Posted On December 19, 2012 by Print This Post

Why You’ve Got to Learn to Write Fast with Christi Barth

As I navigate back-to-back deadlines for 5 upcoming books in 2013, I opened Christi Barth’s blog post with avid interest.  After reading how she figured out how to write fast, I knew she was my new heroine.

Why You’ve Got To Learn To Write Fast

When I decided to set my sights on becoming a published author, one of the 2012_Xmas_Anth_final(2)first bits of advice I learned was to ACT like a published author. And under that heading came the ‘rule’ that it should only take six months to write a romance. Rule is, obviously, a loose term, but it was accompanied by dire warnings that NY publishers would contract turnarounds of six months, so you’d darn well better be able to do it. So I did. Gave me plenty of time to write, watch TONS of television, read, and promote my books as they came out. And then (ominous drum roll, please)…I signed a four book contract with Carina Press in January. They let me set my own deadlines (within reason) for the single title trilogy, but there was the pesky matter of a Christmas novella. It was due before book #2. It scared the pants off of me (mostly because I’d never written anything that short and didn’t see it as possible). None of these books, aside from book #1, were anything more than a single sentence idea. Major amounts of plotting and synopsis writing had to occur.

Sure, I’d given myself five months to write book #2. But smack dab in the middle of that time period, I was supposed to magically produce a novella. How to find the time? How would I write two books at once? How on earth did people do this? Especially when I came down with pneumonia and didn’t have the energy to change the remote?
My answer? Panic is the ultimate motivator. My whole life I’ve been a world-class procrastinator. Working under a tight deadline focuses me like nothing else. Suddenly, I didn’t have that luxury anymore. I couldn’t write to deadline, in case something went wrong. In case life interfered. In case my beta readers said it sucked. In case, having never written a series before, I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen. (I promise this post has a happy ending).

Did I write when I had pneumonia? You bet. Not those first horrible two days. But days when I still had a fever and going all the way to the bathroom felt like a grand excursion, I met my word count. I cut back on half of my tv shows (that may not sound like a great sacrifice to some of you, but trust me, it was!). Stopped watching Netflix w/my hubby at night. In other words, I buckled down.

While I admire those of you who can switch back and forth between manuscripts, I wasn’t that brave. I put book #2 on hold and switched to Christmas. The novella was due in May. I turned it in two months early. Turned in book #2 a month early. Turned in synopsis and first three chapters of book #3 a month early. Felt so cocky about how far ahead I’d gotten that I (potentially ominous drum roll) decided to write the funny beach caper story that had been kicking around in my head for the last two years. Did I still have a contracted deadline on book #2 to meet? Yup. Instead, I spent a month churning out 45,000 words of sun, sand and sex.

Authors hate having an uncontracted book cluttering up a computer, right? So I still didn’t return to writing book #3. Instead, I wrote up a blurb and whisked the beach book off to my editor. Spent another week on a synopsis and blurb for an unplanned book #4 in my series. Did I have time for these flights of fancy? Some would say no. Some might say fulfill your contracts first. On the other hand, some would say that publishing is changing dramatically. Writers no longer can rely on putting out a single book a year. Volume—quality volume, of course—makes a difference.

Did I break out in emotional hives at the end of September when I realized there was no longer any wiggle room in my writing schedule for book #3? You bet! Did I feel semi-justified in my choices when I sold both of those unplanned books to my editor in October? You bet! Did I turn into a non-responsive grouch for two weeks as I raced to finish book #3? You bet! (My husband would be more than willing to give you chapter and verse on that). Will churning out 291,000 words in eleven months (writing another xmas novella this month) make a difference in both readership and royalties next year? I certainly hope so.

Am I tired? You bet. Let’s not forget I also squeezed in two book releases with all the ensuing promotion, attended two conferences and a three day book festival. But it made me a better writer. Although I’ve always been a plotter, I upped those skills exponentially. Every night at the gym, I’d plan exactly what would happen in the next 1,000 words, so as not to waste any time at the actual keyboard. I plotted the next book on the schedule long before I started to write it. Best of all, I grabbed with both hands at every opportunity that came my way. I think that’s my biggest take-away. You’d darn well better learn to write fast, because you never know what may come your way. And you don’t want to miss it.

***

Do you have any tricks for writing fast? Do you have questions about how Christi did it?

On Friday, author Grace Burrowes talks about writing the Christmas story.

***

Ask Her At Christmas:

AHAX (2)Caitlin McIntyre’s heart stops when her best friend drops to one knee and proposes. Kyle Lockhart never once hinted over the years that he has any idea she’s in love with him. Not wanting to jeopardize their friendship, she’s never let it slip. Good thing, too, since it turns out he’s only practicing—he’s about to propose to someone else.

A business merger might not be the most romantic reason to propose to a woman he barely knows, but Kyle’s determined to win the respect of the dying father who’s never seen him as quite good enough. Kyle’s always depended on Caitlin’s friendship, while trying to ignore the physical response she arouses. So he turns to her when it comes time to craft his proposal, not realizing his decision will affect their relationship, forever.

This Christmas, Kyle and Caitlin get one last chance to admit their feelings for each other, and find a mutual happily ever after, before he commits his life to another woman and Caitlin leaves town and him…for good.

Purchase at Amazon T Barnes & Noble T Carina Press

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Bio:

Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes contemporary romance. Christi lives in Maryland with her husband.

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Discussion

24 Responses to “Why You’ve Got to Learn to Write Fast with Christi Barth”

  1. Christi – Thanks so much for being with us today!!

    After you’ve busted your behind writing fast – what do you do to refresh and recharge?

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | December 19, 2012, 6:29 am
  2. I read. A ton. I do most of my writing at night, which cuts significantly into my reading time, so I go on a two day spree.

    Posted by Christi Barth | December 19, 2012, 6:48 am
  3. Hi, Christi -

    Thanks for this post! Do you have kids, and if so, how did they handle your “buckling down?”

    Happy Wednesday!
    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | December 19, 2012, 7:49 am
  4. Morning Christi!

    5 books in one year!? awesomeness. I have a tough time trying to commit – unless I’m in nano. Then I turn into the wonderwoman of writing.

    Hopefully that will be one of the items I can fulfill on my New Years resolutions this year – quit procrastinating!

    Thanks for a great post Christi!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | December 19, 2012, 7:49 am
    • I’m a HUGE procrastinator. I dabbled at writing a book for years. I’d write 2 chapters, then nothing for 5 months. Finally I told myself that if I didn’t finish it, I was just wasting my time. So I gave myself a deadline – if I didn’t finish the book by then, I’d stop writing forever. So whether your write with or without contracts, give yourself a deadline & stick to it. THere is also nothing at all wrong with bribery. You can’t read a book until you finish your 1,000 words. If you surpass your weekly word count, you can splurge on something. WHatever works for you!

      Posted by Christi Barth | December 19, 2012, 10:14 am
  5. Christi – Just reading this exhausted me! Congratulations on your sales, your stick-to-it-iveness and your stamina! I’ve had pneumonia and I know how it saps your strength. I’m VERY impressed that you were able to write while sick – and bigger congratulations for writing something that WORKED.

    I wrote really fast when I first dove into fiction. I had so many ideas fighting to get on the page I could hardly keep up. Unfortunately, speed for me did not equal a saleable book.

    I’m hoping I can get my speed back up without it turning into a drivel-writing marathon.

    Thanks for this very inspiring post! And Robin – huge congratulations on your five deadlines!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | December 19, 2012, 7:58 am
    • Yes, I too have dived fast and heavy into crafting a romantic novel but then my mind fizzes and putters out and ultimately my productivity takes a nose dive.

      Christi- your story is beyond encouraging. Thanks for sharing your method to your madness :)

      Posted by CJ | December 26, 2012, 9:37 pm
  6. Loved the post. Talk about a “need for speed”! What an impressive year you had!

    I tend to be most productive when I time my writing sessions (either with a kitchen timer or using the program Write or Die!).

    Posted by JB Lynn | December 19, 2012, 8:29 am
  7. Wow! You are an inspiration. Or a cautionary tale. I’m not entirely sure which. (Kidding!)

    Seriously, you’re amazingly productive and though I hope never to have to meet deadlines while dealing with pneumonia, I’m taking your example to heart. Book 2 is turned in to my editor, and I’m in the midst of promo for book 1 while trying to write book 3. You’ve convinced me that promo and productivity are not mutually exclusive.

    Posted by Willa Blair | December 19, 2012, 9:06 am
  8. I’m discovering the importance of learning to write fast. You’re right, it’s amazing how much more efficient you become when faced with a deadline. I need to get 40,000 words written for Book 2 of my Carina Press deal and I just started this past Monday. In two days I wrote more than 11,000 words; the most I’ve ever written, even during NaNo.

    Posted by Reese Ryan | December 19, 2012, 9:10 am
  9. Hi Christi,

    I like the idea of cleaning out the computer for unpublished manuscripts. That’s what I’m doing. Also turnover is key. Keep on writing, submitting, and editing. And reading too.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | December 19, 2012, 9:22 am
  10. Hi all, I’ve been writing books fast for years. My fastest turnaround was 9 days–for a nonfiction book on a topic I knew little about (but had a great group of people to rely on for information and ideas). In 2009, I wrote my book about writing fast during NaNo: Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days and Live to Tell About It (Writers Digest, 2011). In it, I offer tons of tips. Here are a few. 1. Schedule writing time and stick to it. 2. Plan ahead. I do a ton of prewriting the day before and in my head before I write–so that when I hit the desk I know WHAT is going to happen. 3. Take healthy breaks. We only have a limited amount of focused attention time a day. We can increase that by taking walks in nature, exercising, and taking short naps between writing sessions.

    Happy writing! -Rochelle

    Posted by Rochelle Melander | December 19, 2012, 9:35 am
  11. Hi, Christi. Thanks for being here.

    I think with the digital explosion it’s more important than ever for writers to figure out how to write fast. The deadlines for digital are tight!

    I was also terrified of writing two books at the same time, but I’ve forced myself to get comfortable with it. I now find it gives me a nice distraction when I need it. If I’m stuck on one book or hung up on research, I switch to the other book for awhile.

    My agent once told me readers and publishers want books from their favorite authors to be “bigger, better, faster.” I always keep that in mind when starting a new project. :)

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | December 19, 2012, 9:54 am
  12. Whew! I was impressed, exhausted and frightened, in that order, as I read your post, Christi!

    Congratulations on making all of your deadlines and then some.

    I love this. It makes me wonder, though. How much editing are writers doing with this level of productivity? Does writing fast help you to learn to write the first draft better?

    Posted by PatriciaW | December 19, 2012, 9:59 am
    • Funny you should ask – I’m currently beta reading four books for fellow writers. I happen to be one of those people who does a super clean first draft, so I can’t answer your question. But I do urge you to have critique partners and beta readers who will help you with editing!

      Posted by Christi Barth | December 19, 2012, 10:17 am
  13. Christi, Do you find that your first drafts have gotten better with time or have you always written clean first drafts? I know that I write faster and better than I did ten years ago. But I still count on my critique partners and the editors I hire to help me catch my mistakes.

    In terms of kids, I have done all my writing and publishing since having kids. When they were under 5, I did a lot of writing before they got up in the morning and during naps. I also did tons of prewriting while they were playing.

    Posted by Rochelle Melander | December 19, 2012, 10:24 am
  14. Christi, you slacker you! :-) Seriously, I’m blown away by your productivity.

    I’m planning to increase and streamline my output in 2013. Not entirely sure how, so I’m noting all the strategies in the comments as well as your approach.

    Robin: Congratulations and good luck with your 5.

    Cia

    Posted by Cia | December 19, 2012, 11:57 am
  15. I am sooooo lazy! Holy cow, it’s so obvious. But my genealogy passion provides much-needed amounts of $$$ into my empty pockets, so it grabs my time first! But still… I have lots of time to write, it’s so clear. Thanks for such a great post!

    Posted by Celia Lewis | December 19, 2012, 1:34 pm
  16. Hi Christi,

    It helps if I write notes or even a few key words before I stop writing for the day. That way, I have a “cue” for the next day. I also write scenes out of sequence. Sometimes, I write the ending first.

    Thanks for being with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | December 19, 2012, 3:08 pm
  17. Thanks for a great post. It took me 14 months to write my first novel, but after I was laid off from my day job I wrote two in less than one year. However, only one of them has been polished and revised. So you’re right, it can be done. I find it works best when I lock my internal editor in the closet until I’m done.

    Posted by Maria Michaels | December 19, 2012, 3:23 pm
  18. Yup, you’re right. You have to write fast. There is no other option :-)

    Posted by Sandra Sookoo | December 19, 2012, 3:49 pm

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