Project Get Faster

The awesome Kaylea Cross asked on twitter how I’m working on getting faster. Way back when I started writing fiction, I spent several (okay five) years setting unrealistic goals–50k in a month, 5k a day, 4 hours a day–things that just didn’t take into account my real life. And I’m the kind of person both with life and writing that once I fall off the wagon, it takes me forever to get back on–whether it’s exercise or eating right or keeping the kitchen clean or my WIP. So how to write faster?

So a daily habit is key for me, but it has to be a reasonable habit. When I recommitted to my writing 18 months ago, I made a very simple goal: I would open my WIP each day, even if it was just to write 20 words, it still counted. Later, as I had things out on submission I modified this to be anything directly related to a work counted–a contest entry, query letter, requested edits etc.

And for the first month or two I averaged right around 500 words a day or 15-20k a month. I was pretty pleased with this, but then I made my goal to do a #1k1hr every day that I could or just a #dirtythirty of trying for one focused block of balls-to-the-wall drafting. This increased my output to around 750 words a day or a solid 20k a month.

And I was happy with that for a while, but then I did the Ruby Winter Writing Festival and managed to carve out more tiny blocks of time. My output increased to 1k a day average or 30k a month for drafting and stayed there for most of the Spring and summer, edging into 2k a day average.

But now I want to get faster still. More time isn’t really an option for me right now–I’m already stealing small blocks of time and sacrificing sleep, TV, and relaxation time. I have around 2 hours a day for writing on good days and around 30 minutes on bad days. So that means I have to get more productive with the limited blocks of time I have. My goal is to average 3k a day in fast draft mode–not there yet, but here’s what I’m doing to get faster:

  • #1k1hr is still a cornerstone of my plan. I have to have that push, preferably of others.
  • Once I switched from complete seat-of-the-pants writing to the W plot method of plotting, my output switched from 1k a day to 2k a day easily. The W method lets me still pants much of the book, but I have a clear roadmap of turning points.
  • I’ve now intregated Trello into my W plot–still plotting with post notes first, then switching them to a trello board once I’ve got the structure. Then I can add more notes as they come to me. I might do a separate post on using Trello with writing. 
  • I read this great article on writing 10k a day. There’s no way I’m getting to 10k anytime soon. Not while my kids are young and I’m still working as an adjunct. But, the one tip that resonated with me was to do a brainstorm session before each writing push session. I use trello to do this, quickly creating new cards under whatever plot turning point I’m currently working on. Now, here’s the rub–I don’t use all of what I brainstorm. In fact, I usually deviate pretty far. But the brainstorming gets my writing muscles working and gets me able to hit 2k in 2 hours much more easily, especially when I have to break that into a one hour session and three 20 minute ones. 
  • Timing where I write. Okay, this is the nerd in me, but I wanted to see if where I write made a difference. So I timed several one hour sessions, all of which had the brainstorming beforehand. The results:
        • 1 hour with kids awake but occupied: 500 words
        • 1 hour with kids occupied with DH: 700 words 
        • 1 hour at my desk: 800 words 
        • 1 hour elsewhere in house: 700-1200 words (showing this to be a good block-buster strategy
        • 1 hour with napping kids mid-day and doing a complete internet-free #1k1hr: 1000 words
        • 1 hour late at night with #1k1hr focus: 800 words
        • 1 hour at coffee shop: 1400 words. WOW. For years I’ve heard writers rave about coffeeshop writing, but I really didn’t think it would make a difference. HUGE. Now, given my schedule, a daily coffeeshop session isn’t realistic. But I’m going to start trying for 3 coffee shop sessions a week or so. 
So that’s what’s working for me? What about you? How do you increase your productivity? If there’s interest I might talk more about Trello and the W plot in future blogs!

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