Tag Archives: writing craft

5 ways to get more words written

I’ve been making a deliberate effort to increase my productivity lately. I’m now a self-published writer looking to increase the audience for my fiction. One of the sure-fire ways to do this is to write more books (everything I’ve read about self-publishing says the key is to write more and get more books out if you want to find an audience, with 5 books often mentioned as the breakthrough point). I published my first book in November 2014, and my next in November 2015 so I need to speed up. Here are the methods I’ve used to help me increase the number of words I write.

1. Write more often

Like many (most?) self-published writers, especially those still establishing their careers, I still have a day job, which for me involves working shifts. This means writing has to fit into the gaps left around paid work and family responsibilities. When I launched my first book I would often have two days per week when I “couldn’t” write.

Taking inspiration from writer friends who shared their 500-word challenge on Facebook, I decided this had to change. I lowered my standards of what was an acceptable result for a day’s writing, but in exchange I expected myself to write every day. Whatever else happens, I will write 500 words every day. This doesn’t sound like a lot (which is why I let those words slip out of my grasp), but it adds up. 500 x 364 days (you can have Christmas off, if you like!) makes 182,000 words. It will depend what genre you write in, but for me, 182k words is two and a half books (my YA urban fantasy novels come in around 70k). Two and a half books from a measly 500 words a day, get in!

2. Write more in the time you have

You may be grumbling that it’s all very well for me, but what if you can’t write even 500 words in a day? Well, if you really want to fit them in but you only have a few minutes, I’m going to suggest the deceptively simple strategy of writing faster.

If I feel in any danger of procrastinating, or the deadline for the school run is drawing close and I haven’t written enough words, I use a timer. Twenty minutes of focussed writing rarely fails to net me at least 500 words. If you genuinely can’t find twenty minutes together, write 100 words in 5 minutes and do that five times. That can fit into time waiting for your bus, waiting for the pasta to cook while the kids play, or use your tea breaks. Scribble in a notepad or use the notes facility on your phone – you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve if you fill in time that’s usually wasted.

3. Write more useable words

Oh, but that’s horribly bitty – how are you supposed to keep your train of thought on a scene if you’re writing it in several sections? Best way to do it is to plan – which is also a great way to increase productivity by ensuring you don’t waste any (well, many; things will always change in the edit) of the words you write.

I’m releasing my third book in June (only just outside that 6 month window), but it could have been out in the world much earlier if I hadn’t spent so much time writing myself up blind alleys.

I don’t have time for that any more, so I’ve evolved from being a complete pantster (oh, the hours I spent staring at a blank screen and running out of ideas at the 20k point!) to planning very clearly. Before I start writing I know the overall shape of the book and key elements that have to happen in each chapter. Before I sit down to do my day’s writing (whether that’s 500 words or – hopefully – more), I sketch out the scene or scenes I’m about to write. Five or six lines outlining what’s about to happen makes writing a thousand word scene a straightforward proposition – I know what’s going to happen, I can see it in my mind’s eye; all I need to do is write it down so my reader can also see the scene.

Planning my first draft using post-it notes stuck to my floor!
From this…

Combining these three methods has had a dramatic effect. I drafted a 70k word novel in six weeks during November/December, revised it in January and it’s now with a beta reader. Onto the next and I’ve written 58k words of the first draft since February first. The third is already taking shape in my mind, so I hope by the end of the summer to have three books ready for editing, so they can be launched early in 2017.

My writing method: marking off each thousand words as I go.
… to this – in five weeks!

4. Celebrate your words

As you can see above, as I write, I also fill up a grid with pretty stars (I have stickers, but couldn’t find them on 1st February, and I’ve been too focused on the words to look for them since!). Each square represents one thousand words, which can be split up to mark off 500 words if that’s all I’ve managed that day. When I’ve finished my writing I find the appropriate sharpie and star off however many words I’ve added to my first draft that day.

This provides a visual reminder of how much progress I’m making. Just as I like to have a written plan on post-it notes and a whiteboard, this provides a record away from the computer word count of how I’m doing. It’s incredibly, childishly satisfying to see a book take shape like this. And it’s a tool to help me keep going. If I’m flagging I can look at it and I know I don’t want to let myself down by giving up or telling myself it’s okay to miss a day. This sheet has had at least one star added every single day since February 1st – I can’t fail now.

5. Enjoy every word

Having just read back my post, I wanted to add a caveat. I’ve made this sound very focussed and driven. To a degree, that’s right because I am. I love writing, and getting my fiction into the hands of eager readers is all I’ve ever wanted to do. But at the same time, I’m doing this because I love it, not because I have to. I love every part of the writing process: thinking through the plot, getting to know my characters, drafting, writing, re-writing, editing. Writing should be a pleasure, and while sometimes it’s tough and you need to grit your teeth, you should never lose sight of why you took up writing or why you want to write this book you’ve started.

These methods work for me, right now. I hope they’ll continue to work for me so I can write three books a year for as long as I can hold a pen and think up stories. But, I’d still be writing even if I thought I could only write one a year, or half a year.

Like all writing advice, if these methods strike a chord, try them and see if they can help you write more. But if they don’t work, or if you don’t want to write at this rate, then don’t.

It’s your book, write it your way.

If you try these methods, or if you do something different to get the words out, I’d love to hear about it. Please comment below.

Becoming a writer

This week I visited the Write Romantics’ blog, where they discussed what they had wanted to be “when they grew up”. The blog was titled “life before writing” and they all had very different careers in mind.

I was fascinated by this, because for me there wasn’t a life before writing – all I’ve ever wanted to be “when I grew up” was a writer. The path from having that desire to becoming a published author, however, has been quite a long haul. I’ve created a video to show how I became a writer, and to say thank you to some of the writers and the books that have helped along the way.

(Video copyright Katy Haye; Audio copyright Microsoft Corporation, all rights reserved)

What DO you look like?

Okay, I’ll ‘fess up – this post is largely an excuse to show off my new cover, but there is a point to it, too.

Cover image for The Last Gatekeeper

Isn’t it just GORGEOUS???

I used a silhouette on my cover because I didn’t want to decree what my heroine looked like (and I’m not entirely sure, to be honest) and my point of discussion today is the appearance of characters, and how much description they need.

When The Last Gatekeeper was being edited, I was told I needed to give more description in order for readers to be able to picture her (my heroine had brown eyes and long hair worn in a ponytail – nothing else was mentioned).  I’d been vague deliberately because one of my bugbears when reading is description of main characters for two reasons:

1. It’s generally woefully done and clunkily, brakes-on-the-action obvious – especially in first person (which The Last Gatekeeper is), because there’ll be some dreadful mirror or window-becomes-mirror scene where the heroine inspects herself as though she doesn’t know what she looks like, and the description itself is either vain (“I just loved my glossy, golden hair”), or insecure (“Oh, why couldn’t my hair be glossy gold like my gorgeous bff instead of looking like frizzy mud, poor me.”).

and 2. Because I’m a reader, not a viewer. I’m making up my own pictures in my head and if your visuals clash with mine, that’s going to pull me out of the story, too. When I read, I want to be so close to the character that I become them for the duration of the book, so my opinion is that a bit of vagueness is a good thing to allow the reader and the character to blur a little. So long as it’s not something vital to the plot you can trust your reader to fill in the blanks because that’s what readers do.

What do you think – do you like plenty of description, or do you skip physical details like me?

(P.S. I added hair colour to my heroine’s description, but I hope it’s hard to spot and not too clunky!)