The Magic of Writing Faster

This past weekend I attended a great workshop given by two publishing luminaries, Candace Havens and Liz Pelletier. Candace is known, at least in the romance writing community, for her online and in-person Fast Draft workshops.

For an indie author, writing fast is key. With some exceptions, indie publishing is a numbers game. We hear it all the time, write a series, release them as fast as you can. Four books a year is my goal, but there are plenty of authors who release far more frequently than that.

I want to write fast mostly to be able to tell all the stories inside of me within my lifetime. So many ideas, so little time. Banging out a book in a couple of weeks (or at least the first draft of a book) would go a long way towards meeting my goals and getting all these people out of my head.

According to Candace, there’s a zone you get into when writing fast where your subconscious takes over. I’ve definitely felt this. When inspiration hits, it’s like my fingers can’t write fast enough. Last summer, I wrote the first draft of my novel Earthsinger, 21,000 words in two days. (It’s since grown to 66,000.) The story flew from my fingertips and when I read it again, I didn’t even remember writing much of it.

Your subconscious is so powerful. Even though I haven’t yet matched that kind of speed, I can feel the wheels churning on my stories when I’m away from my computer. It’s a wonderful feeling to have that spark that comes when a problem you’ve been mulling over is solved. Things just click into place inside your head. Sometimes it feels like magic.

Here are some things that help me write faster:

  • Write, don’t edit. The writing/creative part of your brain and the editing/analytical part of your brain are incompatible. They compliment each other, but from a distance. Turn off your editor. Don’t read what you’ve written before. I use an Alphasmart Neo – with only 4 lines of text, and no annoying red lines indicating misspellings and errors.
  • Keep track of your daily word count. Use a notebook, a spreadsheet or an app. Keep track of time and number of words. It helps to know.
  • Know what you’re going to write before you sit down. Read this article if you haven’t. It changed my life. Even a pantser can visualize one scene at a time beforehand.
  • Don’t judge yourself. Writing fast can and will lead to a lot of crap, but there will be jewels in there as well. Clean it up later, at least you’ll have something to clean up!

If you’re interested in writing faster, I’d suggest taking Candace’s workshop either online or in-person at your first opportunity. The online version comes with a community for accountability where you post your daily page count to universal applause or nagging.

Other options for community include Camp Nanowrimo, which is starting again in July. You can choose “cabin mates” or have some chosen automatically for you – these are the folks that will keep you accountable on your mission for more words.

Maybe you won’t get to 5,000 words a day, but any increase in your daily word count gets you one step closer to that goal of a finished novel.

Do you have any tips for increasing your word count? Let me know in the comments.

photo credit: Éole via photopin cc

A Journey of 30,000 Words Begins with a Single Click

Cat on TypewriterI began writing a new story today, the first in a planned series of short contemporary romances with paranormal elements. Well, this one may end up being the third in the series, but I’m writing it first since it spoke to me that way. It’s always exciting to be starting something new, and after spending several months on the last story, I’m taking a break this month with something new while the last one is out with beta readers.

I love new beginnings, crisp sheets of paper, unused notebooks, a fresh pack of pens (Uniball Jetstream 1.0mm in case you’re wondering… my birthday is only a month away). The start of a new story, however, is also fraught with danger. When you’re revising something that you believe is at least half-way decent, the nagging self-doubts tend to creep up less often. I mean, all through the latest revision I was still worried that I’d wasted the past few months writing an epic feat of craptasticness that would never see the light of day — convinced no agent or editor would touch it and self-publishing it would be moronic. But then I would read a few chapters and fall in love with it all over again. If you believe you should write to make yourself happy, then I’d at least reached that goal.

But as I took a break from the world of that story and began plotting something entirely new, the possibilities were once again endless. Unsullied by my poor word choices, overlong sentences and persistent use of adverbs. There is something hypnotic and enticing about a blank page — or in this case, the tiny blank LCD screen of my Alphasmart.

It’s like walking into a theater during the previews, or popping in a Bluray and pressing play — or, if you will, like Schroedinger’s cat. Before we begin, it’s both a bestseller and campfire fodder. We don’t know what we’re in for until we’re in it. And that poor cat is always alive for me unless proven otherwise. Until you watch it, read it or write it (paint it, draw it or film it, etc.) there are no boundaries. It’s a quantum of creativity with infinite potential to suck or be amazing.

Maybe I’ll toss it aside after finishing it, or maybe I’ll read it in a few months, when it’s done, and fall in love with it for the hundredth time. The anticipation of the beginning of the journey is the addictive part, not just to see if someone will one day buy this and read it and give me a five star review — but just to see what comes out of my brain onto the page. Today, I took the first step.

What about you? Have you started anything new recently?

top image © Benjamin Gelman |