‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.’
I don’t know who said the above quote, but quite frankly it’s genius. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I finished my second novel on Christmas Eve 2012. It had taken roughly two-and-a-half years to write. Now for 6 months of that time I didn’t write at all because I was recovering from an illness, but in reality a lot of the other two years was taken up by being blocked. Writer’s block, most people say, doesn’t exist but something was certainly slowing me down.
When I looked back over the time it took to write the novel, I realised a big part of this was down to planning – or the lack of it. I’d starting writing the book with a vague idea of what happened, but without any structure or plan written down. I thought it was because I was a ‘pantser’ – someone who prefers to fly by the seat of their pants – because when I’d previously tried to plan I ended up blocked because I knew what was going to happen in the book and perhaps I just didn’t like what I saw. But instead of trying to refine the plan, I threw it away and tried to continue flying by the seat of my pants. I got to the end of the book, but if I want to make a business of writing and publishing books, I needed to go back to the drawing board and develop a way of better organising my writing.
I’d decided to give over January this year to working on refining my writing process, while I took a break following the sprint finish of Book Two. I bought ‘2K to 10K’ by Rachel Aaron on a recommendation from Joanna Penn and it was a real eye opener. The first section of the book focuses on Rachel’s account of how she managed to increase her word count to 10,000 words a day (on several occasions) and completed a 100,000 word novel in about 2 weeks. Now, I’m not convinced about the effectiveness of writing so many words so quickly (sorry Rachel!) but then maybe that’s slightly envy on my part because Rachel writes 6 hours a day, while I get a maximum of an hour a day to write outside my day job. But when you break down Rachel’s theory – the triangle – it really works. She suggests that there are 3 strands to helping improve writing speed; knowledge, time and enthusiasm. And in this Rachel has a really good point – if you know what you’re supposed to be writing (i.e. have a plan), are writing at your most productive time of day and are bursting with enthusiasm for your story, it will flow from your fingers.
At present I’m successfully managing 2 sides of the triangle but unfortunately my most productive writing time occurs during my working day. However, I’m sticking to my plan of writing 2,500 words a week and so far it’s working. During February I wrote about 11,500 words which for me is amazing. So clearly 2 out of 3 aint bad as the song goes. March has been a tricky month and I haven’t really written due to personal circumstances, but in general I’ve embraced this change and am doing things differently so hopefully my end result will be a much better written story, finished much more quickly. I’m relatively confident I can meet my target, so thanks Rachel for the advice. I may never hit 10k a day in words but it’s certainly boosted my weekly word count!
What ways have you found for increasing your productivity? Do you find that you have a more productive time of day than any other? Please let me know your thoughts.