RU contributor, Ruth Harris, joins us today to discuss ways to jump start your writing and boost your word count.
Today, as we head for NaNoWriMo, I’m going to talk about another, much less frequently suggested, but equally anatomically impossible act: the plusses of holding your nose and typing. But, you ask, won’t I add to the “tsunami of crap”? The answer is yes, of course, but let me remind you that writing slowly and agonizingly can also result in unspeakable crap. So, you choose.By writing fast, you warm up the engine and get it running.
You quash the inner scold, that mahatma of negativity that rains on your parade. By writing fast, you don’t have time to censor or second-guess yourself and you avoid wasting time obsessing over whether your hero should be blond, brunette or a power-baldy à la Bruce Willis. You can always figure that out later and, more often than not, as the character engages and develops, hair color (or lack of hair) will become obvious.
Writing fast increases your chances of “getting into the flow” and gaining access to your sub-conscious or what Steven King calls “the boys downstairs.” Those “boys”—or girls if you’re of the female persuasion—are the source of inspiration. They are the ones who come up with the unexpected (even to the writer!) plot twist and help you get the work done.
By watching the words and the pages pile up, you give yourself the gift of a sense of accomplishment. Where there was nothing, there is now something and the mere fact that there’s “something” where once there was nothing builds confidence.
Last of all, writing fast is professionally crucial in these days of self-publishing because a new book helps sell the old books. Just ask Joe Konrath or Dean Wesley Smith.
Now that I’ve persuaded you (I hope!) of the importance of writing fast, one obvious question rises: How do you make yourself write when you’re tired, distracted, uninspired or just plain “not in the mood.”
My friend Rona Jaffe used to “read something good.” Which meant one of her already-published books. For Rona, reading her own work reminded her of what she did well and what she’d been successful at.
Other writers read something by an author whose work they admire.
Coffee works for some. Loud music for others. Vivaldi’s The Seasons for still others.
An external deadline can help: a contract or even a promise to someone else—including the dog who is in need of a walk.
Setting a word target, a time target, a scene target adds focus in the form of an achievable goal.
Do you respond better to the kiss or the whip? If the first, promise yourself a Dove Bar at the end of your just-get-it-down writing session. If the whip, then no dessert for you tonight unless you get your quota filled!
Shut the door, turn off the phone, the internet, do whatever you have to do to get the job done. Adapt Nora Roberts’ approach: you will permit interruptions only in the case of “blood or fire.”
Just begin and power through because once you’ve got something —almost anything— down on paper or, these days, on the screen, you have a point of departure. You can always fix it later. If you don’t have something down, there’s nothing to fix.
In the Universe of Writing Fast, there are a number of possible outcomes:
1) Might be much better than you think & just needs a light edit. Yay!
2) Might be pretty good but needs a careful edit. OK, editing is just part of the job of being a writer so get on with it.
3) Might be dull, drab and needs major, butt-in-chair revision. That’s OK, too, because revision is also part of the job.
4) The aaargh! draft: So what you wrote is real crapola and needs a four-corners rewrite? Don’t let that get you down. As I always say, “It ain’t the writing it’s the rewriting.” Professionals know it and the aaargh! draft is the perfect case in point.
5) Even worse than the aaargh draft is draft so putrid that it threatens the very integrity of the time-space continuum. We’ve all been there, done that and that’s why keyboards come with delete buttons. Just because you wrote it doesn’t mean you have to publish it or even that anyone else has to see it. Just trash it and move on. But don’t forget that writing has powerful after-effect and that even the worse draft imaginable can trigger important new ideas.
6) Saving best for last: OMG! Did I write that? It’s just about the best feeling a writer can have and, when you write fast, you outrun your insecurities and second guesses, your tendency to “fix” and diddle, you’re also raising the odds of the OMG!-Did-I-write-that? moment.
How do you motivate yourself when faced with a blank page? Have you ever discovered a nugget of brilliance among (as Ruth so eloquently phrased it) your tsunami of crap?
Are you participating in NaNoWrimo this year? Nano veterans: share your secret to achieving 50K words in 30 days.
Debut author, Susan Boyer, joins us on Wednesday, October 24th.
Bio: Ruth Harris is a New York Times bestselling author whose books (with Random House, Simon & Schuster, and St.Martin’s Press) have sold millions of copies in hardcover and paperback, been translated into 19 languages, published in 25 countries and selected by the Literary Guild and Book-of-the-Month Club. Ruth started out in publishing right after she graduated from college. Her first job was as secretary to a textbook editor, an unpromising start if there ever was one, but she was soon promoted to copyediting—much more interesting.
She’s been a copywriter, assistant editor, editor, editor-in-chief and, eventually, publisher at Kensington.
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