This is my attempt to recreate the blog post I lost a couple of days back, with updates and some tentative conclusions, a few more days into the experiment. And this time, I am not writing the original post directly in WordPress. Luckily — since I wrote it Sunday evening, and while I was working on it, our Internet connection gave up the ghost!
After my Fast Draft fail a while back, I still hadn’t given up on finding a way to write faster more consistently. I once had a 5,000 word day, many years back. That was towards the end of Yseult. I’d been working on the novel off and on for years, but had finally committed to finishing it. I don’t want to give away too much plot-wise for those reading this who might not have read the novel, but it was a very emotion and action-packed scene, and in many ways it surprised me, not the least of which was the way it seemed to write itself.
When I transferred the text from my little Jornada to my desktop at the end of the day and did a word count, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Over 5,000 words. I’ve been chasing that elusive ideal writing day ever since.
I’ve had plenty of friends who are more prolific than I give me brilliant advice like “just write!” or “open a vein” or “how many words can you type in an hour?” None of that was very helpful. While I still have not recreated that 5,000 word day, I am mildly hopeful that April Kihlstrom’s “Book in a Week” class might show me the way to hit that benchmark again someday. (You can sign up for her list where she announces upcoming classes here.) And even though I hit a wall a couple of days ago, and I had two days of my old average of 500 words, followed by a day that was so full of life stuff that I didn’t get any writing done, I’ve managed to do over 9,000 words for the week on A Wasted Land.
I think the important thing about April’s class compared to others is her emphasis on fun and experimentation. Here a short excerpt from her lesson on THE WOW (one of my favorites):
I want you to look at these two writing weeks as a chance to discover amazing things about yourself and your writing and the world in which you go through your day. This is NOT just an exercise in trying to write quickly. It’s an exercise in discovering what happens when you step outside your comfort zone and try new things, take chances, risk making mistakes and try something wonderful and amazing.
I want you to look at the whole experience as a chance to play with all your assumptions about what you can and cannot do—and throw out the ones that no longer serve you.
I hope you rub your hands together with glee every time you sit down to look over a class lesson or an assignment and–from now on–every time you sit down to write.
April is amazingly supportive. Rather than telling participants, THERE ARE NO EXCUSES!, she tells us we’re doing great, and the main thing is to learn the way each one of us can be more productive.
After I hit the wall, where I realized I hadn’t done enough research in the brainstorming phase — mistakenly thinking I knew everything, since I’d already written two books in this world — I took a step back, and tried to figure out what I needed. I realized soon enough that I’d killed off too many characters in Shadow of Stone to be able to pull off the big picture background without some extra work. These books are set in the Dark Ages, which is both a blessing and a curse: on the one hand, I can’t just look things up in history books, but on the other, I have the freedom to pick and choose from legendary and semi-historical figures. But then there’s my own Ph.D.-trained-self getting in the way, who wants to come as close to sixth century reality as possible.
So I just have to go for the WOW. And for former professor, research-addicted me, the WOW just happens to do with all kinds of nifty potential connections between Dark Age figures that I could try to explain fictionally. Ok, as a result of my weakness, I stalled out for a couple of days, but Sunday, after a couple more hours of research, I hit the point where I could take off, and I wrote 1300 words.
I know 1300 words would make a lot of writers only go pphth!, but I’ve reached the point where I realize the only writer I should compare myself to is myself. Yes, I want to increase my daily word count, but the surest way for me to want to jump off a cliff is for me to compare my 500 words a day to someone else’s 10,000. So I will celebrate my 1300, play around with my plot and my characters, and continue to try and find a way to create more using the WOW factor — and my own perfectionist research tendencies.
Luck and skill to all!