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#NaNoWriMo: How to make writing a novel easier than it looks

I write drafts for my novels at a rate of 1,000 words per hour. I can string more of those hours together if I plan ahead with a general outline, but I usually pants it rather than plot it. 

I think of my writing time in terms of word count and hours. Here’s why:

When I wrote This Plague of Days, I didn’t think in terms of hours then. I didn’t budget my time or work to a word count like it was a job. I just put my head down and wrote and revised many times, stealing time here and there without a real schedule. I can’t tell you how long it took to write that epic saga because I went through so many revisions. Also, because my approach was haphazard, I wrote slower then. Though I worked from an outline, the project took longer than it could have.

I was buying into the meme that slow cooker writing was the only way, despite Stephen King’s suggestion that three months ought to do it (and look at the size of his books!) If I wrote that series now, the first draft would take about 300 hours of actual writing time. That’s less impressive than saying it took me years to write TPOD, but it’s more accurate.

(By the way, I just found out the This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition has advanced to the second round in the Writer’s Digest Self-published Ebook Awards! Yay!)

When someone says it took them two years to write their first novel, that’s not true.

Two years equals 17,531.62 hours, including time spent sleeping, showering, goofing off, playing with children and pets and holding down a job, and procrastinating etc. Authors can write as fast or as slow as they’d like and each process is unique. However, there is no direct correlation between speed of production and quality. In fact, for the first draft, quality is nigh irrelevant.

Quality comes with subsequent drafts.

I find most of the jokes in the second revision and the plot problems to be fixed become clearer by the third revision.

Take NaNoWriMo, for example…

I’m planning 55,000 words for my current WIP. That means 55 hours for the first draft this month. As my current schedule allows, I’ll be done well before the NaNoWriMo deadline as long as I continue to protect my writing time.

Fifty-five hours sounds much less intimidating and more realistic, doesn’t it? What’s one work week to you? Forty-four hours? I approach my writing like a job. It’s a job I love, but there’s no waiting around for inspiration to come to me. I hunt inspiration down. Inspiration and efficiencies are habits learned by writing more and doing so consistently.

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry.

For my crime novel, Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes, I’d planned on looking for the exit to the book around 50,000 words and topping out at 55,000 words. It took me an extra 17,000 words to wrap it up neatly at 67,000 words. Still, 67 hours to a first draft sounds like much less drama than saying it took me a month. That’s just 16.7 hours per week to come up with a first draft. (For a while in the ’90s, that’s about as much time as I committed to watching television.)

I’d give you a measurement of editing and revision times if I had them, but that varies too widely depending on the book. For instance, I’m putting my time travel novel on hold because I’m not happy enough with it yet to release it. I’ll come back to it in 2015. However, I expect to have my current WIP out in time for Christmas (assuming I still love it when I’m done.) 

Write as slow as you want to or as fast as you can. It doesn’t have to be a job. Hobbies are good, too, so write at the pace you choose.

My point is, we don’t have to be drama kings and queens about the writing process. When you hear of writers putting out a lot of books fast, that’s not really quite as hard as many would lead you to believe. Writing is a time management issue first. The other skills required come into play after we commit to investing the hours.

But it can’t be good because it was written too fast!

Writers who cherish writing slowly have my utmost respect until they insist others write at their pace (and many people write much faster than I do.)

On the Road, Casino Royale, The Gambler, A Clockwork Orange, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and As I Lay Dying were written in less than six weeks. I wonder if any of those famous books were actually written in less time than that if the authors had tracked their hours.

Fast writers manage fear because they think about each book project in terms of a formula:

Word count goals + hours x perspiration (divided by distraction)

Prolific writers manage their time, that’s all. No drama. Inspiration usually arrives at the keyboard at about the same time we do.

Write. Revise. Edit. Enjoy throughout. (Now don’t tell anyone how easy it is to get to big word counts or they might start to think that writers aren’t special snowflakes!)

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I just published my 15th book. Imagine how many more I could have written if I hadn’t been sucked into the vortex of “Must See TV” back in the day. 

Filed under: My fiction, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#NaNoWriMo: Five Advantages of Fast Writing

Traditional wisdom is that it takes a lot of time and energy to write a book. That’s generally true. However, that counts the entire process. It takes a long time to revise, edit and hone aWriting_fast book until you feel you’re ready to let it go. That doesn’t mean you can’t write a first draft quickly. Some purists will protest that haste will decrease the quality of a writer’s work in favour of quantity. Sure. I have a different take on that objection. Assume your first draft is going to suck anyway. Since you’re best writing is rewriting, it’s best to have something to revise. For many writers, if they didn’t write the first draft in haste, they might not have anything to revise at all. You can’t edit a blank page.

So here’s my contrarian view on why  fast writing can be a very good thing:

1. You maintain your enthusiasm for the project because you get the first draft done quickly. Marathon writing takes endurance. A sprint can be advantageous, especially if you haven’t completed a manuscript in the past and you’re developing those muscles.

2. When you write in haste, you can see the whole project’s development at once. You’re less likely to drop threads when you get the first draft done in a short time. If you’ve read Under the Dome by Stephen King—a huge and heavy book of great length which, in general, I enjoyed—maybe you noticed that he seemed to have a supernatural element on the protagonist’s side that is never explained and soon forgotten. It took him three years or so to write it. That might be why something’s amiss.

3. Increased productivity primes your art pump. If you produce a lot, you tend to produce more the rest of the time, too. It’s the literary equivalent of, if you want the job done, give it to a busy person. Artists need to get into the habit of production and treat their work as a business and a craft (instead of something that can only produced when the planets align and you have a handy vial of unicorn blood to consecrate your art-making ceremony.)

4. Increased production equals more money in the long run. That’s not mercenary. That’s math. If you can produce four books (and sell them) in the time it takes someone else to write one, you’re ahead (unless the other guy is William Styron, but he’d be ahead in any case…and he’s dead.)

5. You may not sell everything you write. In fact, if you’ve got an agent, an editor and a publisher between you and the market, there’s an excellent chance someone will stand up at some point and say, this isn’t ready for your customers. (They may or may not be right about that. When Robert Munsch‘s publisher told him the world wasn’t ready for Love You Forever, he took that controversial children’s book elsewhere. And had a hit.)

My point is, if you spend ten years writing a book and it does not sell, you will be sad. If you have other books to sell, the one disappointment won’t sting so much. You know how every second Star Trek movie was great and the others suck?  It evens out when you have more out there.

If I sound like I’m blaming, shaming and pointing fingers, I apologize. I have been guilty of acting like a dilettante about my fiction. I’ve had to gather unicorn blood before I could summon the muse. That’s changed recently as I’ve reevaluated. I’m motivated now to go into heavy production and get to work on the revisions for my books and, as Seth Godin puts it, “Ship!” (Also, see the post below on Lessons Received from An Evening with Kevin Smith for the whys and wherefores. )

My book production won’t happen overnight. But it will happen faster than it was happening. Boo-ya!

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

How to Get the Time You Need to Write Your Novel

Writers who complete their books often steal time and sometimes buy it. You might have to get up earlier or stay up later (or both) but you’ll find lots of tips here on how to get your first draft written. Don’t get sucked into the idea that you need huge blocks of time to make progress. Sometimes all you can do is little bits, but if you write consistently, the little bits will add up. I have a draft of a novel to edit, but I’ve also started another. Summer is very child-intensive for me, so I have a notebook and every day I make progress on writing the new book with a calligraphic pen. The second draft will be typed, of course, but I’m stealing time here and there to get it done. I can get words on paper at the kids’ swimming lessons. Typing’s preferred, but  getting it done is the higher goal. Find time. Find time to write every day.

Are you losing writing time to petty errands? That may be a sign of procrastination. Resistance can easily be rationalized but it doesn’t serve your goal of getting a draft written (and eventually published.) Outsource where you can. Getting a babysitter for movie night is a good break, but  we also hire a babysitter just so we can get work accomplished without interruptions. I hate to mow the lawn so I hire a teenager to do it for me. For the few bucks it takes to get that done, it’s also saving me valuable writing time. When I hear that mower crank up, it’s also a reminder I should be writing. Buy time.

Maybe you aren’t getting it done because you are not prioritizing. If working out is really important to you, you schedule it, just like a meeting or a dentist appointment. Same with writing. Is it on your calendar? Does your family know writing time is, in fact, Writing Time in big block letters on the family schedule? If you want time, you have to be clear with the people in your life that the time you set aside for writing is sacred. Make time. Value your time. Defend your time.

Surprise tip:

Do not multitask. Doing more than one thing at a time is inefficient.

Find efficiencies. How are your keyboarding skills? Are you a fast typist? Faster is better. Publishers want prolific writers with gestational times more like a rabbit than an elephant. I recommend the Mavis Beacon keyboarding programs to increase your typing speed. If you cannot type quickly, have you tried Dragon or some other dictation strategy?

Don’t ponder. Work from a rough outline so you can plow ahead instead of plod. When we compose, our typing speed typically slows. This is not the way to go. Edit later. Whether you’ve got any kind of plan for what you will write that day or are more of an exploratory writer, punch the keys and don’t stop. The faster you type, the faster your book will be written. Resist the urge to tinker. Messing around with comma placement doesn’t get your first draft done. Save time and write fast. Editing is for later. It is impossible to edit a blank page.Don’t waste time. My general rule is, I don’t watch reruns unless it’s a must-see (bearing in mind that most must-see TV, isn’t.) There are a lot of things I don’t want to do. If they can be avoided, I don’t do them. The biggest time suck is the temptation to surf the net. When you’re writing (at that sacred time you’ve set each day) don’t open your browser and don’t check your email more than twice a day. I type on a little keypad called the Neo. It has 700 hours of life off three AA batteries, it doesn’t heat up like a normal laptop and best of all, it has no internet access. I can take it anywhere and write without even the temptation of internet distraction (read: games and porn.)

A special note about Twitter:

I love Twitter, but as Seth Godin says, “Twitter is never done.” You must be careful how you use it. Here’s how: I post frequently on Twitter. (Plug: you get fresh updates on the latest publishing links on your right of this screen so this blog always has updated content through the day.) However, I never post to Twitter from my desktop. Twitter is for the in-between times. Twitter is for down time. Twitter is productive time when you would otherwise be unproductive. Twitter is for commercials (if you aren’t already saving years of your life by saving your TV shows on PVR and zipping through commercials.)

I use Twitter to:

Follow-me-on-TwitterHelp people find links to useful information.

Say something funny and read something funny. Life is tough. @thesulk makes me feel better about our common destiny as worm food.

Answer questions and connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise.

If it isn’t useful or funny, I’m doing something else.

Please do follow me (@RChazzChute) on Twitter for the latest on the best book publishing information.


Do not consult your thesaurus as you write your first draft. If you’re searching for another word, you’re slowing down.

Compose in sprints.

More on that tomorrow…

Filed under: getting it done, Twitter, writing tips, , , , , , , ,


Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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