Faster pussycat, write! Write!

Through some friends on the fiction-writing side of things, I found myself directed to the Write Faster Project, meant to get the daily word count up. In the original post, Rachel Aaron gets her daily word count up to around 10k, which in my experience is a bit on the high side of possible in academic writing. (I might be wrong. There are probably people who can do it. I just haven’t yet met them, or else they’re keeping quiet.) I’ve been known to bang out about 5k in a day when a deadline looms, but most of the time a good day is about half that, and if I get a week’s worth of good days in a row, I feel tremendously accomplished. The triangle part makes sense–I can definitely confirm that I get more written when I know what I’m going to say, and don’t have to stop to look up citations every five minutes. (Another thing that has made my writing go faster? Learning to just write [cite] and go back to it later. Sure, it means looking up a lot of citations at the end, which is annoying, but it breaks the flow of writing a good deal less.) And obviousy we write faster about things we like, though there’s a thing about PhDs, with that. Your topic is a bit like part of your family. You love it, you’re devoted to it, you know it intimately–but sometimes you want to lock it in a closet and not look at it for a while. Time? Well–it’s not exactly a revelation that sitting down and doing nothing but writing for several hours will be more productive than writing interrupted by answering emails, poking at Wikipedia, texting a few friends to see if they want to do something distracting, and breaks to watch old episodes of Come Dine With Me, but there we are all the same.

There are also posts from Holly Black, E. Lockhart, Stephanie Kuehnert, and Beth Revis about trying the same thing. Unsurprisingly, it seems to have worked reasonably well in all cases for fiction writers. As I said, I don’t know that it’s anything revolutionary–know what you’re going to say, enjoy what you’re saying, and then sit down and bloody write it–but sometimes putting even simple things in a list format can be useful. For instance, at the postgrad writing school I went to last spring (which I hadn’t held terribly high hopes for, but it meant two days at Gregynog so why not?) a brilliant old professor presented us with such common-sense ideas that we’d genuinely not thought of them. They included:

  • 1. Begin with a ten-minute freewrite to get the words going. (This is so obvious that we did it in high school every day, but seem to have lost the habit.
    2. Stop for the day when the next thing you have to do will be easy. It’s easier to go back to something if you’re not dreading the mountain you have to climb.
    3. Write first, edit later.
  • None of it rocket science, obviously, but all things I’ve found helpful in trying to complete the chapter draft I have promised my tutor will have around the end of next week. But as an experiment, I will pay attention to the knowlege/time/enthusiasm triangle and keep track of the daily word counts, and see if this is something that can be easily applied to academic writing as well as YA fiction.

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