Tuesday, August 28, 2012

10k a day?

When I first heard about Rachel Aaron's tips for writing 10,000 words a day (via a link on Nova Ren Suma's blog), I was a bit squeamish. I worry that there's been too much pressure on writers to churn out lots of words and lots of books and get faster and faster. And if you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I'm not much of a word-count tracker. I tend to write a rough draft in a short-to-moderate amount of time, and then spend a much longer time revising, revising, revising. With such a process, word count isn't a useful goal for me most of the time. Only during that brief initial phase--where I spend about 10% of my writing time--do I add large numbers of new words to a project. The rest of the time, I'm reworking existing words, and maybe adding a few hundred or a couple thousand here and there.

But I'm intrigued by the idea of someone increasing her productivity so much, and I decided to read the article before scoffing (always a good practice). And, as it turns out, it's a very sane and sensible article. It's not about just trying to crank out words; it's mostly about tapping into our existing strengths. In fact, several of the techniques are aimed at increasing productivity without increasing the total time we spend writing.

I had already discovered a few of these for myself: jotting ideas for the next scene as a way to leave myself a reentry point when I break for the day; writing at the times of day when I'm most productive; writing in longer sessions when I'm first-drafting and it takes more brain energy to stay immersed in the world I'm building; skipping boring scenes.

Ms. Aaron also talks about collecting actual data on your writing process so that you can see what really works for you. This is something I haven't done because I'm not trying to systematically increase my output, but it makes sense.

By far the most difficult thing for me to do is "Know what you're writing before you write it." It's a concept I agree with, and it works when I can do it, but an awful big chunk of my writing process involves staring at the wall, or taking a walk, or washing my hair, while that knowledge bubbles up from the depths of my brain. Where does this story, or this scene, need to go next? is a question I'm not often quick to answer. Sometimes, in a rush, I try to force an answer, and that typically ends with me yanking out whole chapters and plotlines to rewrite them, much the way a knitter might rip out rows of badly executed stitches.

It's okay, though. One other benefit of looking at our process--whether through Rachel Aaron's suggestions or any others--is that we learn what works for us and what doesn't. We learn which parts of our process we need to continue, support, encourage, and make room for. We learn which tools just don't fit us. My favorite part of Ms. Aaron's article is that she sounds excited about her writing; she's having fun. Maybe some of her tips will work for you; maybe not. Whatever works.

10 comments:

  1. I'm planning to re-read that blog article once I get back to writing my novel with proper writing sessions. (Currently, I'm writing short stories during lulls at school.)

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    1. She gives some interesting ways to study one's own process.

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  2. I think I'll stick with my 1,000 words a day. 10,000 makes me want to hurl ... then again, if I didn't have my daughter at home and had all day to just write uninterrupted, I could probably do it for a short period of time. I like how you point out in her article that she makes it clear you have to what works for you. It's something I have focused on lately, figuring out what works for me not only in my writing, but blogging, house chores, etc. It's nice for once not to give a darn what works for others. Giving myself permission to do laundry in 8-load cycles instead of once a day or whatever, is quite freeing! Even if I'm buried in laundry for two days. It makes a fun mountain for my six-year-old to jump into. :)

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    1. "It's nice for once not to give a darn what works for others."

      Exactly. I always look at my blog as featuring possibilities rather than instructions.

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  3. I love that you mentioned how much fun Ms. Aarons is having. That for me is the key. If it's joyful do it. If it's not, don't.

    Lovely post.

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  4. Funny you should mention this article now. I'm in the middle of plotting a novel because of it. I've always been a make-it-up-as-you-go kind of writer, but the idea of dramatically increasing my output without putting in extra time is very appealing. So I figured I should give it a go. (I've tried to plot things out first before, but always got too excited and started writing before I'd finished plotting! I'm trying to be more disciplined this time.)

    One thing I'm finding very helpful is her "don't write boring scenes" maxim. Sounds silly, doesn't it? As if anyone sets out to write boring scenes! And yet, as I go through the outline, I'm finding scenes that seem "necessary" but I just don't feel excited about writing. So they're getting the chop and I'm having to come up with better ways of getting the necessary information across. I know it's hardly a new concept, but the beauty is in finding out my scenes are boring before I've gone to the trouble of writing them!

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    1. Good luck!

      Yes, a misconception is that we have to show every step along the way from Point A to Point Z. Whereas, we only need to show the most interesting parts, and while the connections have to be clear, they don't all have to be fully witnessed by the reader.

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    2. "LIfe with all the drama and excitement, and none of the toothbrushing" to misquote someone (Holly Lisle, I think).

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