Tag Archives: fast draft

Slowly increasing my word count, the natural way

I wrote a couple of days ago about how I intend to experiment with myself, see if I can increase my writing speed a bit. I started this week, and while I only had two days to test some new techniques, the first couple of things I’ve tried seem to be showing results. (Tuesday was taken up with grandmother duties, as well as the Big Project redux, some files that had to be redone.)

I’ve taken several fast writing courses over the years, have participated in several Nanowrimos, and while they might have increased my output temporarily, none of them ever resulted in a lasting change in my daily word count. What all of those courses and venues have in common is that they all insist that you can’t look back, you have to keep writing forward, or else you will end up in editing mode, which will kill your creativity.

Recently, there were a couple of threads on the Kindle Boards started by writers with amazing daily word counts, one of them being the lovely and talented Elle Casey, an expat like me. And to my amazement, this woman who regularly writes between 5,000 and 10,000 words a day, goes back and fixes her chapters before she moves on:

I edit as I go, re-editing previous chapters on average of 3 times before moving on to the next. My first draft is therefore very close to final draft quality.

I found that single point amazingly liberating. One of the things that tends to kill any fast writing project I start is the idea that I can’t go back and fix things. I tend to write pretty research intensive books and short stories, and I feel like, if I don’t get the research right, I just might be taking the book down a dead end and I won’t notice until I get there. Most fast-writing techniques won’t allow me to stop and research — I’m not supposed to do that until the end of the book.

But here is a writer who puts out a book a month, saying she edits as she goes. So what isn’t to stop me from editing — and researching — as I go?

So I decided to start with myself, try to figure what my best writing days have in common. My single best writing day was a 5,000 word day when I wrote the climactic scenes of Yseult. Another really good day was when I wrote my short story “Mars: A Traveler’s Guide” (which then went on to be nominated for the Nebula Award) in one day. Those two memorable writing sessions had one thing in common: I knew what I was going to write that day. For “Mars” I had a pile of research notes, I’d figured out all the things that had to happen to create my Catch 22 situation, all I had to do was put them in fictional form. For Yseult, my ideas for those last scenes were more vague, but I knew where I was, I knew the characters inside and out, and I had death and revenge to carry me forward.

Another great resource helped me to figure out the first couple of steps of my self-experiment, Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. She mentions that an integral part of increasing her writing speed was “Know What You’re Writing Before You Write It” — given my own experience, obviously a method that is much closer to my own creative nature than the just-keep-moving-forward school.

So what and how am I doing?

I’m only starting with a couple of changes to my writing routine at a time, testing what works, as it were. Here are the changes I made in the last couple of days:

– No Internet when writing the first draft of a scene.

– Before writing the scene, I note in longhand in a spiral notebook what I want the scene to accomplish and the most important things that are going to happen. Then I don’t waste a lot of time sitting there, wondering what the h@ll I could possibly do with my characters now.

– When the first draft of a scene is finished, get out research books and turn Internet back on and flesh out the things I skipped. (Along with basic editing.)

These relatively simple changes to my writing routine have resulted in 2800 new words on A Wasted Land (Book III in The Pendragon Chronicles) in two two-hour writing sessions. I know I’m not setting any records with that output, but here’s the really important part:

– My average output for years has been between 500 and 1000 words a day (when I’m lucky).

– These changes were completely painless.

– They felt natural.

– I got a huge kick out of writing this way.

– I’m happy with what I wrote, and I wasn’t just writing to reach some arbitrary word count goal. I had a block of time to write, and I stopped when that block of time was over.

There are a few more things on my list of strategies to try. I’m particularly curious to see what I can achieve with this method (and any others I may still implement) if I have a few more hours to write at my disposal.

It’s too early to draw many conclusions, but I think it’s safe to say that with a little experimentation, you just might achieve more than you think. Especially if you go with what feels natural to you as a writer.

Another Round of Words: Fast draft fail and a new project

This past week, I gave up on the fast draft course I was taking. But since the course instructor was mostly absent, it wasn’t much of a loss, other than the thirty-five dollars I paid for it. I’d been hoping for some regular tips and encouragement on increasing writing speed and outwitting the editor; instead, we were all on our own, posting our daily page counts and wondering where the instructor was.

But everything is a learning experience, and I’m hoping I can try some fast draft writing on my own after Christmas, this time using the tips someone in the course posted from Rachel Aaron’s site that I’ve mentioned before.

I think another problem was that I may not have done enough brainstorming and research before I started writing Ygerna’s story. I realize that one of the principles of the fast draft method is not to look things up while you’re writing. Instead, you make a note of whatever it is you need to add later and just barrel ahead. But by the time I quit, it felt like every other sentence was a note to myself about something I either had to research or look up in the other two books to make sure I have everything consistent.

As a result, I was beginning to feel frustrated with the project. So I put it aside, temporarily, and now I am working on a novella / short novel version of short story I wrote many years ago, City of Glass. A lot of critique partners had told me that it didn’t work as a story, that it wanted to be longer, but I didn’t want to believe them. I always have so many projects going at any given time, after all. But after I decided to put Ygerna on a back burner for a while, I was going through my list of potential projects, and this one suddenly spoke to me. It’s a story about a glass-maker on Murano who makes a prince a glass slipper — and ends up with a marriage proposal. But since she has no interest in marrying some conceited noble, she has to figure out a way of getting out of the situation. It doesn’t help that the glass-makers of Murano are forbidden to leave Venice, for fear they might share trade secrets …

And now the writing is flowing again. I’m treating the old short story like an extended outline, adding all the parts all my writing friends said were missing, deepening the characterization, adding more detail. Until now, this version is coming in at about three times as long as the original story. And I’m having fun again!

Once I’m done with City of Glass, I’ll get back to Ygerna, but I don’t think I’ll experiment with fast drafting on that one anymore. The notes on the things I need to look up are often details I really need to know to continue with the story, not just window-dressing. TI will have to allow Ygerna whatever time it needs.

I hope everyone is winding up the year in style and has plenty of successes to look back on!

First sales on Kobo and B&N; and some more free books

As of yesterday, my first books are now live on Kobo:

Yseult: A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur on Kobo

Never Ever After: Three Short Stories on Kobo

And, amazingly enough, I have already made my first sales on both Kobo and B&N. A whopping one book each, but hey — Never Ever After has only sold about a dozen copies total in the last few months on Amazon. Ever since I got the review stating that the writing was like that of a middle-schooler, the sales of that little collection have dried up completely. *shrug* So don’t let anyone tell you a single one star review won’t affect your sales — from this side of the bench, it sure looks like it does.

Also, both of my “Looking Through Lace” books are free today, the original novella that was published in Asimov’s many years ago, as well as the continuation of the story, Beyond the Waters of the World. BTWW is only free today, but Looking Through Lace will be free for a few more days. Pick them up if you don’t have them yet and are so inclined!

So some successes there, but I have to admit to an Epic Fail regarding Fast Draft. Until now, I haven’t even come close to the 20 pages a day, nor have I achieved the “magic” that is supposed to come with high productivity. I guess that’s a given, since I never got to the high productivity to start with. Perhaps it was a mistake to try something like that with both a hospital visit scheduled and the holidays (and the attendant stress) coming up. I think some time in the new year I will try a week of fast writing on my own, perhaps trying to implement Rachel Aaron’s method.

Anyway, back to wrapping presents for me. 🙂

The challenge of becoming visible as an indie — and an interview

As anyone knows who’s stuck their toes in the self-publishing waters, one of the biggest challenges facing indie authors is getting noticed. So that beautiful tree you cultivated fell with a satisfying crash? But if no one is there to hear it … you get the idea.

It’s the same thing when you throw your brilliant work of staggering genius out into the pond of all the other newly-minted indie authors — and the pond is so full, it doesn’t make a ripple, since there’s no water left.

When I first published Yseult in January 2012, KDP Select was a totally new element thrown into the self-publishing mix, and having a good free run with one of your titles was enough to give sales a push for weeks. Now, not only is it getting harder and harder to have a successful free run, the sales post-freebie are less and not lasting as long. KDP Select is no longer enough to draw attention to your books.

Back when I first started out, I did try a few other things. I wrote to review sites to try to get them to pick up my books, (without success) I did interviews and guest posts on other writers’ blogs, all those things they tell you to do to get the word out about you and your books. But the only thing that seemed to have an effect on sales was a successful free run. And now that isn’t even working anymore.

So how is an independent author supposed to become visible?

One of the things I’ve had some success with are group promos. I talked about that elsewhere, and I still think it’s one of the ways authors can help each other out and reach a larger audience. Which is why I’m participating in another one this month: Kindle Books on Fire. Check it out! If you have a US address, you might even win a new Kindle Fire!

Another thing I’ve been experimenting with more recently is paid advertising. I haven’t had the greatest results until now, but on Lindsay Buroker’s blog recently, she recommended BookBub, which sends targeted emails to readers of specific genres. Their list of fantasy subscribers is over 70,000. (BTW, if you’re an indie author or are considering going that route, I highly recommend subscribing to Lindsay’s blog. She shares a lot of useful information about her own self-publishing experience, and I’ve learned a lot from her posts.)

After reading about Lindsay’s experience with a 99c discounted book, I decided to try BookBub with a freebie of Shadow of Stone. The ad prices are staggered according to genre and the discounted price at which the book is being offered; an ad in the fantasy category for a free book right now is $45. They seem to only take one book a day per genre, however, so competition is steep. I think I got in because of my award nominations in traditional publishing, since Shadow of Stone still only has ten reviews. They also only take full length books, according to their guidelines, at least 50,000 words.

Anyway, results. Within hours, I’d recouped the money I spent on the ad — in sales of the companion novel, Yseult. Of course, this only works if you have books in a series. I saw a tiny increase in sales of some of my other books that are not part of The Pendragon Chronicles, but not much. It’s looking like the bump in sales of Shadow of Stone after the freebie would also have covered the cost of the ad. Yesterday, I had 9 sales and 13 borrows on Shadow of Stone. So I’m definitely going to try Bookbub again, as long as they will give me a listing, that is. 🙂

I also wanted to point anyone who might be interested in the direction of an interview with me up on the OWW workshop. There I mostly talk about my decision to go indie, but craft and theme as well. (The interview is about two-thirds down in the newsletter.)

As to recent writing progress: I’ve been slowed down a bit by a cold, and the fact that the colonoscopy I did this week is having some unpleasant aftereffects. (The results of the exam were negative, btw, which means that’s good for me.) But despite that, with the inspiration of Fast Draft, I’ve gotten 38 pages written on Ygerna this week, my Pendragon Chronicles prequel. That’s nowhere near the 20 pages a day we’re supposed to be doing, but I’m quite happy with it. Hopefully once health issues clear up, I can increase that.

I wish everyone a great week!

Experimenting with Fast Draft — and another free ebook

Since my progress this month during Nanowrimo has been less than stellar, when I heard that Candace Havens was doing her Fast Draft and Revision Hell course again (this time entitled “The Book in a Month Club”), I jumped at the chance. I’ve read about this course on other folks’ blogs before, and I’ve really wanted to give it a shot, but it seemed that every time it was offered, I had conflicts. I have conflicts this time too, but I decided to go for it anyway.

The basic idea is to send the internal editor for a hike and write twenty pages a day. That sounds like quite a challenge, since an exceptional day for me is when I write six pages. I’m a trained literary critic, with a Ph.D. in English Literature, and my internal critic can be a pretty stubborn gal. But this time, I bribed her with a trip to Thailand, which has got to be nicer than Central Europe right now. She’s still dropping me nagging notes on occasion, but until now, the writing is going quite well. The first day, Monday, I wrote six pages, the second day eight, and today I’m shooting for ten. I realize that’s still very far removed from twenty, but anyone who reads this blog on a semi-regular basis knows that I’m all about writers not beating themselves up. There are enough people out there will to do that for us. If we can’t learn to be our own best cheering squad, facing all the rejection and negative feedback is going to be pretty tough.

Anyway, back to Fast Draft. My accepting attitude of my own limitations as a writer (and a human being *g*) doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to take on new challenges, even if they sound absolutely impossible. But I’m also in favor of being realistic about those challenges. If I can get a single twenty page day out of this exercise, I will thrilled. It’s all about learning new habits, after all, and even one 20-page day will be something completely new for me. I did get close once, while I was writing Yseult. It was a showdown scene near the end of the book, full of tension and emotion, and it practically wrote itself. By the end of the day, when I checked my word count, I was amazed to realize that I had produced 18 pages, without even really trying.

It has never happened again. 🙂

So I’m trying to learn how to make it happen a little more often. One of the other gals in the Fast Draft loop pointed us in the direction of a great blog post, “How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day.” (That, btw, is twice the wordcount I’m shooting for with Fast Draft! *g*) In that post, Rachel points out that one of the tricks of writing more is Enthusiasm. Duh, right? But how often do we find ourselves working on a scene we think has to be there because we need that transition, or we have to introduce that character, or we read somewhere that our protagonist has to cross the first threshold — and we’re just bored with the whole thing? I don’t know about you, but I know that I’ve ended up during the rewriting phase trashing a lot of those scenes.

The lovely lesson is, if it doesn’t excite you, or you can’t find a way to make it excite you, don’t write it. 🙂

Rachel says a lot more wonderful, wise stuff, and I strongly recommend that everyone head over there and read the post. I may even buy the corresponding ebook, myself.

Also, Shadow of Stone is free today and tomorrow, November 28-29. If you don’t have it yet, and you like historical fantasy, head on over to Amazon and get yourself a copy! I will probably be taking it out of KDP Select after this run. Before Christmas, I need to take some time out from Fast Draft and get a couple of my books up for B&N and Kobo. Not to mention finally formatting them for hard copy, sigh. I love the independence of ebooks, but I’m not a big fan of all the extra work …