How to Double Your Hourly Word Count Without Even Trying

Nov 30, 2013

So. For the first time EVAR (I know, I just used EVAR—I’m that excited), I have won NaNoWriMo! Woot woot, yee haw, and a little bit o’ squee!

And actually, I won it a week ago.

You see, there was a plan to go to the in-laws’ place for the entirety of Thanksgiving week. And because my in-laws are the fun kind, not the scary kind, I knew I wouldn’t get my daily 2,000 words in, and thus would not win NaNo. So last Thursday, kind of at the last minute, I decided I would write the final 15.5 thousand words before we left. That gave me three days. It was going to be my highest daily word count ever—I’ve only once breached 4k a day, and that was on the first day of NaNo this year.

On my best day, I can average a little over 1k an hour, which is not too shabby at all. But I have a toddler, a preschooler, a house that needs to be relatively liveable, and dietary restrictions that mean I have to cook pretty much from scratch and don’t have a lot of eat-out options. I knew there just weren’t enough hours in the day for me to achieve 5k a day unless I stayed up really, really late, but I figured three days of that wouldn’t kill me.

And then. I tried a new method. At least, new to me. Ya’ll are probably going to laugh at me and say, “Wait, you mean you’ve never done it before?” I did a timed word sprint. I set the timer on my phone for half an hour, and I had to keep my fingers typing the entire time.

My first half hour, I logged over 1k. That was DOUBLE my usual hourly count. I was thrilled, and did it again. In my first hour, I had 2.5 thousand words. Which meant my usual daily writing time of 2 hours would get me the 5k a day I needed to win NaNo.

And I did. In a series of half hour timed word sprints, I hammered out over 15,000 words, won NaNo, and finished a (very, very) rough draft of my fourth novel. It was a little mind-numbing, and some of those words are undoubtably not among my greatest. But I achieved my goals, discovered a new method, and I’m thrilled to death about it!

So, my friends, I hope your NaNo month or non-NaNo month and Thanksgiving Day or November 28th were all wonderful! And tell me, have you done timed word sprints before? What do you think about them?

The Power of the First Draft

Nov 14, 2013

Usually when we talk about first drafts, we talk about how hard they are. How fast we can write them. (Hey there, NaNoers!) How much they suck. But really, when you think about it, first drafts have incredible power.

A first draft is where your core story idea is at its freshest, where it's still pure without having been touched by critiques and rewrites. It's where your creativity is really at its peak. You plan to go off one way, but then--surprise!--right in the middle of that, something different flows out of your fingers and the story is going somewhere you didn't anticipate. It might be a little chaotic, but its a sort of chaos like the night sky-- the stars are everywhere, but if you look closely, there are patterns in them, and they're beautiful. That first draft is where so much of the magic happens, where so much of you gets poured into a brand new story that's never been told.

On my very last draft of Unhappening, some comments my agent made reminded me of something in my first draft. I went back, reread a section, and realized something important had somehow gotten lost in all my 15 subsequent drafts. I ended up pulling some things from my first draft right back into my final draft, and it solidified major thematic and character points. It made me glad I saved each and every draft of my book separately, so I could look back on the simplicity and chaos and beauty of my first explosion of creativity on this idea and make sure it was still there in the final product.

So, my friends, as we NaNo or don't NaNo, and as we continue to write in general, I think we should stop bagging on that first draft. I usually enjoy rewrites more than the first draft, but I'm remembering now why I also love drafting so much. Do you prefer first drafts or rewrites? Are you working on a first draft or a rewrite now? What are you loving about the magic of either one as you write?

P.S. On a whim, I started tweaking with my blog design...and ended up staying up until 1 am and creating a whole new look. What do you think?

And Now for Something Completely Different

Nov 1, 2013

Happy NaNo Day 1, writing world! Whether you're participating or not (and usually I do not), it's kind of inspiring to see the internet explode with eager writers cheering each other on to hit their 50,000 words every November. I've attempted it twice, and both times had major issues come up that prevented me. This year, I'm DETERMINED to win.

Wait, I hear you say. Didst not thou speak of a book thou wast already composing last month?

Verily, my friends. I got 25,000 words in--around the first plot point--and found myself screeching to a halt. Because I was writing the wrong story. I didn't like the way the plot was going. This story is going to kill me, I swear, and I won't deny it's been frustrating. And so, I am taking a break to let new plot ideas for that idea percolate. What better to do in the meantime than NaNoWriMo, to keep getting my daily words in?

It helps that I got a brilliant flash of inspiration for a new idea just days after pausing on the previous story. While browsing Etsy, I discovered that you can buy love letters. LOVE LETTERS. Real ones, from couples in the 1920s or 30s or whenever. And BAM, story idea. The thing that's odd about it is that it's not a YA story, nor a sci fi, nor a fantasy.

Yes, I made a mock cover. Just for kicks.
My friends (deep breath), I'm delving into romance. I've never done a straight-up romance before, and I'm pretty excited about it. I've spent the last week researching the genre (I've luckily at least read romance before this, so I'm not totally out of the loop), plotting the main points, and building my characters. It's going to be awesome, folks. The story is flowing out
my ears. Already before 8:00 am on this November the first, I've got almost 400 words down.

It seems writing something completely different is just what I need to get me excited about writing, rather than being frustrated about it.

So, my friends, have you ever written something completely different than you're used to? Are you doing NaNo? If you are, buddy me and we can cheer each other on!

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