I like to evolve as a writer. I like to learn what works and what doesn’t for me to produce the best work possible, with efficiency, and without sacrificing craft. I always thought I couldn’t write more than 1k words a day and be able to do it consistently. But I’ll get back to that point.
There are many books on writing fast and there’s undeniable proof that rapid releasing is the way to go. And yet, the ghost of that year when I released three books and promptly burned out haunts me. Still, it’s so easy to get caught up in the next writing trend. I am awed when I see my author friends say they churn out 5k words in 3 hours, or 9k words in one day! I can barely eke out 4k words an entire day and then I’m down for the next few days. Ha!
But I tried it anyway. Set a timer, turn off the wi-fi and go! Lo, and behold I wrote almost 800 words in forty minutes. I sprinted with some author friends and was quite proud of myself. I closed out the day with 3k words in 3 forty-minute sprints. However the next day, I went back to read over what I wrote. It almost took me an entire afternoon to fix my writing. So, I thought, well, writing is a muscle and I just need to exercise it more. I tried it again and again until I decided speed writing wasn’t for me.
What bothered me the most was:
a. Sameness of the voice of the characters. It was like it was lost and they all blended together.
b. Unimaginative banter, rudimentary dialogue. For some reason, when my brain is in “write fast” mode, my characters seem to drone on about superfluous things, and I feel like it’s because subconsciously, I’m just trying to get to a word count. And to me, besides a tight plot line, dialogue is everything. Character is dialogue and dialogue without conflict is simply boring.
c. The tendency for weird sentence structure. Sometimes it becomes purple prose, while other times I’m like: “Why the hell did I write that?” ?
For the above reasons alone, I cringed at my attempts at writing fast. It worked for others, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me. I decided I wanted to write wiser, not faster. So rapid releasing wasn’t in the cards for me unless I’d take a year or two off from publishing to write the books, and then rapid release them.
And when my brain and heart finally accepted that, my creativity and productivity soared.
So what finally worked for me?
a. Using story beats similar to Jessica Brody’s Save The Cat writes a novel. I say similar because there are times I can deviate.
b. Hiring a developmental editor who understands my style and genre, but who doesn’t try to change the way I think. Our brainstorming sessions alone are gold. Geri has also been a reader friend for a long time and we’re on the same wavelength about story lines with tight plot, pacing, and strong character dynamics. I send her my first draft in three parts. I have a tendency to devolve into crazy plot lines that becomes implausible to untwist, and Geri is a good sounding board on this and lessens the need for manuscript surgery—which I’ve done a couple of times. ?
c. By the time I finally sit down to write, I already have my characters, their backgrounds, part of their motivations, and overall plot as a springboard.
d. My writing time is sacred. From Stephen King’s On Writing book, he advises to write everyday and not to stop until you finish the book because you will lose its urgency. I honestly thought, I couldn’t do it, but I was able to finish the dirty first draft of ROGUE PROTECTORS 2 in six weeks at roughly 2k words a day. With a day job, this was challenging, but it was all about setting expectations with everyone in the house and it included my hubby and dog. 😉
But then you say, “Isn’t that writing fast?”
No, because still following the advice of Stephen King, I let the first draft rest for two weeks (he advises six, but hell no) before revisions, while I binged on other books or Netflix. And as is my regular method, I send it to Kristan, my amazing editor, for two rounds of edits with a preference of three weeks in between the rounds as I send it to a few betas.
By my calculation, it still takes around 4 to 5 months to get a book ready to where I want it to be.
I continue to tweak my methodology, but I believe being kind to myself and setting realistic goals is the key to creativity. 🙂