authors you hear of, some churning out several novels a year or even more. For me, the actual writing has always been the hardest part - editing and marketing are easier and more fun - but without writing, nothing's gonna happen. So this summer I've been trying different methods to increase my productivity, and I've stumbled on a few really key things I'd like to share with you. Not everyone writes the same of course, but maybe something will help.

1. Disconnect the internet. If you have wireless, unplug the router's power supply. Vitally necessary to avoid distraction, even if you call it research. Write down research questions and look them up another time, but not when you're writing.

2. Find a clock that shows the seconds passing, preferably a stopwatch. There's quite a good one online here: Save the html file locally so you can use it when offline! Arrange your windows over one another so you can see the seconds tick by as you write. Hide the milliseconds, though. They are too fast for your brain.

3. Start the clock. Start writing. Write sixteen words per minute. Keep score of yourself now and then by marking the new section of text before you go to Word Count. Tip: Make a Word Count button right in your button bar so you don't have to chase through menus.

4. Sixteen words per minute isn't much. A sentence or two, maybe. Surely you can bang that out in a minute. This means you should have 80 words after five minutes, and 160 after ten. Stop the clock if you are interrupted or have to take care of something else, and don't forget to restart it.

5. When ten minutes are up, start counting words again from that point. In one hour, you will write about a thousand words. Well, okay, 960, but once you're in the flow it'll probably go over 1000 anyway. Nearly always does for me.

6. Always finish writing the current scene before you stop for the day or for a prolonged gap. It's very hard to get back into the middle of one. If this seems a tough goal, consider making your scenes shorter, at least for now.

7. This is a first draft! It's allowed to be bad! You can always fix it later.

I'm at least half plotter, which helps a lot because usually I do know roughly what's about to happen so I can write it without stopping much to think. This requires a couple of main ingredients: know whose POV the scene is to be in, know the setting, and know your plot goal - what must the story accomplish in this scene? Of course other things will flow into the mix as you write, surprising and unexpected things sometimes, which thrills my SOTP side no end.

This may sound incredibly strict and regimented, but believe me, I'm not that kind of person :) Oddly enough, I'm a night-owl, but this method works best in the morning when I'm fresh. The idea of this much discipline late at night is rather daunting I guess. And what a feeling to go about the rest of my business knowing I've been a real writer today and not just messed around.

Bottom line: no matter how weird it sounds, I have been able to get two thousand words before noon a number of times - which has never ever happened before - and to my amazement, I've churned out half a novel in two weeks. Not saying it's finished, mind you. It'll need loads of editing just like anything else... but it is complete!
Post a Comment