What’s the whole deal about writing fast? Why is it such a trend? One, we know writers who write more and have more books to sell — sell more books! You have fans that want to gobble up everything you write and you’re under the gun to write faster. But, you don’t want to just churn out crap.
I hear you. In “The Writer’s Coloring Book®” (sorry, one bit of shameless self-promotion) I devote an entire chapter to this subject and offer techniques to help you churn out a first draft very quickly. And you must understand, these techniques ONLY apply to writing the first draft — that ugly, uncertain, first glimmering thing — that must come out of your brain and onto the page. Once you have it on paper, then you can dissect it, figure out what the story is really all about, and design your plan of attack for the next revision.
One of the benefits of writing this way allows you to see the movie in your head in real time. You watch your characters in action, you listen to what they say and you just scribble down as much information as you can. When your inner editor wants to butt in, just tell her “don’t worry, don’t worry, we’ll fix this later.”
I can already hear some of you freaking out right now. Writing at top speed is a scary thing. But, you have to set the bar high and push yourself to reach it. And look at it this way, you have created a set of characters and you are putting them through all sorts of hell (I’m sure you are, lots of conflicts, lots of opportunities for your character to grow). Why not put yourself in a similar situation? That’s what I did when I decided to write 8,000 words a day. Yup, you heard me, 8,000. The goal was to do it for 10 days straight, thus producing 80,000 words. But I totally hit the wall on day 6. I’d churned out 55,000 words, none that I would ever show to another soul, but that draft served as the seed for my novel. A couple drafts later I had my 95,000 word final draft.
So, here are my 8 tips for writing fast:
TIP 1: Be prepared. Before you begin each writing session, have all of your materials handy, your scene plan, an outline, some notes on what will happen in your scene. This is essential, even if all you have is a list and character names. You want to have some kind of prompt so you won’t be writing “blind.”
TIP 2: Think about the needs and conventions of your final project to determine your total word count goal. If you are writing a novel and your best guess is that your final total word count will be between 75,000 and 100,000 words, set your word count goal for 60,000. This will give you one big chunk of story, with enough room to add or subtract characters, other story arcs, or any number of other elements to play with in your later drafts.
TIP 3: Determine your word count goal for your writing sessions. I am assuming that you will be working on a computer. Find a website that lets you take a free typing test to determine how many words a minute you can type. For example, I can crank out 65 words a minute. Now multiply that by 60. So 65 x 60= 3,900. That means at full speed I can crank out 3,900 words in one hour. To be conservative, I set my goal to 3,500 words in one hour. I know, I can feel you all freaking out, because that just sounds impossible.
TIP 4: But I have a trick up my sleeve: Use a kitchen timer or your smart phone timer and set it for 15 minutes. That’s right, work for only 15 minutes at a time. First, this tricks the part of your brain that’s freaking out. If all you have to do is 15 minutes, then the pressure is off and it feels less intimidating. However, once you get started, if you are on a roll, let the timer go and just keep working.
TIP 5: End in the middle of a scene. As you are finishing your daily session and the timer is about to go off, or as you see your words pile up, resist the urge to finish the current scene you are writing. This gives you a great starting point for your next session. You already know what’s about to unfold. You jump in and you’re on a roll when headed into the next scene.
TIP 6: Resist the urge to edit: When you finish your session for the day, you may have “seen” what’s about to happen in the story. Jot down some notes, but don’t stop to re-jigger your story. Do not start editing. You want to get the full story out of your subconscious first. I know it will be hard to resist, but if you start editing now, you won’t know what’s about to happen down the road and you will get frustrated. Trust me, I’ve made this mistake.
TIP 7: Trust yourself, trust your instincts. The one thing that blows me away every time I’m asked to help a writer with her story is this: everything you need to tell a great story is already there in your personal unconscious. Think of it as a big computer file, in each writing session you are downloading more information. Wait until you get the full file before messing with it.
TIP 8: Congratulations, you did it! Once you’ve chunked this draft out of you, celebrate. Seriously, this ain’t easy; it’s heart wrenching, gut twistingly hard work. Now you need some down time. Don’t look at these words for a long time. At least a week, a month would be better. You are a different person now than the one who started writing this draft; you need to savor your sense of accomplishment. You also need some rest and you need to recharge your batteries. When have fully recovered and with fresh eyes, dive back in and plan your next revision.
There you go, use these tips wisely and crank out that draft. Your readers are waiting to read your stories.
So what do you think WITS readers? Ready to try it? Still freaking out?
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Rachel Funk Heller began her career as a journalist and worked as an independent television writer/producer for over two decades. She’s worked for a variety of industry clients as well as the Hawaii State Department of Education. She is a former CNN producer who worked in both the Atlanta headquarters and the Washington D.C. bureau. An accomplished video editor and graphics designer, she was commissioned to produce and illustrate a YA story-telling television series titled, “Christabelle in the Museum of Time.” She recently completed her workbook for writers, “The Writer’s Coloring Book®” launches on March 30 at writerscoloringbook.com
Find Rachel on Twitter: @RchelFunkHeller or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/rachel.f.heller