Imagine this. You have an idea for a story but for some reason, you’re having trouble getting started. Days, even weeks go by and you stare at that dreaded white page as if the words are going to magically appear. Whether it’s writer’s block, sheer procrastination, or a mix of both, you’ve let enough time pass and you need to get that story written FAST. But the harder you try to write, the more your words sound stale, forced, and flat, especially when all you can think about is the number of words you have yet to write.
Does that scenario sound familiar?
Don’t worry, I have been there as well. But I had to figure out something. I don’t think my publisher would have accepted the crying emoji in lieu of a 75,000-word manuscript. For some people, music helps. Others may take a walk. Unfortunately, neither of those worked for me and I could tell I was becoming frustrated. I have since improved my writing process tremendously (it took me a year to write my first book but only six weeks to write my seventh). So, I have compiled a few of the techniques that have helped me to not only get my book written, but get it written fast.
1) Turn the word counter OFF.
A good friend of mine once told me that “a watched pot never boils.” And no truer words have been spoken. As long as you’re watching that pot, it feels like it will never boil. Or in other words, as long as you watch that word count, it feels like it won’t move. There is nothing more disappointing than writing for what seems like hours, only to see your word count has inched up from 700 to 725. And now, you’re concentrating more on the number of words rather than the words themselves. A classic quantity over quality trap that can threaten to dilute your entire narrative. “Only 725 words and I have to get to 75,000?!” Oh the pressure! So, turn that word counter off and focus your attention back on writing your story. You will be surprised how fast the words add up when you are not “watching that pot.”
2) Focus on the scene.
Along the same vein as my previous tip with not concentrating on the number of words, don’t concentrate on the rest of the story you haven’t written. I find doing so will make the task even more laborious, not to mention discouraging because I have “such a long way to go” to the end. Instead, break up the task into bite-sized pieces to make them easier to swallow. The story is broken up into chapters, chapters are broken up into scenes. So, concentrate on just that scene you are writing and watch how easily the words begin to flow. That finish line is mentally perceived to be a lot closer and therefore, more attainable. When I sit down to write, I’m not thinking of words or pages, or all of the story I have left. I’m thinking, I need to sit down and write this scene when Jason gets into a car accident and has to be rushed to the hospital. That’s it and that’s all. And I write fast with only that in mind.
3) Write on multiple devices.
Back when I first started my author journey, I would type my story on my desktop computer. Sometimes, using just this method would belabor my process because if I was out for the day or away from my computer at any point, I would have to wait until I got home to be able to write. That has changed for me drastically since I started writing on multiple devices. My friends and family have seen me write everywhere; from airports to parks, to restaurants and waiting rooms.
When I don’t feel like pulling out my laptop, I write on my cell phone. Then, I email myself what I have written and paste it into my main document on my home computer. Not only does writing on-the-go afford me more opportunities to write, but I feel secure that I haven’t lost any draft pieces because everything can be recovered from my email. The mobility ensures I work fast, at maximum productivity and holds me even more accountable for getting those words written fast, no matter where I am.
4) Consider a skeletal outline.
I have to confess something: I used to hate outlines. I felt they were too stifling and didn’t allow much freedom for my creativity. So, I did away with outlines altogether and took a more free-form approach. Well using this method had me writing and writing with no direction. I would write and write and 50,000 words later, I hadn’t even gotten to the “story.” The process was frustrating, and I knew there had to be a better way. I decided to try a combination of the two. Now, I start off with, what I call, a skeletal outline. It’s very basic, usually bullet points and incomplete sentences. I am pretty much trying to put to paper all of the scenes that are critical for my story to work.
Using my previous example with Jason, if I know my story involves him suspecting his wife is cheating, then I need to jot down a few scenes that corroborate that narrative. Maybe he catches her in a lie about working late. Maybe he follows her one day and sees her out with a guy, or he goes through her phone. Those types of ideas I would outline to act as a roadmap to make sure I don’t get too far off track. This also allows the freedom for my characters to drive the story, which they often do. I’ll find myself writing scenes I hadn’t even thought about, but they make perfect sense. And I can look to my skeletal outline to ensure that no matter how wild or twisted I get with my plot, I will always find my way back to where I need to be.
5) Don’t be afraid to write out of order.
Writing out of order is something I learned recently in my writing career and I wished I had known sooner. I was so used to writing in a linear fashion; chapter one, then two, then three and so on and so forth. But I found that sometimes I may come against a roadblock. Maybe I didn’t feel like writing the scene where she visits her mom because, though necessary, it wasn’t “fun.” Or maybe I didn’t know how the scene needed to play out, just that I needed it. I would end up stalling because I didn’t know how to move forward; that scene was in my way.
Then I read somewhere that an author tried writing out of order and it was like breaking down a dam. Sure enough, I skipped ahead and wrote another scene entirely, and the words poured forth like water. Not only that, the sudden engagement had me re-motivated so I was able double back and write that scene I originally skipped. Sometimes having already touched the finish line is motivation to keep writing fast, and enough to go back and fill in the gaps you may have missed along the way.
Writing can be tough so there is no point in making the process even more difficult than it has to be. Yes, it is okay to take breaks. But you should not allow certain challenges to linger or you risk losing the drive to finish and further delaying the process. Or even worse, not getting that story written at all. Only you can write that story and if you don’t, the world will never hear it.
Briana Cole is an acclaimed author known for exploring unconventional relationships and making readers question all expectations about love, lust, and monogamy. Her newest book is The Marriage Pass (Kensington). An Atlanta native, Cole graduated cum laude from Georgia Southern University and is a proud member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. In addition to a published author, she is also a motivational speaker, sex educator and actress. Her motto and ultimate drive toward success is a famous quote from Mae West: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Connect with Briana online at BrianaCole.com, and on Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, and Twitter @BColeAuthor.