Getting up to speed

The smart, prolific, and all-around delightful writer K.A. Laity recently blogged about how to write more words, faster. She refers to an article on the SWFA website by Rachel Aaron that shares the method Rachel hit upon to boost her daily word count from 2,000 words a day to 10,000. That’s not a typo: 10,000 words a day. When I saw that number, my jaw dropped. Is such a thing even possible?

I’m a 1,000-words-a-day writer. That number is how I define steady progress. If I’m writing 1,000 words each and every day, I can draft a novel in a couple of months. (I tend to write short first drafts and then weave in subplots and other scenes in the second draft.) A thousand words is my daily baseline–anything beyond that goal is gravy. How would my life change, I wondered, if I could manage to write 10,000 words a day? To be honest, that number seems too lofty a goal (for me) to aspire to–the idea is pretty intimidating. Still, what if I could boost an average day’s output to 3,000 or 4,000 or even 5,000 words? I’d be able to meet my deadlines and pull some projects, those I’ve long been wanting to write but never had the time to develop, off the back burner.

Lately, I have to admit that I often haven’t hit even 1,000 words. My husband recently became disabled, and we’re both adjusting to this new reality. Extra responsibilities–not to mention the worry and anxiety–have taken a toll on my writing life. Things are getting better, though, and I’d like to get my writing back up to speed. Or even beyond what I’ve considered “up to speed” in the past.

So I’m trying Rachel Aaron’s method. Her article is worth reading in full, but in a nutshell she argues that a writer needs to have three things in place to write productively:

Knowledge: Before you start writing a scene, know what the scene is about. Take five minutes to sketch out the scene–characters, conflict, events, bits of description or dialogue–before you start writing. This helps the scene come into focus before you write it.

Time: Optimize the conditions under which you write. Know how much time you’ll need to be productive, as well as the time of day, location, and other conditions that are best for your writing. Then schedule your writing to meet your needs.

Enthusiasm: If you’re bored with a scene, it’s not going to thrill your readers. Think of ways to make the scene more interesting so you’re excited about writing it. Not only will this maximize your word count, it will improve your story.

I don’t know if I’ll ever hit 10,000 words a day. Life has made me cut back on my writing time, but this article has me thinking about I can better use the time I do have. I may not routinely generate 10,000 words a day, but I can do better. Today, I tried using Rachel’s method and doubled the word count I normally would have achieved in the time I had. It’s a good start.

And who knows, maybe one of these days I can aspire to Brian Keene’s 80,000 words in a weekend. I’ve always wanted a try a serious writing marathon…


About nancyholzner

6 responses to “Getting up to speed

  • katelaity

    Thanks for the kind words — I didn’t know about your husband. I’m sorry to hear it. I’m sure that’s a lot to cope with.

    I know I won’t likely ever get up to 10K but I am trying to use my time better. The main thing has been asking myself, what would make this scene more fun? Sometimes it slides over into silly, but that’s what editing is for.

    • nancyholzner

      I like it when things slide into silly. Any day I can make myself laugh while I’m writing tends to be a good writing day. And, as you say, the scene can always be edited later.

  • Deborah Blake

    Good grief. If I hit 1K, I’m pretty happy. My rare “really insanely productive” days might result in 3-4,000 words. And yet I have friends who apparently hit that 10K mark. (Mind you, I’m not sure they actually sleep.)

    I know that when I wrote Pentacles and Pentimentos, I had a detailed outline prepared before I started and was much more productive than usual. But I usually go into at least each scene with a pretty good idea of what is going to happen (although I may not know what happens in the story afterwards). So I’m not sure how much I can improve that. But man, 10K a day…

    Sorry about Steve, by the way. And looking forward to August!

  • Deborah Blake

    And thanks for the link to the article–it really was amazing.

  • Sydney

    First Nancy my ever huge love to your husband!! Please tell him I am sending him massive amounts of healing energy.

    Second I so enjoyed reading this post. Gives me quite a bit to aspire to. So I am going to first reach towards your first goal of 1,000 words per day. πŸ™‚ I am not even there yet. I used to think this is the best I can do. Now I think I know I can do better than this. πŸ™‚ I love reading your writing dear friend. Thank you for the encouragement!

  • Ella Grey

    80k in one weekend? That’s crazy, lol I’m now going to need to follow that link and see how he managed it.

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