If you’re going to write fast, if you’re going to carve yourself out half an hour every day (or simply aim for five hundred words, whichever you choose) then you’re going to have to have a fairly sure grasp of what you’re going to write.
Before you pick up the pen or switch on your computer, you’re going to need to know exactly where your starting point is and exactly where you want to be at the end of that burst of writing.
You have to have it all planned out beforehand, otherwise you’ll soon find yourself crashed in a ditch. After all, even with half an hour stolen from the day that isn’t a long time in the scheme of things, and you want to make it count. You don’t want your story to career around aimlessly.
Unless you’re writing a stream of consciousness, then you obviously have an over-arching plot. You’ll have character arcs, themes you’ll want to play with. You might even have the whole book broken down chapter by chapter.
But now you’ll need more. You’ll need those chapters broken down into small enough sections that you can easily get from beginning to end of that section in your allotted time.
You need a target you can aim for and hit every time.
But don’t worry, this isn’t as finickity or time consuming as it might sound.
All it really it involves good old-fashioned thinking.
And that’s fine.
As if you’re in the midst of writing a book, then you’re going to be thinking about that book a lot of the time (most of the time!) anyway. But as well as thinking about things you’ve already written and need to change, or parts you’re excited to write about in the future, you’re also going to have to think about – and think about quite intently – what the next half hour’s writing is going to bring you.
Fortunately, as it’s thinking, it’s something you can do at the same time as other tasks. You can think in downtime at your job or when you walk out to get lunch. Obviously you’ve got to give over a huge amount of headspace to write a book anyway, so you should be able to manage it.
Then when you finish your half an hour’s writing that day, when you’ve got to the point you wanted to reach, you have to move immediately on to thinking about what you want to achieve in the next half hour. Where you want to get to, what you want do. As the days go on this will become easier to do, you’ll even conjure up sentences you want to write, shape paragraphs in your head.
I tend to now end one burst of writing by scribbling down the first couple of sentences of the next section along. So, they’re fixed in my head, so I’m already working on it.
As when you get into this habit, over time you’ll find that when you sit down for your half an hour a lot of the writing is done. You already have mapped in your head what you want to write and you sit down and write it. You’re not flailing around in the dark.
I’ll try to go into further detail next week, but writing for half an hour a day and making it count means you have to plan that half hour out. But that’s fine as it just requires spending some more time in one’s own head, and for a writer that’s pretty much our favourite place to be, isn’t it?
Over the last year I’ve taught myself how to write fast, and I’m trying to pass on these lessons. If there’s any questions you want to ask, just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to address it.
In the meantime here are my thoughts/lessons from the previous weeks:
How to write quickly 1