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Write Faster Project, a bit more, and NPR's best YA novels

A little more on the Write Faster project in a minute -- scroll down in the blog if you don't know what it is -- 

but first:

NPR wants to know what you think are the best YA novels. Fancy pants literary NPR!  So go on over and tell them. 

An addendum to the Write Faster Project. First of all, it was interesting to see on Twitter that Carrie Ryan and Nova Ren Suma did not find the project worked for them -- or else kinda didn't do it, which amounts to much the same thing, as if you find you can't make yourself do a particular approach to writing, then probably that approach isn't right for your creative style. 

Either that, or you are deeply resistant to it because it's the thing that's going to break you through to some creative outpouring of amazingness. I dunno.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that today, I wrote with my pal Sarah Mlynowski (latest book: Ten Things We Did) and Sarah got me to try her latest Write Faster technique. It's 15 minutes write like the wind, 15 minutes rest. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 

I was skeptical, as 15 minutes doesn't seem like enough time to get anything done, and all those interruptions can't be good for me -- but I HAD planned out what I needed to do next (in those days of reading over my book described in the previous blog post and in conversations with various writer friends subsequent to that) -- and I ended up not only writing

2700 words

which has never happened to me EVER

but also dealing with a pesky web design problem in the interim 15 minute chunks, paying my library fines, nagging my agent and various other stuff that usually can be used as an excuse for not writing. 

So: Whaddya know?

Sarah was very strict and used a timer and scolded me when I didn't behave. It is possible this had a lot to do with my productivity as well -- though at one point I lay down on the couch and NAPPED for fifteen minutes.  At another point I demanded Sarah fix my scene for me, so I described it to her and she told me how to fix it, and that was awesome. 

Make of it what you will, butu I wanted to share.

Write Faster Project

Last week I explained the Write Faster project. And here's Holly Black's post about it which explains better and links to all the authors legitimately participating (I am just kind of tagging along.) 

Presumably those writers are writing for the rest of the day, but I have to leave the house in five minutes, so here's my report (filed at 12:15 pm).

I hope it's interesting to see a bit of what a writing week looks like for me, and that it's useful for other writers as they think about their work. 

I'll add links to the other reports at night, when I've gotten to read them.

Edited to add: Here is Holly's report!  Very, very interesting.



A good writing day for me: 1500 words
A very very good day: 2000 words
A lot of days: 500-1000 words

Aaron's essay says:
Track: okay, I am tracking! Results below. 
Enthusiasm: I have that. Well, except that I don't want to write my book.
Know: Know what you are writing before you write it. This I almost never do, except in the vaguest way -- so it is mainly this that is a behavior change for me.

June 7:

I have 45 minutes in the coffee shop. That's it.
Hung over from too much wine at BEA (Book Expo). Libba Bray is here (latest book: Beauty Queens). I read over the Rachel Aaron post and eat a cookie.

I write a sentence that says the word "windsock." Then I write a long conversation between two people about windsocks that has nothing to do with my plot. Then Libba says "windsock" sounds naughty, just as a word, and I get another half a page out of that idea.

650 words. Most about windsocks.
But I discovered some tension in the scene.  I augmented it -- so now something happens. This is absolutely typical of my writing process and not an example of me using Aaron's techniques in any way.

June 8:

Coffee shop. Arrive at 9. Chat with Libba for half an hour. Then spend 1 hour 15 minutes outlining next couple scenes I want to write. Why does it take so long? I have to reread big chunks of the MS, and tweak some things therein, to make the scenes I am writing come out right. This happens a lot when writing the last quarter of a book, I find -- I have to go back and seed things in, or tweak them -- but usually I do it in th emiddle of my writing, rather than as a preliminary to barelling through a scene at full speed.

Useful technique: Robin Wasserman (latest book: Book of Blood and Shadow) has showed up in the cafe. She and I agree to only WRITE, no internet, no chat, no breaks, for just 30 minutes.

Result: 727 words. I write, but am immediately IMMEDIATELY distracted from the outline I have made for my scene and spend about 500 of my 727 words writing something that starts the scene that I didn't plan but which nonetheless feels important.

End of the day: 2500 words, and I lay off at my usual time.

June 9,10 -- weekend.
I am a family person and don't write on weekends if it can be helped.

June 11, Monday.

I had a school visit in the morning and was zonked at 1pm when I got home. No writing.

June 12, Tuesday.

Arrived coffee shop 9:30 after exercise walk. Libba is here, working top speed and full of virtue. By 9:45 I am set up with coffee and food. I have outlines left from last Friday, so begin working on that material. I finish a scene and tempted to do various work-related things -- look at the origin of a family name I'm using, log my word count on googledocs, etc. But I DO NOT. I am going right into the next scene I've outlined.

End result: 2,100 words

June 13, Wed.

Bad night's sleep. This is a huge factor in my writing life. I feel like a zombie. I go over the first 9,000 words of my MS, editing and rewriting, sometimes rearranging. I take a nap and do another 2000.

Total word count: 300.
But I have hardly looked back at this book as I've been writing, and perhaps this is necessary to make sure my ending (which I have yet to write) is the right one.

Contexts that are crucial for me to write well:
1. caffeine
2. good night's sleep (usually not under my control as I live with OTHERS WHO INTERRUPT MY SLEEP.)

Contexts that are useful:

3. rewards (i.e. I can eat something nice, take a walk, call a friend, play Plants with Zombies, after I've achieved some kind of work goal)
4. no starchy foods (they make me sleepy)
5. race-writing with a friend, either in person or on the internet -- i.e. how many words can you write in 45 minutes? Robin nearly always wins, but trying to beat her helps me meet my goal.
6. periods of time devoted to work writing side-by-side with a friend (like: we will now write for one hour! No internet! No talking! Then you will tell me about your vacation) - -similar to the reward system, but more powerful.

June 14th, Thurs

Worked many hours but again, reading and figuring out structure and ending. Made cuts and added things, but total new word count is only: 50. However, I did figure out a couple scenes I need to write. Then in the afternoon, I talked through one of these scenes with the awesome Melissa Kantor (her new book: The Darlings in Love), and she was a big help.

June 15.
I have a short writing day today. I outline two scenes, which can be roughly labeled: Dragon and Cove.

Then I immediately go and write a long nonsense scene that I never planned about sunburns and doughnuts. Which I quite like.

Then I write dragon. 1500 words in two hours -- a bit faster than usual. In a short day I generally manage 1000-1200 words.

Conclusion: I think this method -- which partly just involves paying a bit more attention to what works for ME -- does help me write faster. Not radically -- but I'll certainly take it.

Write Faster, an Experiment

I am finishing a book. A YA book for the first time in a while! (I write middle-grade books under the name Emily Jenkins and you can see my July book, Dangerous Pumpkins, here.)

A while ago, Ally Carter (latest book: Out of Sight, Out of Time, book 5 in the Gallagher Girls series) sent me this link. It's to a Science Fiction Writers of America guest blog post by Rachel Aaron, author of The Legend oof Eli Moonpress -- an apparently, many many books to come; she writes 10,000 words a day. At least some of the time.

In the article, Aaron lays out a plan for how to increase your output. I generally manage 500 words a day when starting a book, then goose up to 1500 when going full speed. A really banner day would be 2000. I have done all my books at this pace, and while I have zero desire to write 10,000 a day, and doubt I ever could, if I could manage 2,500 or 3000 regularly my life would be a lot easier. Or my books longer. Or something. 

This new book wants to be long but I want it to be done (in rough draft) by June 22 for reasons of my own involving the beach. 

(Just to be clear, I will rewrite it probably 8 times after that before my editor even sees it.)

Anyway, although it really would be good for me to write faster than I do, I still ignored the article when I first read it, except to try in a vague way to outline a bit before closing the computer at the end of a writing day. That is not really what Aaron is suggesting -- but that's all I did. (It's helpful.)

Then Holly Black (latest book: Black Heart, book 3 of the White Cat trilogy) posted this on her blog. She is trying to follow Aaron's advice for the end of this and all of next week, then posting her results, along with a bunch of other excellent writers. I horned in on their experiment and will post my results too. After I had posted about that on HB's blog, I ran into Holly at Book Expo, where she wore a floor length black gown and hung out with me at the Harlequin booth, and I pretty much felt like I was hallucinating. This meant I actually had to do it.

So! That's the plan! Check back here next week on Friday for details on my own Write Faster experiment, and links to all the others.