Yesterday I did a lot of talking about my goals. Remember, these are my goals, not goals I think you should impose on yourself. You need to figure out for yourself how fast you can write and how fast you should write. This is just a step-by-step look at how I do things. That’s all. I wouldn’t hold anyone to the level I write at (except myself that is)
So I set word count goals. I also track those goals to see my progress. What good is setting a goal if you’re not going to check up and see how you’re doing, right? So I’ve got an excel file that I use. You can use the Magic Spreadsheet (I’ve mentioned it before) and many people do. I think that’s great. I built my own because I love to play around in excel.
* NOTE – If you’d like a copy of the spreadsheet I use, feel free to email me and I will send it to you. You can modify it for your own needs, but bear in mind, it’s personalized. So many of the columns I have may not work for you and you may end up spending more time rearranging things when you could have built you own. If you like mine, use it as a guide to build your own.
So on my spreadsheet I track my progress. How many words did I write today. How many words have I written this month, this year, what does it compare to against last year, How far ahead (or behind) my goal am I? How many days did I spend working on a particular title?
As I said, it’s more than just a list of days with numbers next to the day. I also track what title I’m working on that day. I have a column that shows how many words I wrote, how many words I need to write that day to stay on target (for 2014 it’s 1100 words per day). I had have a field that shows how many words I should have written so to-date, and the actual number I’ve written to-date. This is the indicator that helps me understand how close I am to my goal. I like to get ahead in case something happens.
I also track the books I’ve written as well as the books I’d like to write. I track the word count, release dates, where in the process a certain book is. Things like that. I also track my short stories and where those stories are on submission. I have a tracking page for the total word count of all my stories.
Now let me pause here for a minute. Keep in mind that I started this spreadsheet at the end of 2011. I use it every single day. Almost without fail. even on days I didn’t write,I still opened my spreadsheet. But being that it’s been an ongoing, growing spreadsheet, I’ve continued to add to it. So as I felt the need to have additional data, or formatting, or extra pages, I added them. Yes, I understand that all I’m tracking seems a little excessive, but it’s part of the process that keeps me motivated. Keeps me moving forward. I have a lot of ideas, and this is one way I’ve been able to keep track of them all in one central location.
Another thing this spreadsheet does for me is it allows me the ability to inspire myself. When I don’t feel like writing, I can look at this spreadsheet and remember that there’s a lot I’d like to accomplish with my writing and the only way to do that is to keep writing. Write quickly. Finish something. Move on to the next project.
That doesn’t mean I’m just pounding out first draft after first draft. I’m going back, I’m editing, I’m adding covers, I’m doing the interior layouts (covers and layouts I need to do better, but I’m learning). My spreadsheet allows me to track everything I’m doing and see at a glance where any given title is in the process.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I need to add columns to where something is published. I’ll need to make sure all my titles are available on all vendors. See, typing up these posts is helpful.
At any rate, tracking my progress is a way to not just keep myself motivated, but to see where I’ve been. I can see trends and patterns. I can focus on the process with the spreadsheet while my creative side gets to run off and play in all the worlds I create. It gives the logical side of my brain something to do while the creative side is off…creating.
Will this work for you? Again, as I said, this is my process. It works for me. I’m a data guy and I like numbers and spreadsheets. You may be different. Maybe you don’t want to track everything I’m looking at. Maybe you just like to sit down, open word, and got for it. I think that’s awesome. If it works for you, keep on doing it. I’m just offering up my method.
So this will likely end my little series. I’m glad you were here to follow along. I’d love to hear about your process. What works for you? How are we similar? How different is my process than yours? Any feedback? Ideas? Thoughts on improvement? Let me know!
Until Next Time!
In case you didn’t noticed from the previous two posts, I’m a bit of a rambler. I get that. It comes with being me and given that I’ve been me for as long as I can remember, I guess that’s bound to happen.
When we left off we were talking about distractions, music, and communication with those around you. Those are all great for creating an environment conducive to writing. All that stuff is important. Just like in part when when I talk about typing speed and knowing ahead of time what you’re planning on writing. Also important.
You also need to get yourself into the mindset of ‘I’m going to write’. Yes, being able to focus is one thing, but actually focusing is another thing entirely.
For example, you have a job, right? (well, let’s pretend you do have a job even if you don’t). Or you’re going to make something for dinner. (well, let’s pretend you cook). Or you’re going to do something that requires you to be all there when you’re doing that task. You don’t just walk in and hope for the best. You don’t sit at you desk or operate heavy machinery without having some idea what you’re doing or at least some level of competency. And if you’re new, you need to give that job you’re about to perform.
Writing should be approached in the same manner. You don’t just sit and hope for the best. You need to focus on what you’re doing. Yes, I write fast, but one of the reasons is I’ve freed myself of distractions so I can type without being interrupted. Even if it’s for only 10 or 15 minutes, I make those minutes as productive as possible. I can usually get 300-500 words down in a fifteen minute stretch. Why? Because I’m focused on the task at hand.
Think about your job for a minute. When you’re typing an email, or driving a forklift, or operating a machine, does a distraction take you out of that task and make you lose focus? Even if you distract yourself by letting your mind wander away from the task at hand. Are you your most productive when you’re not fully engrossed with the task you’re performing? I know I’m not.
I write code for a living. When I’m typing code and I get an instant massage, I lose focus on what I was doing and it might take me five or ten minutes to get back into the task and try to remember where I was. I’ve lost focus. Or I’ll stop what I’m doing and look my email, or look something up on the web. Again, I’ve lost focus on the task at hand.
But when I’m on my game and I’ve got that laser-like focus, I can type at great speed and things happen in my story.
Yes, yes, I said I’m a discovery writer at times and the story will take a turn I wasn’t expecting, but that does not mean I wasn’t focused on the task of writing. It means I’ve been able to get so into my task, that I’ve allowed my brain to get out of the way of the creative process. One side of my brain is engaged in getting the words on the page (the logical side), the other is focused on making the story happen (the creative side) and when you’re highly focused on writing and you’ve entered ‘flow’, this is when both sides of your brain bring everything together.
Writing, for me, isn’t about treating it like a hobby. If you’re writing for a hobby, any words you write are great! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking those hobbyists out there. Writing is a wonderful hobby. What I am saying is that if you want to move from writing as a hobby into something you can produce large amount of content (I’m talking 4 or 5 or 7 books a year) then you can’t look at writing as a hobby any more. You need to approach it like it’s a job, but a job you love to do and are excited about doing. That means you need to focus on what you’re doing.
I would keep going on and on here, but I think I’ll save my next topic for next time. What will that be? Goal Setting.
Until Next Time!
So yesterday people seemed interested in how I write quickly. I only touched on the topic (yes, 1000 words was just touching on the topic) so I decided to include a part 2. I mean, why not? Sounds like fun. It was, after all, one of my better hit posts and hopefully shed a little light on my process and mentality when I actually sit and write.
Maybe I’ll even be a little more organized today, but I doubt it. 😛
So there comes a time in every writer’s life when they want to get the ideas out of their head and onto paper. I think that’s an awesome feeling. The desire to create is what drives a person to think they can actually sit and write a book. I mean, it’s only 50,000-100,000 words, right? That’s not that many and in a couple months it’s easy to knock those words out and have a book.
Well, it does take practice. It really does. As was proven by Chuck Wendig, you can type fart 100,000 times and have a book.
But if you want to write something that people want to buy and read, that’s a different matter entirely. But the process of getting the words down don’t have to be difficult. Like I said, it takes practice. It’s more than just sitting and typing whatever comes to your mind. These blog posts, for me, are an info dump of what’s going on inside my head. When I’m writing a book, that’s different and took me time to learn.
First thing I need to know when I’m writing something is where is it going to end. What’s the point of the main character’s story? What is motivating my character to get to the end? How is the character going to change.
Let’s look at my giant robot story that I’m currently working on. I started this one last year and I was plugging away when I realized my character had little motivation and everything was being handed to him. A ‘Mary Sue’ story. Nothing bad was happening.
Oh, sure I had ideas on how to mess with him, but overall, his life was really good.
So I deleted nearly 20,000 words and started over. Yes, CTRL+A, DEL!
I still had an idea how I wanted the book to end, it just took me 20,000 words to figure out I was starting the book incorrectly. I went down a rabbit hole and it dead ended on me. Once I understood that, everything fell into place. I had an idea for the beginning, a comfortable feeling how the middle would go, and I thought I knew the ending.
So I typed knowing the general direction of the story. Each time I’d sit and type, I knew the next scene I wanted to write and I would do that scene. If the next popped into my head, I’d write that scene. I’m a linear write. I write from beginning to end. Sometimes I will add additional chapters as needed (or delete extraneous chapters) but that’s when I’m done with the book.
Knowing what I’m going to write really helps as I’ll have already through out some of the dialogue, some of the action, but I’ll let things happen and sometimes I’ll type something that will surprise me. As I said yesterday, those are great moments.
Another big thing that I need when write is time to focus on what I’m doing. This allows my brain to wander around the universe I’ve created and I can get deeper into my characters’ heads. I can see what they see, feel what they feel, and experience, to some degree, what they experience. In order to do this, distractions must be removed from the equation.
How do you do that? First of all, DISCONNECT FROM THE INTERNET! I cannot say that loudly enough. Get off! Shut it down! Have a dedicated computer with no internet connection! Just don’t! Not for research, not for names, not to hop onto twitter and complain that you’re having trouble writing. NADA! Why? This is writing time. Not research time. Not social hour. It’s not time to catch up on what people are doing on facebook. It’s time to sit and write.
Yes, like I said, it takes practice. It also takes discipline.
You want to be freer of distraction? Tell your family when you’re going to sit and write. Turn some music on that’s conducive to a writing atmosphere, and write. If you’ve only got 15, 20, 45 minutes a day to write, you cannot waste that time doing other things. You don’t know what science to use for a scene? Insert [RESEARCH HOW STEAM ENGINES WORK] and move on! Don’t know what to name the farmer down the road? Don’t get hung up on a name Insert [FARMER’S NAME] and move on! Write forward past those things because they’re not important at the moment. Don’t get hung up on something you can go back later and fix.
Again, when it’s time to write, write. Don’t research, don’t look things up, just write. Don’t let that writing time slip past you.
This also is a time you should schedule. You want to write a lot of words? You need to treat it like anything else you want to get done. You want to rake the leaves, you plan on what you’ll do it. You want to go on a date with the Mrs? You need to plan when you’re going to do that. You want to write a book, you need to plan and schedule the time (I usually write from 8-10 if I can swing the time. Sometimes I’ll write right after work for 30 minutes in case I can’t get the time later in the evening. Planning this time helps as the wife and my favorite daughter know that’s my time I’ll be spending writing.
Wow, another 1000 words? I don’t think I’m done yet. Whew. Well, I guess there may end up being a part 3 to this.
Until Next Time!
How do I write so fast?
I know I write fast. I’m not nearly as quick with my writing as Nathan Lowell (who will rack up 5,000-10,000 words per day), but I’m quick. How quick? Well, so far this year I’ve written over 71,000 words. That means I’ve averaged over 1400 words pre day, but I haven’t written every single day this year. On the days I have written I’ve averaged just shy of 2000 words. My best word count so far is just over 4000 words.
So Yes, I think I write fairly quickly, but to be honest, I don’t feel like I do. I know I could write a lot more words. I waste a lot of time. I surf the web, I watch TV, I read books. I also have a full-time job. I have a daughter with a busy social life. I have a wife. I spend time with my family. I do housework. I spend time with friends.
And I write.
Writing is a hobby. It’s something I love to do. I enjoy creating worlds, universes, characters to populate my made up places. I have a blast each and every time I sit and write. Even when the words are hard to put down, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. When the blank page stares back at me and dares me to flinch, sometimes I do, but I still want to show that blank page who’s boss and write anyway.
Yes, if I had more time during the day, I’d probably write more. In my past I have had days of 10,000+ words. I know I can do it. For now, I’ll take when I can get. There’s a lot happening with my life and I’m still enjoying that as well.
How to type quickly? First, I type very fast. If you’re not a fast typist, I recommend learned how to up your typing speed. Take an online course. Take a course at your local community college. Just sit and type a LOT when you do sit in front of a computer. Also make sure you know what type of keyboard helps you type faster. I type fastest on my mechanical keyboard. It’s the type I learned how to type on way back in high school and for many years as a programmer.
Yes, I can type fast on a laptop (or netbook) but I do prefer the big kcickty-klack keyboards best. So I invested in a very nice keyboard that I use for work (it’s programmable) and I use for writing (cuz it’s awesome). This helps with my typing speed so I can get the words out of my head as quickly as possible.
Next, I know what I’m going to write before I actually write it. I don’t mean I’m plotting every single scene and writing sample dialogue. I mean that I’ve already thought the scene out and I’m ready to make it become a reality. Yes, there are times I’ll be typing away and something will happen I didn’t expect (I love those moments) and I roll with the change and keep going to see what happens next. These times I just keep at it. It’s like my hands have dislocated from my brain and words just flow out like water. Hence the term ‘flow’. This is a great time to write as the words literally flow from my brain onto the page.
But how do I do this? How can I type words to a story when I’m not sure what’s happening?
I’ve turned off my internal editor. I’ve learned to trust in myself and just let the story happen. To-date I’ve completed 15 novels and I have partials for 7 others that I intend to finish between this year and next year. So I’ve had a little bit of practice with this writing stuff. So I know what I’m capable of writing, I’ve developed my own style, and I have a great time doing it.
This last one is difficult for a new writer. I understand that. I was a new writer once. I questioned every word I put down. I questioned my plot, my characters, my motivation. I questioned everything. I asked people to read what I’d written long before it was complete and I allowed their opinions to hinder my progress and I took years before I finished anything.
Then I started reading books on writing. I read ‘rules’ for how to write a good book. What it needed to contain. How to plot the story. Growth arcs. I read conflicting ‘rules’. I would read something I liked and then read a review about why that book I just liked was a terrible book.
Again, I allowed outside influence to taint my own work. Many times I stopped writing because I felt like I was a fake, a fraud, a fool, and just plain a bad writer.
But I learned to ignore the noise. I don’t let people read anything that isn’t finished. I don’t want input on what I’m writing. I honestly don’t. You want to be a beta reader? Email me. I’ll send you something that’s a first draft of mine. Yes, it’ll have typos and grammar errors maybe a plot hole or two. But that’s what editing is for. That’s what re-writes are for.
To write faster isn’t difficult. You need to learn to ignore the noise, ignore the rules, and just go for it. Have fun! Enjoy what you’re writing. I guarantee that a reader will enjoy a book more by a person that had fun writing a bad novel than a person that hated their book and wrote some brilliant prose. Take a look at books like Twilight, 50 Shades of Gray, The Hunger Games. All these books get great reviews, and terrible reviews. Great reviews because people have fun reading them. Terrible reviews because the stories are, when you really look at them, just plain bad. The writing isn’t even that great. Yet, they sell a lot of books because people enjoy reading them and I’m willing to wager that the authors had a blast writing them as well.
So you want to write faster? Have more fun with your writing. Practice a lot! Write in more than one genre (maybe you’re trying to write a sci-fi when your heart belongs to mystery). Write some flash fiction, short fiction, write as much as you possibly can. Don’t edit as you go, just start typing and see where it leads you. Turn your brain off for an hour and just let the words flow out of your fingers. Don’t look back. Keep going forward. Look at these 1000 words I just typed. I had a blast typing them because I love to talk about writing. It took me less than 30 minutes to type.
Don’t let your brain get in the way of your writing. Trust yourself to write something enjoyable. When you get to ‘the end’ THEN turn your brain back on, read what you wrote, and fix what needs fixing. After, not during.
Speaking of writing, I should go make some words happen!
Until Next Time!