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When I started hearing about writing fast or fast drafting a novel, as some call it, it never occurred to me that I could be one of those people. I mean sure other authors could write like that and they were crazy productive but me? No way. Being that I’m somewhere between a plotter and a pantser (what I call a plantser) when it comes to plotting that meant that getting the words on the page wasn’t exactly fast.
At the start of every day, I would read through and tediously go back over everything I’d written the day before. Worrying over every word choice, picking each sentence apart before I would even think about moving on to new writing for the day.
What I didn’t know was that this was killing my productivity. Because the editing brain and the writing brain exist on different sides, I had a terrible time switching between the two. The more conferences I went to and the more author friends I spoke to, the more I realized if I wanted to get the books done faster I needed to write faster and stop worrying about editing what had been written the day before. All that editing would need to be done at the end anyway so why bother with it while you’re writing new words?
I know some of you swear by editing as you go and I’m glad it works for you. For me, it was an excuse not to move forward.
So I stopped. (Okay sometimes I cheated but only a little) And it worked. I wrote new words every day.
Next, plotting. My plotting process was slow. I knew the beginning and the end (vaguely) but what came in between was somewhat unclear and tedious to get through. I needed to know what was going to happen in the sagging middles. And they needed to not sag so much. More excitement, more twists, more turns. More.
While I was on the lookout for the more, Jessica Brody spoke about the Save the Cat plotting method at my local RWA meeting. Intrigued, I took her two-day, in-person workshop. It was fantastic. Eight people sitting around a table, throwing out ideas for their books, brain-storming. If you ever have the chance, go. I plotted all of Shimmer in two days and we had a great time.
But even without the workshop, Save the Cat worked for me. Short beats that gave me a direction for each scene. And story structure to make sure I was on the right track.
Just learning that system helped my productivity. Planning what I was going to write for the next beats either the night before or that morning meant I could sit down and write without trying to figure out what came next.
But I still needed to get faster. Even though I knew what came next some days I would spend all my writing hours staring at a flashing cursor. Ugh.
Then I met Chris Fox. He writes successfully in many genres, Men’s Adventure (The Ganog Wars Series), Science Fiction (The Void Wraith Trilogy)), Paranormal (Vampires Don’t Sparkle), but he is also a nonfiction writer.
We met in an online author networking group right around the time he started promoting his nonfiction books that were helping authors become more productive. I read his book 5,000 Words Per Hour and Lifelong Writing Habit. Both amazing books that turned my productivity around.
I learned how to organize my time and force my writing brain to cooperate even when I wasn’t in the mood. I practiced until I got into a rhythm of writing every day. I set timers, got faster, stayed accountable, wrote more and accomplished my goals. Woo hoo! It was working.
Then I went on a writing retreat with a friend. Peace and quiet for six and a half days of writing. We focused, put headphones in, set timers, and got to work. When we got stuck we hung upside down to get the blood flowing to our brains, jumped up and down or did yoga when we were tired. We went for walks and brainstormed. We took breaks and gave ourselves rewards for finishing a goal.
And I finished a book. I wrote 36,000 words in six and a half days. I finished a book I’d been trying to write for a year. And it was so much fun.
Now I know that isn’t possible for all of you to go away for a week but you can do most of this stuff at home and figure out what works for you. Try different things, get together on Skype with other authors, be accountable for your word count, set up online writing sprints with your author friends, plan a weekend or even a one day retreat to get your words down.
And if all else fails, listen to Nora Roberts,
“You can’t fix a blank page.”
Make the time, butt in the chair, fingers on the keys, write.
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