Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Getting the Writing Done

I've been floundering a bit lately. I want so hardcore to finish the first draft of Book 2 by the end of September. I want to be able to send it to readers, get ideas, and revise at least once before sending it on to my agent and editor.

But to do that, I need to be more productive. MUCH more productive. I can only say that for me, with my schedule, it was the right decision to focus on writing full time--the days of the week seem to fly by, leaving me in the dust as I scramble to type faster. Still, a lot of the writing I'm doing now isn't on the draft. Business letters, compiling tax information (I'm a business now! Didn't you see my cards?), writing copy for my soon-to-be-redone website (can't *wait* to show that off to you), and sekkrit projects are sucking the days away.

For a while there, I was making good progress through racing. Some of you may have seen me on Twitter, word racing with Jodi Meadows, Corinne Duyvis, and Authoress Anonymous. We all happened to be on Twitter at the same time one night, complaining about word counts, and one of them (eep! can't remember which!) had the idea for word races. The concept is simple: we all get on Google Chat, and set a time--say, 12:00--and race for 30 minutes. No internet, no email, no Twitter--only write solidly for 30 minutes. At the end of 30 minutes, we get back on chat, say how many words we've each written, relax for a bit, chatting. Then we do it all over again for 30 more minutes.

This works great for me: it's a challenge, but it also makes me focus--and want to focus--on writing for a set time. It's way too easy for me to hit the end of a paragraph and check Twitter, hit the end of a page and check email, hit the end of a chapter and quit. But if I'm racing and hit the end of something in the middle of the race, I plow straight through to the next paragraph, page, or chapter.

But late last week, I was racing with Corinne and hit a wall. A big, giant wall. I'd plowed through about 900 words in a race...and none of those 900 words were right. I'd gone off the path and started writing something that didn't fit with the book, but because of the race I kept writing what was wrong. So I pulled out of the race.

And promptly quit writing for a week.

Now, I didn't quit entirely. I used this time to organize my tax records, write website copy, work with my new website designer, and work on the sekkrit project. But I was very purposefully ignoring my book. We were not on speaking terms.

Friday, I got so disgusted with myself I decided to call a truce with the book. So, instead of racing through to the end, I lay in bed with a notebook and brainstormed how to backtrack and get back on the path. I came up with an idea that may work.

But I'm not going to race through it. Racing is good if you know what needs to happen, you're just lazy about getting there. Some people like to write fast, ascribing to the crappy first draft philosophy, but although I'm a pantser, not a plotter, I also can't just leave a scene in the book that I know won't work and move on. I have to fix the bad before I can write the next scene.

Since this is going to require a bit of surgery--slice open a chapter and transplant a failing scene with a working one--I don't want to call on my racing partners. Instead, I'm going to use a trick that PJ Hoover has ascribed to for a long time, one that I've ignored: the egg timer. PJ's idea is basically to set a timer and focus entirely on writing until the timer's done. She's gotten over 9000 words in a week using this method. It's basically the same concept as word races...you're just racing with yourself.

So...let's do a mini-live-blog and see how it goes! [This is, btw, not quite a live-blog...this was my Friday progress, recorded live-blog style :) ]

Session One: 30 Minutes
Beginning Word Count: 42,153 (after cutting the crappy words)
Ending Word Count: 42,972
Total Words: 819
Thoughts: It's harder to focus when racing by myself than with others. My timer is my cell phone...and it pops up to tell me when I have a new email. I looked twice at email--but just to see who had emailed, I didn't open it.

I stopped mid-sentence as soon as the timer went off--and I'm glad I was mid-sentence. That will make it easier for me to start back again. I set the timer for a 15 minute break.

Session Two: 30 Minutes
Beginning Word Count: 42,972

Ending Word Count: 43,938
Total Words: 966
Total Words for the Day: 1,785

Thoughts: Love this progress. Brainstorming before this gives me a general idea of what I want for a few chapters more. After that, I may have to stop and brainstorm again. But so far, that 1,785 more words than I had before, for an hour's work and a fifteen minute break.

Also: about ten minutes in, I finished one chapter. I wanted to stop there and take a break, but I had 20 more minutes on the timer, so pushed through. Now I've stopped half-way into the next chapter, and I want to finish the chapter.

Which is a perfect time to break for lunch...

...back from lunch! Quicker than I normally would have--I turned the TV off before the end of the show because I'd left off mid-chapter.

Session Three: 30 Minutes
Beginning Word Count: 43,938
Ending Word Count: 44,829
Total Words: 891
Total Words for the Day: 2,676

Thoughts: Not bad. Ending in the middle chapter again. I'm going to take a 15 minute internet break now as a reward.

Session Three: 30 Minutes
Beginning Word Count: 44,829
Ending Word Count: 46,024
Total Words: 1,195
Total Words for the Day: 3,871

Thoughts: Guys, I did the math on this twice. Is that number for real? I still doubt myself on that one...wow. WOW. I got to a really tense scene, so the writing was very fast--so fast I had to pause to crack my knuckles!

Overall, I think this experiment went well--a lot of writing done in a short amount of time due to specific focus. I'm going to try again soon and see if I can replicate the results...or improve on them!


PJ Hoover said...

What great progress! I owe you an email I know and will deliver today! :)

Katie Anderson said...

Beth, this sounds great! If you have a Mac, Freedom is nice too. It shuts off your internet for as long as you set it's timer. But it's the same theory, really.

Good luck! I feel your pain. UGH

Candyland said...

Amazing! I will HAVE to try this!!!

Laura Pauling said...

I love those tense scenes when the writing flies by! congrats on getting so much done and I'm glad you're talking to your wip again. :)

Lynsey Newton said...

I think the big secret is to get off the internet,this is what I'm discovering anyway! LOL

Can't wait to see your new website, I'm sure it's going to be gorgeous and have I told you how much I'm looking forward to reading Across the Universe? ;)

Have you got a countdown timer yet?

Carolyn V. said...

That's great progress Beth. =)

Erik said...

Put the Power widget on your phone's homescreen. You can turn off syncing there, so it won't alert you about emails.

Me, I fill up pages. If I had to fill up time, I'd let my mind wander.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Yay for writing progress! The thing my two-week blog-cation taught me the most: I have to block out time to write, wherein there is no blog-email-twitter checking. Then I really get humming...!

Good luck on more words! :)

Colene Murphy said...

WOW. congrats! that is a fantastic idea too. Will have to try it!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Thanks for the peek, Beth. I've been stuck on two stanzas this past week (I'm in picture book mode right now). No racing possible. Ugh.

Sara Kankowski DeSabato said...

This is a really great idea for being able to focus and get words down. I have the same problem--I sit up in my office and just stare at things. Sometimes it's the internet, sometimes it's just the bookshelves. My husband has even agreed to cook dinner so I can have more writing time, but it usually turns into staring time.

I'm definitely going to start using this one!

Elizabeth Briggs said...

I use the kitchen timer method of writing too, and it is SO helpful. Glad it worked for you.

I should start doing it every night... you have reminded me how much more I could be writing.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I love how you keep us updated on your methods and progress. So interesting! I suppose by the big wall you hit, that the outline didn't work?

Corinne said...

Awww, I wish I were still around to race with you!! Maybe we can figure out how to do editing races later on <3

Heather Zundel said...

This is awesome. Can I say how much I love this idea? You should custom order a spaceship egg timer. They've got to have them somewhere.

Krispy said...

The egg timer sounds like something I should try. I tried a word race or two, and it was good for concentrating, but bad on my nerves. Haha.

Anna Staniszewski said...

Way to go on the progress! I use the egg timer when my brain feels like total mush and I just can't focus. It's amazing what you can get accomplished when you force yourself to concentrate for thirty minutes at a time.