I’m a fast writer.
Seriously, short stories take me an hour or two (maybe) and a first draft of a novel has yet to take me more than a month and a half (at most). Fast is just the way I’m built. I think fast, talk fast (much to my parent’s confusion), hell I even do dishes fast. I’m impatient to get on with life, so I get’er done. To me this is a blessing, although some might see it as a curse. Once I was in a writing group and one of my group buddies told me that one of my short stories should be revised and revised and that I should work on it for months. I laughed in his face then quit the group (okay so maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as all that, but I still did disagree and eventually leave because the pace of the group was too slow). Fucked if I’m going to work on a short story for months, I have things to do with my life. Don’t you?
Sure you do. We all have things to do with our lives and we want to get on with it.
So you’ve decided to jump into NaNoWriMo have you? You think you can write over 50,000 words in one month? You think you can get a first draft of a novel done in 30 days?
You’re damn right you can.
Here’s a list of my best advice for people who need to write fast this November:
Let go of slow
I feel as though writers have this romantic image of themselves more often than not. Imagine a secluded space, a darkened cafe or a mountain top, or a secret garden or a dusty library. There the writer sits, rolling up their sleeves, dipping quill into ink pot and writing the most romantic words of all time, the words that will make the world shiver with delight and quiver with depth of meaning. There’s writerly advice all over the place suggesting we slow down, take some time and delve into the ‘true spirit of writing’; this pen/pencil/quill in hand idea of what writing really means. I’ve heard writing compared to meditation, a slow unravelling of self onto the page, a long, deliberate exploration of your inner thoughts. Does this sound perfect to you? Do you want to be the hermit writer on the mountaintop slowly penning the perfect prose?
Forget it. You know what’s boring? Meditation. I tried it once and it sucks. There you are sitting alone in some room or some park when the world is getting shit done. And please, the idea of writing by hand not only makes my carpel tunnel flare, but it also makes me want to stab my eyes out with pencils. Who said self exploration has to be slow? Who said good things take time? Life is short folks, embrace speed. Thanks to technology the world is moving faster and faster. You’re keeping up, so why not your writing? Forget the notion of slow and deliberate and open yourself up to the creative chaos that is breathless speed, the kind of speed that doesn’t let you pause and think, or ruminate on your success/failure. The more you think (or over think) the slower you are likely to be because the thoughts and nit picking will slow you down.
Schedule other things in your life, fill it up. The more you have to do, the better because the more you will want to/need to cram into what little time you have left to write.
Also, the act of being out in the world is damn inspiring, walking inspires genius (so does working out – I’m pretty sure physiologically working out is good for your brain). Taking time to let your mind work away in the background can be the very thing you need. Don’t shy away from a social life, be inspired by it instead. The more you force yourself into the writing without breaks or time to think the more clunky your thoughts will become.
Always schedule time to breathe.
I bore easily.
As Ben can attest to, I need constant entertainment.
This is probably one of the main reasons I write so fast, because I get bored of my stories. Not because my stories are boring (at least I hope not) but because there is only so long I like to linger in one spot.
So try getting bored. Get bored of the word you are struggling with and move on. Get bored of the sentence and keep going. Get bored of the chapter, the situation and keep it fresh. The more bored you are, the less you are likely to hang out with the same ideas forever. Moving on is the best remedy for boring situations.
I like to move.
I have changed apartments once a year for the past six or seven years. Each time I move I toss out everything I possibly can (or sell it) and go into the new space fresh. It’s liberating. Stuff is just stuff, it means nothing in the grand scheme of things. This state of mind, this relinquishing of attachment serves me well in writing too.
Words are just words. They can be tossed out or rearranged like furniture, depending on your needs. My ability to throw out things, items, objects, that I may have found important once allows me to quickly cull my words. If a sentence isn’t working, I’ll cut it and start fresh with just the idea. This allows me not only a certain amount of brevity, but a lack of attachment that I find speeds up my entire process.
Note: If you have attachment issues and still want to try relinquishing as an experiment, just save drafts so you can go back and linger over your lost words once you are done NaNoWriMo.
Plan, a little
I’ve been running through the opening line for my NaNoWriMo project for the past week. Just the first line. The rest is broad strokes, open ended but with a vague idea of where I’m going.
I find a little bit of planning goes a long way, but too much can spoil the fun. I’m writing a project with my Mother-in-law during the month of November which necessitated more planning than I’m used to. But I don’t mind. In my head it seems to be working out.
I don’t want to get stuck. I don’t want an insurmountable surprise hurdle half way through.
A basic structure is a good idea and knowing the end is key. Just enough to be ever so slightly bored. To feel as though the story is slightly written, but still be left with some unexpected moments.
Dream big & positive
Before I even start a book I tend to think big.
I like to think about my potential audience, if I can sell it. How it will be appreciated.
I don’t write to be famous or make loads of cash and I certainly don’t think anyone should (because good luck with that). But it’s nice to imagine that some day your work may be read, enjoyed and even awarded, because who doesn’t like to be recognized for their talents and efforts?
I give you full permission to dream big, to imagine your adoring fans and your book/movie deals starring the hottest movie stars you care to imagine. Because who knows? And it’s always nice to have a little extra incentive to get writing.
Fuck your word count goals
Keeping track of work count is fun, but it can also be bad.
You have a story to tell, not a word count to achieve.
When Ben and I work out, Ben knows he has to work out for half an hour at least. He used to watch the clock and as soon as it hit half an hour he would start feeling tired and give up. So he started turning the clock around and magically he went for longer.
I’m not a psychologist, but I reckon that seeing your daily word count goal achieved will make you more likely to slow down once you’ve hit the mark and that’s just not good enough.
Try re-working the goal in your mind here’s some ideas of new ways to frame it that will probably get more out of you:
• Start writing after breakfast and write until you are genuinely hungry for lunch
• Give yourself a chapter goal – a chapter a day for example (especially good if you have a more concrete story outline)
• Write until you can’t physically write anymore
• Write until the idea is complete
I recently heard someone referring to completing their NaNoWriMo goal as ‘winning’ and I thought: fuck yeah. I want to win the hell out of this thing.
I’m very competitive though, some people don’t care as much about winning as I do.
But in my heart I believe everyone cares at least a little about winning. Find that time when you cared about winning something, whether it was the swim meet in grade 3 or the heart of your lover. Find that and remember that feeling. The elation, the high of competition.
Then go for the gold.
Win, win, win!
Open the document
This is the first hard part.
This is the one that gets me sometimes.
If you’re afraid to do it, it will never get done. So just open the damn document and get typing. I promise it isn’t as bad as you think.
So there you have it. Some tips from a fast writer.
Have any more? Let me know below!
P.S. If you actually want to be a writer, don’t use NaNoWriMo as a crutch – read THIS to catch my drift.