Welcome to week 44 of Anthony’s series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week’s post here.
- Explore some strategies for writing faster.
Breaking it down
Sometimes I set myself a challenge to see how many words I can write in an hour. On average, I can write about 1,000 – 1,200 words in an hour – less if I get distracted, and more if I’m really ‘in the zone’.
Here is some insight that may help you get your word count up, especially if you’re doing NaNoWriMo or pushing to finish your novel.
① Take the plunge. Get into the writing as quickly as possible. If you’ve ever been swimming, you know that dipping your toe in the water just causes delay. Should I? Shouldn’t I? What if the water is too cold? But if you somersault in – no matter how clumsy, or graceless – it gets you over the shock. Get ahead of your fears. The trick? Write faster than your doubts.
② First things first. That being said, sometimes it is helpful to do a bit of planning. To settle, and focus, your mind on what you want to achieve in a scene or chapter. A quick outline, a few bullet points or a bubble chart – all go a long way to keeping you on track. Prioritise the important scenes, those crucial scenes you can’t skip or leave out.
③ Target practice. Before you start your writing session, set yourself a goal or target. Write it on the top of your page, or type it out on a new Word Doc. It helps to have something to aim for — especially if you’re in competition with your own pre-set ideas of what you can achieve. The idea is to keep calm, to follow your instinct, and to trust your story and your characters.
④ You’re out of order (and that’s fine). We expect our first drafts to look like finished and beautifully published novels. This is crippling, yes, and also a waste of time. You don’t get build a jet from a paper aeroplane. Your sentences or paragraphs don’t have to be smart soldiers on parade, all in single file. They can be kids on a jungle gym, cookies of all shapes and sizes. They can even be mixed metaphors like this paragraph here. Just get down what’s in your head, in your imagination. If you get stuck on one paragraph or even a scene – change the swim lane. Jump ahead or back to another scene. Who’s the author here anyway?
⑤ Don’t stop for perfect — it takes too long! The idea is, as always, to keep the hand moving — to follow the story running on ahead of you. For example, say you want to describe a heroine’s hairstyle, don’t stop your writing to climb into your thesaurus – write the first thing that comes to mind. Latch on to an image, a spark. Her hair was streaked with colour like a melting fudge sundae. If nothing comes to mind, just write a nice, expensive hair cut – you can revise it later.
⑥ Seriously, don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Your manuscript will be checked at the end of the process. It doesn’t make sense to make sure every word is spelled correctly or about dangling participles – whatever those are – if there’s a possibility that you’re going to cut a lot of text in a subsequent draft. There are words I consistently spell wrong. I remind myself I’m a creative writer; not an English teacher.
⑦ Push harder just before the finish line. Just as a sprinter pushes with herculean force just before they cross the finish line, speed up as you get to the end of your writing session. That’s why it’s a good idea to set an alarm or stopwatch for your writing session — it makes you aware of time, and it makes you push yourself as you reach the end of that session. You’ll be amazed at how much you can write in those last two minutes.
Timelock — 1 to 2 hours
- Set yourself a challenge to write as many words in an hour or two.
5 Quick Hacks
- Set yourself a timelock. Say, ‘I have an hour to write 500 words. Go.’ And when it’s done, stop. Take a break.
- Or set yourself a reward scale. Say, ‘If I finish this chapter, I’ll treat myself to an episode of Black Mirror.’
- Try positive psychology. Remind yourself of previous writing achievements, or write out a couple of affirmations before you start your writing session.
- If you don’t like a stopwatch method, try writing around your daily routines. Set yourself a word-count marker for your lunch hour, or for the full length of the dishwasher cycle, even while the kids are in the bath.
- Identify your most productive writing time. Notice when you have the most energy and the least distractions. Early mornings, late nights — find something that works for you.
Pin it, quote it, believe it:
‘The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.’ — Raymond Chandler
Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!
If you enjoyed this post, read: