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On writing Fast

Near the end of last week’s blog post, I alluded to the fact that you should be writing 1000 words an hour, and I stand behind that number. In fact, I double it, fold my arms, and stare you down into your side of the room because of my moral superiority.

2000 words an hour? That’s right, and you could technically do more if you put your mind to it. Or don’t put your mind to it, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m a busy man. I work for a living, IT, which frequently involves off-hour work, on-call schedules, patching, and myriad of other things. 60 hour work weeks are pretty normal. I have a wife. I have children, with lots of homework each night. I enjoy playing video games. I have a couple of my favorite shows I can’t miss, you know—normal person stuff. I don’t have a lot of time for writing each day, so I have to make the most of what time I do have.

My daughter, 16, is also doing NaNoWriMo with me this year. On weekends when we finally have some time to write together, she comments that I type quickly.

I asked her how fast she typed. Being of a generation that doesn’t take typing classes in school, she had never figured it out, so I challenged her. We found an online typing test and we took the test at the same time. She was around 60 words a minute, I came in a little higher at 70, but for the sake of this argument, let’s stick with 60 wpm.

I told her 60 wpm means if you typed for a solid hour with no breaks, you could reach 3600 words.

I usually write in 45 minute sprints then take 15 minutes to get a drink, take a short walk, refocus my eyes and what not. (You should be taking breaks from the computer).

60 wpm times 45 minutes is 2700 words per hour. See? 2000 words an hour, easily.

“But Tom!” You say.

And I fold my arms even harder and glare at you.

I know, I know. It’s hard to write at one word per second for a solid hour. I get it. It’s not impossible though.

There are three major things I do to help:

1. Plan ahead. Do some outlining, even if it’s a single paragraph telling you what will happen to the character that chapter. Something so you know where you are going with your story when sit down. I personally outline more than that, usually 3 paragraphs per chapter, and I also read the outline each day before I sit down to write so I know where I’m going today.

2. Re-read what you wrote the day before. This is something new I’ve done recently. It gets you focused on where your immediate story has been, so your mind is in the zone for what you need to write right now.

Advanced tip: take notes on a separate piece of paper, note issues you have or anything you already know you want to change. When you start writing you’ll keep the revised notes in your head and you can write like you had already edited the previous day’s content.

3. Write non-stop. This is the tough part, I know, but it is possible. Remember when I said don’t put your mind to it? That’s one of the tricks here. Fix it all in editing phase. Treat your daily writing sprint like it’s NaNoWriMo. Spew the words down on the page, you can always fix it later.

So does this work all the time?

Of course not. But I can get over 1000 words an hour most days. 2000 a couple times a week. I’ve even hit 3800 one time when I was really ‘in the zone’.

I have days where each word is a struggle too, where I’m lucky to hit 200 words. I will blog about tricks to get yourself writing next week.

The point of all this rambling math was to put words per hour into perspective. We all type much faster than we need to because our brains rarely keep up with our fingers. It’s important to realize that, if you turn off your internal editor and just let your fingers do the typing, it’s quite possible to attain 2000 in an hour.

For now though, I should be writing because *ahem* I’m behind on my NaNoWriMo word count for the month.

NaNoWriMo & Infidelity

 

peeking

Since I bashed NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last week, it’s only fair to write a positive post.

First, a confession. Up until my first NaNoWriMo, I suffered from a crippling affliction that many authors share—story infidelity.

I’m ashamed to admit that my writing process would invariably unfold the same way. Initially, I’d be super excited about a book concept. For weeks, I’d do nothing but worldbuild. Then I’d develop my characters and their backstories to the point that they felt like real people. I’d even have conversations with them (it’s one of many traits shared by writers and the mentally ill).

After all this prep, I’d gleefully skip to my computer, sit down, and write. And write. And write. Until I got to the 40% mark in my book. At that point, I’d slam into a brick wall. Writing stopped being fun… It became work.

My characters would start to annoy me. They were no longer exciting and compelling. I knew exactly where they were going and I didn’t care if they got there any more.

Suddenly, I’d find any excuse not to write. There would be an irresistible need to watch videos of cats falling on toddlers for hours…

Then, a new book concept would come to me. It would be so much sexier than the first idea. It boasted that it was a best-seller and spoke in an thick european accent that sent goosebumps across my skin.

I’d try to resist.

I must finish the first book, I’d tell myself. So what if sitting down to write it is as fun as getting a root canal. How can I be an author if I don’t finish this book?

But the characters from the second book would invade my dreams. They’d whisper their backstories to me while I was working on scenes from my first book. They’d flash me an enticing glimpse of their world. Soon, I’d fantasize about them and their exciting story arcs.

Not too long after that, I’d give into temptation. I’d shelve the first book and start worldbuilding the new story.

Rinse and repeat.

By the time I accepted my first NaNoWriMo challenge, my hard drive was filled with dozens of partially written manuscripts.

NaNoWriMo changed all that.

The rules of NaNoWriMo are simple. You must write 50,000 words in a novel or fail.

So that November, I sat my butt down in the chair and wrote. As anticipated, a brand new story idea started whispering seductively in my ear in mid-November. But this time, I couldn’t afford to be distracted. I refused to answer the phone. I ignored it’s texts. And when it invaded my dreams, I jotted down a few notes, and told it I’d get back to it later. Then I re-focused and kept writing.

Something really strange happened after I did that.

The story I was writing became interesting again. The magic and excitement swung back like a boomerang. And I finished.

Even though that NaNoWriMo novel may never see the light of day (see my earlier post), I finally learned how to write through the temptation. I was able to finished the next book. And the next.

NaNoWriMo cured me of my story infidelity and I’ll be forever grateful.

For a laugh check out Chuck Wendig’s blog for some off color NaNoWriMo tips (staying faithful to the story is number #9 on his list).

If you have time, check out my blog post on my recent interaction with an angsty fox.

 

I ain’t got no time for cupcakes!

I’ve written two books for NaNoWriMo. Both were ‘wins’ in the NaNo World. I hit 50K words during the month of November, but neither will ever see the light of day.

I love NaNoWriMo because it gave me a win. As a new writer, still wondering if writing was something I could even do, I needed a win. I needed to accomplish…something…but I knew that I wasn’t going to write a best-seller on my first go-round, or second or even third. I needed a goal. Something to shoot for. NaNoWriMo gave me that goal.

I went into them knowing fully well they were practice books. Little foothills on the climb up the slope. Try/fail cycles if you will. I needed to tell myself that yes, I can sit down, start a story, and finish it. I can see a character or two through a journey. Yes it will suck and no, my wife can’t read them because I’m too embarrassed, but they accomplished the intended purpose that I had laid out for them.

So what about this NaNoWriMo? Being my fifth book I’m still dubious that it will be publishable, but I can see a vast improvement in my own writing over the last four to five years. This might be the one, or the next one might be the one. I don’t know, and I don’t much care right now. I do know that I don’t need the ‘win’ like I did in years past, but I still like this time because it’s my ‘winning’ time. It’s become somewhat of a tradition. It also helps that this year I planned on writing a 50K word book…coincidence? I also outlined a ton, more than I’ve ever done before…but more on that next week.

Some things I keep in mind while doing NaNoWriMo:

First off, realize that this month of furious writing is really just a fun way for a bunch of people to get together and get their Great American Novel written. That’s it. Don’t read into it too much. It’s fun.

It’s a tool, one of many, to help schedule your time and focus your energy. Talk to your loved ones, explain your goals and that, even though you might be missing a lot during this time, you’ll be back in December and life will get back to…more normal.

Write. This, obviously, is important. You carved out that time, you’re missing your loved ones, do them proud by actually completing the project. No wasting time on the internet, playing games, etc. Write. Turn off the damned WiFi if you have to.

Don’t edit. Bar yourself from fixing misspelled words if you have to. Yes, to that extreme. I see you hitting backspace to fix that word! Don’t do it!

Your goal is to finish the book. Not fix words or ‘tweak’ anything. This is a chance to actually complete a book. So complete it.

You will have to edit, probably edit a bunch, but you will edit in December and January. Embrace that and be okay with the fact that you might actually say “I don’t know what to put here.” Into your text. Seriously, type that over and over so you don’t break your rhythm. I have done that. It’s amazing what your mind comes up with after writing that line four or five times.

But most of all, have fun. Enjoy it. Relish in the lack of sleep for a month as you pound out 1000 words an hour…You are writing a thousand words an hour aren’t you? Alright mister, time to take the backspace key off your keyboard…

NaNoWriMo And Cupcakes

Cupcakes

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is like baking cupcakes. If you don’t have a recipe (outline), or the right ingredients (craft), you can bake yourself fifty thousand of those suckers and they’re all going to taste like crap.

I know this from painful experience. During my first NaNoWriMo, I was swept away. I couldn’t stop the intense writing. The holidays couldn’t derail my passion. I spent every free moment glued to my computer. I kept writing and writing until the beginning of April when I finally wrote those magical words—the end.

I celebrated for a week. The chocolate and wine flowed freely. Then, I took a deep breath and started the editing process. I imagined this would be a bit like decorating cupcakes. Just add a sprinkling of commas and a few descriptive words and I’d be ready to send my gorgeous book baby off to meet the world. Quivering with excitement, I started back on the first prologue (of course my book had several prologues). By the time I got to the end of chapter five, I wanted to puke.

I couldn’t even make it through to the epilogues (of course I had several of those too). Tears prickling in my eyes, I had to face the painful truth that I’d just spend six months of my life writing 300,000 words of pure unadulterated sewage. All those hours of sleep I’d scarified. All that family time I’d missed. All those books I could have been reading. All those TV shows I could have been watching.

And for what? A train wreck of a book that belonged in the bottom of a file drawer for all eternity.

Ouch.

Many writing classes, conferences, workshops, books, and critique groups later I’ve come to the realization that without direction and skill drumming out words on a keyboard is about as productive as having deep conversations with a goldfish.

I don’t want to give NaNoWriMo a bad rap. It can help you learn self-discipline. That’s a critical skill to master for any successful writer. However, it will not teach you how to write well. And quality will always win over quantity (for both books and cupcakes).

So I will bow out of NaNoWriMo this year and focus on improving the quality of my writing. What about you? What has been your experience with NaNoWriMo?

If you have time, check out my blog post on happy endings: http://tararane.com/2014/11/13/happy-endings/

Are you ready for Nano? #AmWriting #NanoWriMo

 

National Novel Writing Month.

November.

Write 50,000 words in one month. Around the holidays.

That’s an average of approximately 1, 667 words per day.

I’ve attempted Nano three times, and succeeded twice. The first time, well, lets just say the results weren’t pretty. What helped me win was preparing before the month began – but then, I’m a plotter, LOL.

What I like best about Nano, though, isn’t whether I hit the word count or not, but diving into the habit of daily writing with specific goals in mind.

This year, I have a small goal. Write every day except for Sundays, and Thanksgiving. I’m not concerned with making the 50k, but I’m going to try for it 😀

With the last few months researching and building a new world and a new series, hopefully I’m prepared!

So, who’s doing Nano this year?

Have you done it before? How do you get ready for the push?

 

And if you’re interested, I’m higleyb on the Nano website if you’d like to add me as a friend

😀

~Amber Kallyn

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo? Here’s some links to check out…

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)

It’s that time of year again, rushing up fast to knock us on our ass.

50,000 words in one month.

Not just any month, but November, with the begining of the end-of-the-year holdiays, Thanksgiving, Christmas shopping… yeesh.

So how do you write 50k in one busy month?

Planning. At least that’s the key for me.

How much planning do you need? That depends on if you’re a pantser or a plotter.

I round up some links you might enjoy checking out to gear up in prep for NaNo.

Kristen Lamb has a whole Nano series going on last week, from making sure you have a road map, to getting to know your characters.

Jami Gold discusses Fast Drafting (as created by Candace Havens)

And an interesting post I found discussing NaNo ~vs~ Fast Drafting by Tori MacAllister, written last November.

~ Enjoy and happy planning

NaNo Comes to an End, and Life Resumes as Normal

 

NaNo has come to an end.  I wasn’t able to meet my goal of 50,000 words, but there is always next year!  It was, however, a wonderful experience and really reminded me of how much writing I can get done if I prioritize it a little better.  How did you do?

It has been nearly a month without critiquing my fellow writer’s work, and without having my own work critiqued, so I have been very excited to get back to business as usual.  Our first night of critiques went really well.  I had thought, based upon my own writing, that our NaNo work wouldn’t be written at quite the same level it usually is, but everyone had wonderful submissions.

This got me thinking… if my fellow writers, some of whom have taken long breaks from writing, can write this quality of work in a month, what really holds us back as writers?  I think many of us struggle, feeling that our work isn’t good enough or isn’t going the way we want it to, but maybe just pressing forward and actually writing is half the battle.  Maybe when we get out of our heads and just write continuously, our work won’t be perfect, but it will get done, and often will be better than we even imagined.

So, I learned a valuable lesson during my first NaNo: most of the excuses we use to keep ourselves from writing are just that, excuses, and if we truly want to be writers, we need to push them aside and just focus on making writing a constant part of our lives.

#NANO FINAL WEEK/COUNTDOWN!

YOU’RE ALMOST DONE! DON’T GIVE UP!

The battle is almost won! With only a couple of days left, write! WRITE HARD! I know you can do it!

Get your final numbers in and no matter if you hit the glorious 50K or not, know YOU ARE A WINNER! You’ve survived another year of NaNo, and I, for one, am so very proud of you all!

As a matter of fact I’m so proud that I have a special treat for next week!  Oh yes, I have a great guest post coming from none other than C.E. MURPHY! Yep, you saw it right! C.E. Murphy, the wildly wonderful authoress of such awe-inspiring stories as seen in the Walker Papers, the Negotiator Trilogy and the Inheritor’s Cycle!  So come join next week and let your cramping hands relax as we visit with Catie Murphy!

And for those curious minds, my word count as of 11/29/12 is now….50,870!

See you all next week and rejoice, you are now a NANO VETERAN!

–Wicked

Week 3 #NANO check in…

Tally ho, my fellow writing warriors! We have hit the climax of our NaNo Battle! That’s right, we are now in our third week of conquering the blank page.  I’m sure there have been some grevious injuries, maybe a few fatalities, but fear not, there is light at the end of the tunnel. If nothing else there should be a stuffed turkey with your name on it today! Happy Thanksgiving!

So how am I faring?  It’s been a struggle–you would not believe how much crap Fate can throw in the path of your good intentions, but my word count as of 11/22/12 is:

 35,464

Take a deep breath, slip out and run around with the small humans for an hour, leave your cave, get away for a brief breather.  Promise it will help you refocus before you dive in for the second half of the storm.

Stay strong, writer peeps…until next week!

Wicked

#NANO week 2 check in…

Are you all still out there? Anyone poking their heads up out of their writer caves?  I noticed the world still seems to be marching on…

So now it’s two weeks in and I’m sure you’re wondering, just how dedicated have you been, Jami?  You have that job that pays the bill, the Prankster Duo, the Knight, the Hellhound the Garden Gnome in-laws…have you been able to keep it up.

Well, let’s find out:

Word count as of 11/15/12 is at….

25,449 

Keep going, I promise you’re doing great.  If you’ve stumbled, pick yourself up, grab that implement of creativity and dive back in, there’s time!

–Wicked

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