Project: Write Faster / EARLY RESULTS
So, if you didn’t see it before, I decided to engage in a project to try and accelerate my writing using Rachel Aaron’s post on how she learned to go from 2K to 10K (and along the way I learned that several people I know work very similarly to the way that Rachel does). I posted about my experiment here.
I wasn’t alone. A bunch of other people said they wanted to try it and see how the results went. I am going to link to their results posts as they come in, so I put their names here for easy linkage:
E. Lockhart - A great post with really interesting results. You’ll see I stole her format to post about my own results.
Nova Ren Suma - Her initial post on starting the project is here.
Beth Revis - Her initial results post is here and, again, so interesting. To me, part of what this makes this so fascinating is a deeper insight into how other writers work in a given week.
Stephanie Kuehnert - Posts about her results here. WOW.
Okay, so here’s how it worked for me:
MY NORMAL WORD COUNT GOALS
A good writing day for me, of which I have some: 1000
A very good writing day, of which I have some: 1500
A cramazing writing day, of which I have very few: 2500
A not-so-good writing day, of which I have plenty: 300-900 words
Aaron’s essay presents a couple of things to try:
- NO INTERNET. Okay, she doesn’t list that as one of the things that changed her writing, but reading between the lines, I could see that she was going to a coffeeshop without internet. Which meant she wasn’t doing the weird combination of business emails, tweeting, and looking up stuff online that I was doing in between writing bits of my book. Hmmm.
- TRACKING. I normally write down what my word count was for the day and if the results were very bad I would sometimes make a notation as to why. I resolved to make more notes about when I wrote, how long it took me, which techniques I used, and any other factors that came into play.
- PLANNING. I usually have a big picture outline that I almost always deviate massively from, but for this week, I resolved to plan out individual scenes in some detail before I wrote them.
- TIME. She pointed out that the writing would go faster the longer you were at it, with a downturn at some point. I decided to observe this more closely in myself.
- ENTHUSIASM. The idea that finding ways to make scenes more fun will make them go faster does seem like a good one, but for the time being, I tabled this. I wanted to see what kind of results the other techniques would yield.
I was exhausted from driving back from New York (from BEA and a signing at Books of Wonder) the night before and I had a doctor’s appointment at 8 in the morning. So I lurched out of bed after sleeping for about three hours, went to the doctor’s, came home at 10 and slept until the early afternoon. When I woke again, I felt extremely weird. I got about 300 words written and tried none of the techniques listed.
I have no idea what else I did as I didn’t write any notes and I don’t remember. Oh yeah, wait — it was gaming night, so I helped kill some undead things in the ancient crypts underneath Constantinople.
Oh, and a process note — normally I meet up with Cassie Clare and Kelly Link to write several days a week, but since Cassie was in the UK and Kelly was in Australia, I was going to be alone for the whole week. Very alone, since my husband was doing Rebecca Guay’s Illustration Master Class over at Amherst College. I have no idea what this did in terms of making me faster or slower, but it definitely caused me to stay up a lot later.
Total for June 7th = 300 words
I get up feeling a lot better rested and go into my office, a place I haven’t spent a lot of time in for a while and for no good reason either. I download Freedom and set it up, feeling a little trepidatious. The idea of not being able to get email for an hour freaks me out. I take this as a sign that things need changing.
Another process note — I realize, annoyingly, that the experiment is going to go a little oddly, because I’m rewriting chapters of my new novel, The Coldest Girl in Coldown, so that I can get to the last three and a half chapters which are still totally unwritten (and which would be excellent candidates for the experiment, when I reach them). So word counts are going to be only part of what I measure, since I am going to be deleting big chunks of text and also dumping in big chunks of text in from other chapters I’ve already cut out.
I dump in about 300 words from a different file. Then I turn off the internet for an hour and write about 100 words before I get a business phone call. In the second hour, I get 500 words. In the third hour I get about 500 words. Then there’s another phone call and I get 100 words. By this time, I’m hungry and go grocery shopping. Then I make dinner and eat it in front of the television. I write 700 more words over the course of the night.
Total for June 8th = 1,900 words (or 2,200 if you count the words from the other file, which I almost do, because I had to delete a bunch of stuff as well)
In the first hour, I get 400 words. In the second hour, 500. I dump in 600 from another file and am raring to go. Then I get a phone call asking whether I forgot I was supposed to meet some friends for dinner. Yup, I forgot. It turns out I’m supposed to be at a restaurant one town over. I jump up, throw on less horrible clothes and some earrings and run out the door, feeling very foolish but also a bit disoriented since I am still in the middle of the story.
I turn up late, but have been ordered for, so everything is fine. I eat and chat and then when we get to the dessert course, I explain that I am having a problem making some decisions for the frame story in my book. Since the table is mostly made up of enthusiastic readers, Dungeons & Dragons players, web comic writers, doctors and poets, they quickly fix my book. No, seriously, they fix my book. And then, since they are all couples and Theo is at art camp, they decide its easier if they cover my bill and I can get them later. So they fix my bookand then they pay for my dinner.
I come home so happy that I don’t manage to do more than 100 more words for the rest of the night. I don’t care either.
Total for June 9th = 1,000 words (or 1,600 if you count the extra words I dumped in)
I write 700 in the first hour; then 400 in the second. After that, I go to Holly Post’s house for very delicious grilled vegetable and pasta dinner and a True Blood viewing party.
The first episode of the new season is truly as cracktastic as ever.
I get home and manage another 100 words and lot of revising.
Total for June 10th = 1,200 words
In the first hour, I eat breakfast and write about 300 words. Then I take a half-hour break to shower and dress. Then 200 in the second hour, plus a lot of planning.
Then I get on the phone with Sarah Rees Brennan and talk over a bunch of things, including all the big crazy changes I am making to my book. She likes them, says many nice things and prods at some of the problems still remaining. As I am on the phone, I wind up making lunch/dinner. Theo shows up and eats some of the lunch/dinner, then leaves again. I write about 1,100 in a desultory fashion, over the rest of the night.
I stay up much too late watching episodes of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior off of Netflix because there is a scary episode that makes me not want to go to bed, so I wind up just watching more of it.
Total for June 11th = 1,600 words
I pick up Robin Wasserman from the train station and we go to the wine store and then drive up to visit Jo Knowles in Vermont. This is an excellent plan, despite the fact that I have turned into a zombie due to my watching Criminal Minds until dawn. Robin and Jo make a ridiculously delicious red wine pasta and we talk about writing and stuff.
Then everyone else goes to bed and I resolve to write, but wind up reading a manuscript I have to critique instead.
Total for June 12th = 0 words
I spend four hours going over notes on manuscript, then sit outside and write another 400 words. This is all revision stuff, so I am deleting and adding, keeping the chapter length about the same. I drive home from Vermont and write another 100 words at home.
Total for June 13th = 500 words (but a whole chapter revised!)
Another five hours of going over friend’s manuscript. Then several business calls and emails. Between those, I manage to get 300 words. Then more of that darn manuscript. Finally, we’re done workshopping it.
In the evening, I go out for gaming night. After coming home, although I don’t get more words, I finish revising the rest of the entire chapter.
Total for June 14th = 300 words (and another whole chapter revised!)
Kelly has returned and this is Theo’s last day at the Illustration Class! Almost everyone is back! I meet Kelly for coffee and we walk around in the Illustration studios, looking at paintings and saying hello to some of the instructors. This takes most of the afternoon.
Then I come home and write this post. Now, I go eat something and write. Or possibly go out for a drink with the illustrators.
Total for June 15th = TBD
- Getting off the internet for an hour was the single biggest factor in increasing my productivity. Not only did I do more work, but even my methods of procrastination were better — things like eating breakfast or getting dressed or filling the dishwasher instead of looking at Pinterest for the millionth time.
- People are helpful, but also extremely distracting. I am going to see how working with people nearby in the next week impacts my numbers.
- I have to watch how much time I devote to other people’s projects. Not that I don’t want to help! But you can see that those days of going over a friends’ manuscript look like days of low productivity, even though, in fact, they weren’t.
- Planning was extremely helpful, but I didn’t always stick to the plan.
- Several straight writing hours did yield much better results and I realize that phone calls — even when they’re for business — are the single biggest factor in my not having uninterrupted writing time.
- Headphones. With my headphones on and music blaring, I was much less likely to get distracted.
- It’s hard to measure success by word count when revising, because as much is getting stripped out as put back in.
- I can speed up. I just need to be more conscious of how I am working, when I am working and what will make it easier to get more work done.
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