Occasionally, I am found in WriteChat, writing my pretty little head off during challenges. After twenty minutes, we all share our word count, and mine are, most of the time, in the 700-1000 word area. Yes, you’ve read correctly. Though I’m definitely not the only writer out there who writes at the speed of light, I’m one of the few. So, how do I do it?
Throughout my MA writing program at Johns Hopkins University, our professors always told us in workshop that you should “keep writing” and “don’t go back until you are finished.” If I had a dollar for every time those two pieces of advice were given, I would have been rich by the end of the program. But, it’s true.
There are a few different types of writers: the “oh-my-god-my-sentence-is-not-perfect” writer, the “is-this-word-good-enough” writer, the “chapter’s-done-time-to-revise-it” writer, and then there’s the “I’m-gonna-keep-writing-until-my-manuscript-is-finished” writer. Trust me, and you know, there are a who lot more types, and you may be looking at these four and thinking to yourself that you fit in more than one category, and that is okay! In fact, I’m not saying it’s not okay to be any of these things, but I am saying that if you try to be the last one, you’ll start to write faster and more efficiently.
Get your words down. Your sentences can be perfect later. You can substitute words as you go through your first pass. Your chapter is going to be there when you finish your manuscript, I promise. All of these things can wait. When we interrupt the creative process, it’s like sticking a fork in a blender. Every time you stop your writing to look back or revise, you are seriously screwing up your blender. Why not let the blender run a little while, and you can go back and add some goodies to it and walk away with a banging milkshake?
Let’s face it. Everyone loves a milkshake.
But, in all seriousness, the next time you sit down and write, set a timer for yourself and write ALL THE WAY THROUGH the timer without going back, without stopping to use the synonym-finder in your word program, without having to get up and grab a snack, feed the husband (or wife!), or anything. Just write. Try doing this in twenty minute spurts and compare it to how much you normally write in a day. I bet you that you’ll churn out more words, and on top of that, every time you do this exercise, you’ll get better at it and not everything you write down will be crap.
There are programs out there that challenge you in this way, and I look at them as being the weights on our workout machine. Write or Die, for instance, is this annoying little program that blares out annoying little sounds when your writing slows down, or you stop for too long. You can set the time and write, write, write and keep ahead of the clock, unless you like the sound of a million babies crying over screeching violins. This will not only break your habit of stopping in the middle of your writing, but it forces you to keep going forward, and the more you move forward, the more words you are getting down on the page, just like the more weight you put on your machine, the easier it will get to lift them after doing it over and over again.
Me, personally, I prefer the Write Chat method, where you can come in and chat with other writers (most are romance writers, but don’t let that stop you if you are writing something else), participate in the 20-25 minute challenges, and share little blurbs of what you wrote. I find it to be an extremely rewarding experience, to sit down, write something, and then get some feedback on it right there and then.
I wish you luck in your writing, and I sincerely hope that you try some writing sprints to get yourself in writing shape. Set a word count goal for yourself and see if you can’t raise that by the end of the week after using these methods to “keep writing” and not “go back until you are finished.”
Leia Rice is a historical fiction and YA writer from Baltimore, MD. She lives with her wonderful husband, her rambunctious puppy, and her annoying lovebird who won’t shut up, even when she’s writing. Leia holds her M.A. in writing from the Johns Hopkins University and is currently published with Harlequin.
Her current book out is her Spice Brief titled The Queen’s Consort.