A question has been plaguing my creative mind this year, and as I wrap up my second novel of the year and gear up to start the third (a first for me!) I am confronting that question head-on.
Does writing have to be hard?
There are so many things written about the act of writing fiction. The same can be said about writing non-fiction, but I am sticking with fiction since that is the majority of what I write and what I have always written. There are two sides of the debate. One says that writing needs to be slow and deliberate – almost painstaking. The other says that writing needs to be fast, in the moment, and free-flowing.
I used to side with the first half of the argument. My writing on the past few books has been slow and methodical. Was the prose good? I think so. Was some of the writing hard? Yes.
But, did it have to be?
In the case of Lockwood Tower, I believe my creative brain was going through a transition. I was stretching my creative muscles, so this took some time. It’s the same as lifting weights to build physical muscles. I had never worked on a project that large before, and I did do a full edit on the book. I think it came out the best that it could be, and I am very proud of it.
However, after working a year and a half on a single project, I noticed that I burned out a few times in the middle of Lockwood. I didn’t like that. I want to soar through a project at light speed and get it down on the page. Writing in high school and college just flowed from somewhere deep within me. It was effortless.
While I worked on my latest book, Super Charged, (out on August 16th) I took a writing approach that is preached and practiced by Chris Fox (if you haven’t checked out his website or his books, I absolutely urge you to do so). Chris believes that writing fast can be achieved through deliberate practice, working your way up to 5,000 words per hour or more. I have to admit, I scoffed at the idea two years ago. But, time gave me a new perspective and I decided to give it a chance.
I started outlining Super Charged informally in my head at the beginning of June, shortly after publishing Lockwood Tower. I intend to write sequels to Lockwood, but my brain really needed a break from the long 1.5 years spent really writing in that world. So, I stretched my creative brain by working in a new genre that I love, superheroes, and pulled out a story idea that I toyed with about four years ago officially and also tinkered with all the way from my middle school days. I can even remember the first time I put this character down on paper – I drew my first picture of Shaun, my lead hero, in 8th grade art class. It was at one of those long wooden tables with the benches that are built in. From there he and his friends populated my imagination.
Now I hope that they can entertain others. I certainly loved them enough to keep them with me all these years.
So, I formally outlined Super Charged over three days, typing out the plot beats. These, of course, were shuffled around as I got to the mid point and realized that my story was sagging and needed some excitement halfway through. I learned a ton from reading Logan Rutherford’s books and loved how he was able to keep the pace moving even during the slow parts of the story (the exposition parts).
The true typing of the draft started on June 6th. I used Scrivener and did everything exclusively digital – there was no hand-writing to re-type (something I was notorious for on Lockwood). I think that this conscious choice to go digital helped me reduce clutter, remain more organized in my notes on Google Docs when I was away from my home computer, and generally kept my speed up.
I finished the draft on July 12th and did some edits through July 16th. Then the book was finished. Factor in my Photoshopping of the cover over a few days, and the book was finished in 40 days. That is a milestone for me. I’ve done NaNoWriMo before, and was successful in completing 50,000 words one year, but the book was never finished and up for pre-order in that amount of time.
I was very excited to see this project come to fruition in such a quick timeline. And the best part? The writing just flowed! It was wonderful.
So, I conclude that writing fast is a powerful tool for any writer. Stop worrying about your word choices or the sentence structure. As Stephen King said in On Writing, your first impulse is the best one. It’s your writer’s voice coming through for you.
Takeaways for this process of speed-writing a book are:
- Don’t neglect the outline. This doesn’t mean you need to remain rigid to the outline when you start. But, you need to have a starting point in order to branch off of. In the middle, if things develop naturally, let them. You can always rework the later beats to fit what you’ve creatively come up with.
- Write in sprints. This gets you into a state of flow.
- Keep track of your word count and set a goal for how many words you wish the book to be in the end. Mine ended up being longer than 50,000, but you need a tangible goal to work towards. Once you hit that word count, you can go on from there. 50,000 should be the base, depending on your genre.
- Lastly, don’t overthink your plot. If your characters are well developed in your mind, they will pull the plot along. My characters saved me on this one. Whether they save the world…is up to you to find out on the 16th.
Writing is a relaxing, exhilarating practice that I have enjoyed for my entire life. Only recently have I recaptured that feeling of euphoria as a story took me away. It was enough that watching Netflix was boring to me and I itched to be at my keyboard with a cup of mocha coffee. Those are the best Saturdays of the summer right there.
What about you? Are you struggling with a slow and steady pace? Give fast writing a shot. It might change your life like it has mine. Super Charged is my proof.