7 Tips To Writing High-Speed

 

I once thought I was a fast writer. That is until I met Jen Hayley and Shana Silver and about half a dozen other authors who put my daily wordcount to shame. Maybe I actually was a faster writer at one point. I think that’s a distinct possibility. Actually, I’ve been contemplating this some and I believe that once I learned how much faster some of these other authors churned out words I started to think of myself as a slow writer. Maybe it was self-actualization or a self-fulfilling prophesy–whatever self-help books are calling it these days–but I think my writing speed did, in fact, slow down. And by that I mean it straight up congealed.

Now, I know a lot of really awesome “slow” authors, too. There are a lot of positive adjectives that you could place on writers who produce at a more…ummm…measured pace. Meticulous. Painstaking. Careful. Fussy? And I have no doubt that many of these apply. I mean, I’ve seen some of these people’s prose and it is..well…meticulous and carefully wrought. So yeah, often I’m tempted to follow in the Orson Scott Card train of thought: slow down, get it right in the first draft.

But, with writing slowly comes the sometimes all-too-frequent desire to bash one’s head through a wall–or a desk– whichever is more convenient. Slow doesn’t feel like progress. Slow is not knowing where I’m going or not being happy with what’s on the page. Slow is often more procrastinating, less writing. More concern over the final product than focus on the present scene at hand. So what I’m trying to say is that there is certainly a place for fast.

Especially when deadlines start to roll around and real life demands a greater portion of your time than writing life. Slow just sometimes isn’t a great option for writers who hope to actually make a living. That’s what I’ve been working on. Figuring out some ways to produce more and write more efficiently with my time. Here is a very incomplete list of methods I’ve been toying around with:

1. Writing without word count. Lately I’ve been writing a bit in google docs where it doesn’t automatically count the words on the bottom of the screen. I can get really hung up on word count and it can take me out of the story, thus making me less productive. It’s been kind of freeing. You can still check your word count through the tools, but you aren’t watching the words tick up or down. Sort of nice.

2. Talking through it. It might be just me, but I find dialogue both easy and fun to write. Especially with my MC who is a pistol. So, for me that’s been an easy way to get a scene going. I write the entire scene in dialogue. I’ll do this through a few scenes. I get a lot done this way, but the real benefit is that in my next writing session I’ll fill in those scenes. So, I’m not stalling at the beginning of my writing session. I’ve had some time to let my sub-conscious mull over the action that should accompany. I’ve already pictured the whole thing once in my head and I have the dialogue as underpinnings. Add the actions, the scene setting, the reactions, the inner monologue and voila–words!

3. Writing out of order. I have mixed feelings about this one because I’ve gotten really mixed up by doing this in the past. But there are times when I feel it’s a pretty good idea. I mean why sit there and stare at a blank screen when you could get a chapter done in which you know what happens. Also, the sheer act of writing can often unclog your brain enough to get the ideas freely flowing once again. Plus, always good practice. I don’t know; jury is still out on this.

4. Outline. Although it pains me to say it I would guess that authors that outline *generally* get through drafts more quickly than authors that don’t. Of couse, there is some tradeoff given the fact that it took time to outline, but still. I absolutely do not have this one down, but whe I’m stuck or don’t feel like writing, I realize it is probably a good use of my “writing time” to jot down a few thoughts for next writing session. This sometimes kills my soul.

5. Write or Die. I know a bunch of fellow writers that love this program. You basically tell the website how many words you want to write in how long. Then you say how long it’s okay for you to “rest.” The program proceeds to yell at you if you fail. This stresses me out and given my stomach is already eating itself from the inside out I typically pass. But whatever works for you.

6. I do however try to use WriteChain some. It’s an iPhone app of the more mellow variety. You have to write a certain amount of words a day. You put it into your log. You say how many days you can skip (usually zero) without breaking the chain, then it will keep track of how many links you have. Very good if you are trying to Stephen-King-it. Simple, but I like it.

7. Write words that are bad. Maybe even really, really bad. It’s amazing the magic that can happen between first writing and a later reading. But even if, for some reason, your words don’t magically sound better the second time around, at least you have something on the page. At least you made progress and you can fix it. I promise.

Okay, so what about y’all? Any idea on how to write faster?

6 Ways To Quit Wasting Your Time

If you’re like me (and I bet you are), when you are in the midst of submitting your novel/short story/query to agents or editors your day goes something like this:

 

Wake up, check your iPhone for emails before you so much as roll out of bed, go to your computer to check the response times of agents/editors at the Blue Boards, compare with your excel spreadsheets, brush teeth/do hair/try to act like you are about to be productive, go check inbox, check blogs, check inbox, open your Word document, check inbox, stare at screen, check inbox, hit refresh, hit refresh, hit refresh…

 

Ok, so first thing’s first. Take your mouse off the refresh button. Navigate away from your inbox. Close the entire window. Yes, I promise it will be ok. Your emails will still be waiting for you in an hour’s time. I swear.

Now, here’s how we can better spend our time:

 

1. Edit. You might be too wound up to write anything new. Fine. Sometimes that happens. But think about what you can do that is productive. I mean really, really productive. Editing! Go back a few pages and read. Fix any glaring errors or maybe flesh a scene out. This activity is well worth your while, somehow feels less intensive, and is completely guilt free.

2. Grab your notebook. Not your laptop, the kind that involved killing trees. Thanks. Now, go sit on a couch, away from your computer and work out a plot point. If that’s too intensive for your little, wound up mind, think of snippets of dialogue. Again, this takes fewer brain cells, removes your from temptation, and yet is an activity related to your next WIP. Feel good about it.

3. Research. Anything to add realism or depth to your new project. Unfortunately, this places you closer to your computer, but, luckily, your inbox is not just minimized but closed, so resist! Plus, research is fun. Who doesn’t like to learn new things? Plus, the knowledge needed to write novels is usually the useless kind and that’s the best stuff to know anyhow. Take notes.

4. Storyboard. This takes a bit more brain power, so to do this activity you’ll need to not be entirely consumed by the anticipation that comes with waiting for an agent/editor’s verdict. Get a big piece of cardboard and a bunch of post-its. Use different colored post-its because that’s more fun and a ruler to draw the lines because it will look prettier when you finish. Make it look like a weekly calender. A margin on top and then divide into smaller column units. The smaller column units will be labeled as chapters. Different colored post-its should signify different things like characters introduced, clues given, or red herrings thrown in. This way you can visualize how everything is coming together. Plus, with post-its you can move things around as necessary. This will help you to identify plot holes and to see where the story climaxes and mini-climaxes.

5. Go to the library. I know, you probably already have your coat, keys, and are halfway out the door. But, really, reading within your genre is incredibly important and should never be considered a waste of your time. This is also the best way to forget about the milliseconds passing in which you’ve received no emails from Dream Agent #1. Read the book for fun, but pay special attention to what worked in the book and what didn’t. Note what scenes you loved and the ones you hated. As you read more within your genre, try to figure out the trends. You shouldn’t necessarily write for the market, but you should understand it. Of course, if you can afford to do this all at the bookstore, then more power to you. But, hey! We’re trying to decrease stress, so if spending a billion dollars on books doesn’t make you feel great, don’t feel bad. Use the library, it’s the American way! (Also, libraries are great customers for publishers and therefore your favorite authors because they often by multiple copies in hardcover. A great way to help your favorite authors is to request that the library order the book if they don’t have it already!)

6. Finally, if you really can’t handle writing related activities–Attend to Real Life. Writers always complain about real life getting in the way. Well, maybe washing your socks and running the dishwasher is exactly the diversion you need.

 

Status: Just got back from Happy Hour and am about to do some reading. Waiting, waiting, waiting for a page from SCOUT. I’ve got ants in my pants and probably need to take my own advice.

Update from the trenches

I’m going to go ahead and declare this a good weekend.

Chandler: 1 Writing: 0.

Ok, if I tallied the score, I think writing kicks my butt, but, yanno, humor me.

 

Last night, Nate and I went on a dinner date and, as I’ve said before, he has been very understanding of my obsessive email checking. So, once we finished eating, I whipped out the iPhone and checked Gmail. To my surprise, there was an email from an editor at a small press–and on a Saturday night, too! I’d sent a query, synopsis, and the first three chapters to this publisher. Now, one of the acquiring editors wants to see the full ms! This is the first response I’ve gotten from anyone who has read more than just my query letter. He said my story concept was “quite original” and “well written.” Yay! Back to waiting…

 

Then, this morning at breakfast I got another email–this time from a book packager requesting writing samples! The packager specializes in non-fiction books for grades 3-8. I’m happy to have a foot in the door and work-for-hire is something I’ve wanted to pursue for quite awhile. I’m am putting the final edits on one non-fiction article and think I might write another.

 

Finally, Ben told me he would have some rough drafts to show me in a couple days. I’m excited to see how he interpreted the characters, what they look like, and the vision he has for our graphic novel. Very fun!

 

As a writer, I love to feel busy. I love to have projects in the works and opportunities popping up. Of course, it means more waiting, but I guess that comes with the territory. I hope I have some good news to report soon, but if nothing else the weekend events have inspired a few great blog topics that I plan to touch on throughout the next couple weeks. So, here’s a few things you can look forward to…

 -How to tell if a small press is “good” (I plan to compile a big list of resources, too!)

-Writing nonfiction for kids

-Book packaging

-The challenges of writing for children

-How to spot a publishing scam

 

How ’bout y’all’s good news? I’d love to hear you brag a little!

 

 

 

Status: Polishing samples, doing some beta reading, writing pages of script for Ben. And…Harry Potter 5 is on HBO at 9pm! Could this weekend get any better?