Two weeks ago I decided I would draft another novel – last Sunday, I finished it at 84590 words.
Long story short: Due to The Covid Year of Our Lord, 2020, I was forced to take some vacation time that I had postponed for ages. When it got to early 2021, and there was still nowhere to go and nothing to do, I figured I’d take two calm and easy weeks at home.
My initial plan was to write a few short stories, submit a couple, and maybe edit some things I have laying around (on top of actually having some time off, going for walks and playing some Nintendo) – but then I though Hang on a minute! I could write something new?!
I tweeted about maybe writing a book, kind of as a joke, then someone took my word for it and challenged me and off I went.
And this is the story of why it’s a great idea to try and write a book fast.
Let me just start of with telling you I’m not a plotter or an outliner. I do what I call discovery writing (also known as pantsing). Which means that I have a basic idea of a story and some characters, and I just sit down and see where it takes me. I do however – because I tend to have loads of idea for stories – keep a document with some notes. I wouldn’t call it an outline, but whenever I think of something I know I want to use for a specific story I jot it down. It could be something like, Main character has x-ray vision, or it could be four paragraphs on the intricate relationship between the villain’s step-siblings who is in reality married to the cousin of the neighbor of the main character.
Anyway, they’re just ideas. When I started the story I wrote this time, I had about two pages worth of bullet points, and if you think that’s outlining, so be it I guess.
I knew the genre and feel of the book, and decided to call it a sci-fi thriller. I predetermined a roughly estimated word count of 80k words, and knew I had to average 6k a day to hit that in 2 weeks.
Then, with my bullet points at hand, I went for it.
Now, I’m used to writing regularly, so I already had habit down. I write every morning, before work. But I usually stick to 500 words on average in a slow period, and between 1000-1500 if I’m writing “a lot.” 2000 if I’m going crazy for a while. So writing 6k a day felt like a big obstacle to surmount. The first day I think I spent all day, and only hit 5k. I was tired, exhausted, but generally happy about how easy it was to kick off my story. The following day I wrote 6k in the same 6-7 hours. The next day, 6k in 5 hours. At my best, I wrote 6k between 07:00 – 10:30 in the morning, then went about enjoying the rest of my vacation.
It, was, glorious!
As you can see, I was writing this at an incredible speed comparatively to how I normally write. I’m sure loads of people write loads of words daily like this, but to me, this was exemplary. My record for daily word count is 8.5k or something, which was when I wrote a 40k novella in 6 days a few years back. It was absolutely exhausting, and I was very glad it only lasted for 6 days.
But now, this time around, it felt different.
I thought maybe my writing would suffer from being forced out this fast. That it would be difficult to keep up the speed, and that whatever I might produce would be incomprehensible nonsense.
In fact, I realized the exact opposite happened.
I write best when I don’t think too much. When I can just let my fingers to the work and not think too much about what comes out. Sure, it takes some editing and revision later, but I feel like my thoughts get in the way if I pay too much attention. It’s one of the reasons I like to write in the mornings before I’m properly awake. My mind stays out of the way, letting my subconscious and my hands to the work. It’s a pretty decent setup.
It was the same with this novel. Once I got into the habit, letting myself disappear in the flow, it was easier than usual, not harder. I could just write and write. There were a couple of days where I struggled to hit the last 1000 of the 6k, but usually I got there without even noticing.
And the best part is, the story seemed to take advantage of it as well.
As a pantser, I’m often left wondering where I should take things. What happens now? What would my MC do in this situation? But when I wrote like this, this amount at this speed, it just came falling out of me. It was easy, and more importantly logical. The story progressed naturally, and looking back, sure I have a new bullet points list of notes that I need to go through, edits that I know I need to implement, but a lot of it actually ended up making sense and falling into place. There are a couple of really cool twists in there that just happened, entirely on their own.
Also – I have always been a chronic underwriter. I can’t for the life of me describe things, so I always have to go back through and revise, adding scenery and landscapes and character descriptions and the things that make a place come to life in people’s minds. But with this method, I seemed to be cured of that. I managed to hit my 80k – actually, even going over it – with ease. I’ve never experienced this before.
The novella I mentioned writing a few years ago, that I also wrote really fast, has gotten me feedback that it feels different. That it might have come well out of being written so fast. I hope it’s the same with this novel.
If you’re a steady, low-word-count writer like me, I would highly recommend trying to write something fast like this, just to see where it takes you. You might surprise yourself. I’m not sure I can say anything to teach you how to do this – but try to not let your thoughts get in the way. That’s what I do.