Efficiency.Like most people I have to squeeze my writing between working for a living. The fact that my Earning-A-Living job (something I abbreviate to E-A-L) is also writing…well, it actually doesn’t make it easier. Sometimes–a lot of times–it feels like the old E-A-L tasks swallow up all my creativity and words. I have none left for my own stuff.
I’m trying to get better at that, however. I recently ran across a book I consider a treasure. Not particularly because of its insight into how to structure a story–though there’s a whole big section about that. I have tons of craft books and the most interesting part of this book’s craft section was how the multitude of ideas in my library of craft books can be distilled down to a short, efficient system of creating a new story.
Nope, the real treasure for me was the first part of the book, about the first third or so, in which author Rachel Aaron describes how she, as a full-time author, moved her productivity from about 2000 words/8-hour writing day to 10,000 words/day.
To put that into perspective, that’s moving from producing about 7 or 8 pages of text a day to moving to writing 35 to 40 pages a day!
Writing 10,000 Words a Day???
As I write this, it costs a whopping $0.99 in the Kindle store. It’s the best $0.99 I ever spent!
If you’re serious about writing professionally, one lesson you have to learn is how to be efficient about your writing. Yes, you have to be creative and clever, and all that. But if you want to make a career writing, you have to be able to produce, on a regular basis, stories other people want to read. This book tells you how to do that.
Rachel Aaron also is blunt about saying that unless you’re able to write full time, you shouldn’t expect to be able to write 10,000 words a day. She treats her writing as a full-time job and spends 5 or 6 hours a day writing.
But the cool thing is, for someone like me, who is still squeezing my writing in around the cracks of other E-A-L requirements, her process is still bloody amazing.
The neatest trick, I think, is the idea of blocking out a scene. Until I tried this Rachel Aaron trick, I might have spent maybe 2 to 4 hours to write out a scene.
To make this trick work the best, however, you have to have figured out the structure of your book. Done all the planning and development to the point where you have a list of scenes in your book. At the very least, you have to have a list (one-line descriptions) of the next set of maybe 5 or 6 scenes.
So I start with that list of all the major scenes in the book I’m currently working on, all 60 of them. (Yes, there will end up being maybe 75 or 80 total, but the others fill in the cracks between the 60 key scenes.) What Rachel Aaron suggests, and what I have started to do, is to sit down and block out the flow of the next scene before I write a single word.
- What happens in the scene?
- How does the dialogue flow?
- What key points have to make it in the scene?
- What is the hook or crisis at the end of the scene that lures readers to turn the page and read on?
- What is the set-up for the scene that follows?
When I take 5 or 10 minutes–and that’s all it takes!–to block out a scene, then either immediately write it, or write it first thing the next morning, I have found that writing the actual scene takes only a few minutes.
Can You Say, “Go FASTER”?
I’m now producing scenes of 1200 to 1500 words (that’s about 4 to 6 pages of text) in 30 to 40 minutes of writing time! That means, if I can squeeze out less than an hour of time a day, I can block out and write 4 to 6 pages of new text.
I’ve pegged my “writing-ometer” to the max. It’s like I traded in my Model T for a Ferrari!
At the rate I’m now writing, and assuming a total ms. length of about 350 to 375 pages (about 95-100,000 words), in maybe 70 or 80 writing sessions of less than an hour each I can produce a full draft of the book!
But what about quality, you ask? Well, I have always found that the faster I write the better I write. Sure, I’ll have to go back and polish–but because I have this story well planned, thoroughly plotted, and such, that polish should not involve major structural changes. It’ll truly be a polish step, not a rewrite-and-tear-your-hair-out process.
An Example of Blocking
What does that blocking look like? Here’s the blocking for a recent scene in which the heroine finds out why a particular guy has been watching her:
Who are you
Don’t you remember me?
Study him…describe…looks fam ( “fam” = “familiar”)
What are you doing here? What were you doing watching me?
Only way to contact you—every try the phone? Explain can’t, trying to reach her, phones can be monitored.
Run a risk
Yeah, you’re deadly.
So why are you contacting me?
Grandpa Elmon–he wants to talk to you.
Why? He was quick enough to throw us out!
You have no idea what happened, do you?
I know enough.
D. shakes head I recommend you don’t tell your mentor about this. Will you come?
He disappears…why not?
These cryptic notes turned into a 5-1/2 page scene filled with detail and rich flow. Because the flow was clear in my head when I started writing, it took only 40 minutes to write those 5-1/2 pages. The scene didn’t flow exactly like this blocking–it’s a creative process, after all. But the basics of that blocking is there. The scene played out more or less like I blocked it.
So next time you sit down to write, take maybe 5 minutes. Think through how the scene will flow. Note conflict. Figure out the hook at the end that sets up what happens next. Scribble all that down on paper and have it next to you as you write that scene. See if that doesn’t make your writing process go a lot faster.
It did for me. And though I’m not producing 10,000 words a day as Rachel Aaron does, I’m also only able to work on my writing maybe an hour a day instead of her 6 or 7 hours a day. But when I do write, my average output is running just under 1500 words/hour. That means, if I were able to write on my story 6 hours a day, I might actually run pretty close to 8,000 to 10,000 words a day.
And that would be bloody amazing!