Today’s writing advice, is very timely for me and for anyone out there taking part in NaNoWriMo or , writing NaNoWriMo style where you have a word count to hit. I actually came across it some time ago, in an episode of The Creative Penn, which I have referred to in this show before.
The episode is “How To Write Fast, Publish Slowly And Focus On Your Author Marketing” from The Creative Penn podcast, and it aired on 10 July 2017.
Rachel Aaron is the author of “2,000 to 10,000” which is all about learning to write fast – by being extremely prepared. It works for her.
And the whole idea of learning how to write fast (in fact, of allowing yourself to write fast – because let’s face it, a lot of the time it’s about giving ourselves license to do something, rather than necessarily learning how to do it) is to remove some of the indecision in writing trying to, and I’m going to quote her here:
“decide how to say it, what to say, how to say it, what’s the best thing here? But a lot of that decision-making isn’t about the actual words. It’s about the characters and their motivations and what’s happening in the scene.”
So, something that’s been different this time round for me in NaNoWriMo has indeed been that preparation. I haven’t always had an idea of what was going to happen in the scene – I preferred to discover that as I went along – but I knew what the scene’s objective was in the context of the story itself.
So, was it to change the rhythm, was it to introduce a new character, was it to give the reader a breather from the main character and to introduce them to another character instead? Was it to change the atmosphere – from an intense two-hander to a wider group? Was it to give backstory, to introduce a point of suspense, etc.
And in knowing that, I found that I needed a little bit of arc for the scene, or the section. I actually got to know the characters as I wrote the scene. And I quite like that. I write to discover. Of course I always hope that there will be readers for my books, but ultimately, as I write I discover stories that come from my past, or images from my imagination, I realise how characters I’m creating are different or similar to myself, or to other people in my life, or characters I’ve encountered in other fiction… and then when I write non-fiction, I discover my opinions, my own take on other people’s suggestions and advice, and I really get to the core of what’s important to me.
But I’ve discovered – and it might be different for you or it might be similar – let me know – that until I start typing away, I don’t really access the important bits in my mind – whether they are those bits buried away in the subconscious, those metaphors, those made up characters and situations – or, in non-fiction, those ideas I haven’t yet taken ownership of or that for some reason, I haven’t been subconsciously, brave enough yet to articulate.
For some people, it’s the daily exercise of free writing that does the trick, that is their discovery mechanism – I find that I need to be thinking that what I’m writing is eventually going to be read for it to be important enough to let myself go. It’s in thinking of channeling my thinking through the page to others that I access the interesting parts of my mind. Knowing that I’m only going to be writing for myself doesn’t really work. Which is funny, because ultimately, I rarely write for the reader. I write for myself hoping that there are people like me out there who will enjoy what comes out.
So, if you want to increase your word speed, step away from the computer and plan, in whatever way is useful. One thing I’ve discovered is that in order to write quite fast, I need to have procrastinated at least an hour or so. Maybe that’s so that I can feel there is an urgency and I make myself type faster because of it. So I know that I can write about 500 words in 15 minutes. But I also know that to write for an hour, I need to have been thinking about sitting down to write for at least another hour. That’s why, if you are relatively new to writing and you like to set yourself goals or deadlines, it’s always good to set aside a time when your writing is your focus – at least in your head, if not through your day. That’s why I do Nanowrimo. Through doing it, I’m discovering a lot about what I need to write.
Well, I think that’s all for today – but let me leave you with one of the most inspiring quotes I’ve come across this month. It comes from Grant Faulkner, and it arrived in my Nanowrimo inbox a couple of days ago:
“Don’t write what you know, write what you want to know.”