Writing Fast(er)

This is from a post I wrote up for MayNoWriMo.

Everybody’s writing process is different, so don’t get hung up on the “right
way” to do anything. The trick is to find what works for YOU. You may be a
write-by-the-seat-of-your-flaming-pants writer. Great. Maybe you need to have a few notes written in advance. Maybe the whole thing should be plotted out in gruesome detail. It’s totally up to you.

This is what works for me.

1. At least some plotting. Each of my projects had different needs.
Ironically, the first year (2007) I had a very detailed plot and even created
storyboards for the project, but it required the most work. The second year, I had nothing written down at all — but the entire plot was in my head. I knew exactly how the story would end and just wrote hard to get there. The last year, I had notes, but no detailed plot.

For me, I really need to know the end (what I’m writing to) and a few key spots, but half the fun and glory of writing hard and fast is the discovery, the sense of magic as unexpected bits unfold. So don’t be afraid to just GO.

2. Each day, I start a new file. If I can’t finish the scene, I make notes and
continue that file the next day, but one big WIP file does not work for me when I’m writing fast and hard.

3. No reading back to other days (another reason I use individual files). If I
have questions, feel like I messed up a plot point, or forgot a backpack (inside joke: in Beautiful Death, I kept forgetting to have Isabella bring the backpack with her from scene to scene), I jot a few notes in my notebook, but I KEEP GOING FORWARD.

4. No backtracking or revisions. This is the hardest for me. When I’m writing
leisurely, I always re-read the last day’s work and “polish” it before
continuing. It’s like a pre-edit. But it’s also very tempting to keep
editing/reading instead of writing new words, especially when the going is tough in the story.

But wait, you cry. What if a major plot point needs to change? How can you
keep going?

I open another file (might as well count this toward my words, right?) and type out all my thoughts about the revisions I’ll need to do. I write out all the changes I think I’ll need. Then I continue FORWARD in a new file as though those changes have been made. Writing them out gives me the closure I need to move foward.

5. No cheating. If you read the NaNoWriMo forums, you see people talking about ways to get your word count for the day, like typing song lyrics, or throwing in an exploding goat into the scene (that has nothing to do with your story), etc.  That just doesn’t work for me. I’m a working writer. I’m going to have to revise this steaming pile of poo before I can submit it. Do I really want to have to edit out an exploding goat later?

6. Don’t get hung up on grammar, research, or word choice. I often write a word and then type [word choice?] to indicate that’s not really the word I wanted, but I can’t think of it. MOVE ON. In the Maya story especially, I had lots of [research Chich’en Itza] or [name the pyramid in the made-up city] or [check the spelling of Hunahpu’s name]. MOVE ON. If you’re like me, a five-minute check on the internet turns into checking e-mail, Twitter, etc. and your writing time disappears.

7. Write with focus. I don’t start a project that I know nothing about, I don’t
know where I’m going to submit it, etc. I always — even for the most basic
spaark of an idea — make a “target sheet.” Genre, length, and where I’m going
to submit it. When I’m finished, I don’t always submit it where I expected, but that focus helps keep me on the track toward “the end.” e.g. if I know I’m
targeting romance, then I’d better not kill the hero at the end of the book,
right? ::Ahem, guilty as charged, although I did fix it.::

Any pointers or tips you have to share?

2 thoughts on “Writing Fast(er)

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Joely Sue Burkhart » Writing Fast(er) -- Topsy.com

  2. I find having a ton of visual inspiration at the ready can be a big help. I use http://www.weheartit.com , sometimes my brain fails me with description and so I look to pictures to “speak” the words to me. (But the photo subject is just a guide. I almost always end up re-imagining the pictures in my head to fit the story)

    Or spark me with an idea for a scene.

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