Monday, November 7, 2011

In honor of NaNoWriMo, how to write like lightning

Those of you who know me well know that I am known for writing, well, I guess you could say . . . quickly? I hear a lot of lamenting when people find this out about me. "Why can't I write that fast?"

Well, firstly, don't despair, my more-normally-paced writer-friends. Your way ensures far fewer revisions, I'm certain. Your way also probably allows you to have a normal life among the chaos of the ever-present story. Mine doesn't (sort of).

There are pros and cons to every writing style, but I thought that in honor of NaNoWriMo I'd share a few tips on how to write like me-- that is, so ridiculously fast you're embarrassed to share exactly how fast. Because I am embarrassed. I always feel that when people see how fast I wrote something they'll just judge what I wrote as utter crap-- and with some reason.

But, without further ado, although some sarcasm, a bit of sincerity, and a touch of aplomb, here's how to write with lightning speed:

1.) Let go of everything but the book.

Okay, so I'm starting with a doozie. Basically, the number one thing that helps me write so fast is not something I can really pass on to anyone. But please promise me you'll keep reading, because the rest of the tips WILL help you write fastER, even if you don't wind up writing quite like me.

The biggest reason I write so fast is because I get completely obsessed with my story. I think about it when I'm falling asleep. I think about it when I wake up. I think about it in the shower, on my reeeeeaaaaaallllly long drive to and from work, when I'm bored in class, and even when there's a cheetah staring me in the face. I think about it in asides when I'm talking to my husband. "Speaking of timing belts, I bet a belt would be a good plot device in this scene."

I carry a notebook with me wherever I go to write down little notes and thoughts that come to me during the day. I get a new notebook every time I start a new project, so each one has its very own place. This lets me get as messy with my notes as I want because no matter which page I scrawl them on or how legible they are, they all go with the same project.

And I write and write and write in every. free. moment. I have, often much to the annoyance of my husband, friends, mother, in-laws, and animals.

This obsession is the number one thing that helps me write so quickly. I wish I could pass it off to you because believe me, sometimes I don't want it. But there are some things you can do to help yourself.

And now for a completely mechanically-sound tip that hopefully doesn't make me sound like a vain jackass:

2.) Learn to type faster.

Seriously. I'm not judging you on your typing skills, but increasing the speed that you can get the words out of your head and onto (virtual) paper will make a huge difference. Find a free online typing game and play it to improve your words per minute, and you'll see an improvement in how fast you write, too. I have a bit of an innate advantage here because I play the piano, and have since a young age, which I think has helped my typing immensely. But typing games? Whole 'nother level. Even if you already type pretty fast, it can never hurt to learn to do something faster, right?

3.) Know where you're going, even if you only know the next step.

So there's a whole extra blog post out of this one, but I will say that I've recently been converted to outlining. (I know, I know... GROAN). I'm not saying YOU need to outline, but-- I'll share a secret with you. I write slowly sometimes, too. I call these my writer's block phases, where I may not touch my WIPs for days, weeks, or even months. And it's always a plot problem that stops me. If I don't know where I'm going next, I can't write. Sometimes it's enough to let the story just capture me and sweep me away, but with major plot points, it's better to know how the dots connect at least a few steps ahead of where you are.

Once you know where you're going, all you have to do is write yourself there.

And now to completely contradict myself (but it will make sense, I swear):

4.) Let the story sweep you away.

No matter what you're writing, write it because you want to. Because it speaks to you. Because something there makes you feel all tingly and giddy inside when you think about it, because your sweet old neighbor asked you to, because you know you have the words to shape and mold and twist into something beautiful about beautiful things. This is the closest I can get to passing my obsession on to you. Let the story, whether you're excited about it or not, speak to you and pull you in. Something there is just for you-- something needs YOU to tell it. So tell it.

The second novel I wrote was a story that came to me in a very weird way, during a very weird time. When the idea first hit me, I thought, "Oh, that would make a great book. Someone should write that." But I didn't think I was "qualified" to write the story. I thought people would think I was crazy, writing that story.

Except no one else was going to write it. So I did. And I am so glad I did, because writing that first terrifying story that wouldn't leave me alone (my first novel had been very safe), opened me up to a whole world of possibility.

5.) And finally, let go of perfection.

You know what? I'm going to go out on a limb here and act like I am someone that anyone listens to. And I give you, yes-- YOU-- permission to let go of perfection. Use adverbs. Mix tenses. Forget you're in first/ second/ third person and mix them all up. Stick in a prologue. Heck, have three prologues. Start every sentence with a character's name. Forget dialogue tags. Use the same word six times in a paragraph-- or a sentence.

In other words, throw all the rules we're all so used to following out the window and just WRITE for once. Let the story pour out of you, messy and glorious. You know why?

You can always fix that stuff later. (Isn't that what December is for?) (Somewhere, four hundred literary agents all just reached for the scotch).

Let it out, my friends. In public, if you must. Let it all come out.

*I am not responsible for any arrests and/ or criminal records that may result from this blog post.

**I am also not responsible for any carpal tunnel. Ow my wrists hurt.

Got questions? Ask and I'll answer in the comments.


Queen 'Bina said...

Don't feel ashamed! Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a fever of writing in just a few days. His wife told him- yeah, that was good, but you totally missed the point. He threw the whole thing in the fire and started over. Ten days later he had a masterpiece. From conception to binding, it took him ten weeks to create that story.
Thanks for sharing your tips. I think I'll go look for some typing games :-D

K. Marie Criddle said...

Seriously, this was a LOT of what I needed. Thank you! I'm trying very hard to let go of perfection (and then subsequently let go of my draft for beta readers because of its imperfection) but I'll get there. Awesome post...thank you!!

L. T. Host said...

Queen 'Bina-- thanks so much for sharing that story. I'd never heard it before, but it's awesome! I hope you found some good ones :)

Marie-- I will admit, I sort of wrote this post with you in mind. *hugs*