This past Saturday I wrote just under 13000 words in just over eight hours. I had a shiny new story idea cooking in my brain, and it was distracting me from editing my current WIP. I knew that in order to move forward with the novel I wanted to write, I had to get the story out of my system. I also wanted to see just how many words I could type in a day. A “should I try to do Camp NaNoWriMo?” experiment, with myself as the test subject.
See, I’m usually what you would call a ‘slow’ writer. I started to work on the novel I’m currently writing five years ago. It’s only in it’s third draft and a measly 55000 words (most novels in the same genre are 60-80K). On a good day, (a really good day) I can write a whopping 2000 words, on a bad day I might get down 500 in the same amount of time. The thought of writing as much in one month as I had in the better part of five years seemed a goal completely out of my reach.
But even still, I was curious how all those NaNo’ers managed to pump out so many words in such a short time. Did gnomes hack in to their computers at night and boost their word-counts? Were they magically bestowed super fast writing powers for the month of November?
Many of these magical people claimed that it was a simple matter of locking their inner editor in an airtight box for the month, putting tape over the delete button on their keyboards, and setting aside 1, 2, or 3 hours a day to just write.
Last Saturday I was free all day with no internet and no TV. Any friends or family that may have tried to socialize with me were a good two-and-a-half hour drive away. What better time than to kick my feet up on the couch and get some good headway editing my novel, right?
But there was still the problem of that pesky short story with that loud and obstinate main character distracting me from my dear, precious, WIP. And that nagging question of whether it was actually humanly possible to write a large volume of (somewhat coherent) words in a short amount of time. I had a vague idea of a plot, an impression of who the main character was, an inkling of the overall mood I wanted to invoke, and a healthy dose of curiosity. So I decided to hit two birds with one stone and give what some call a ‘writing binge’ my best shot.
Here’s how I did it without going completely insane and throwing my laptop off a cliff (there was one nearby, so it was a real possibility):
First, I got the kitchen timer, the one that ticks loudly like a time-bomb, and set it for thirty minutes. Having a ticking time-bomb that will ring in a very startling manner just in the middle of your sentence adds a certain intensity to writing sessions, I noticed. Every thirty minutes when the timer rang, I forced myself to get up from the computer and do something active for two to five minutes. This is actually a proven study technique, and I found that it worked. Getting up and doing something, even for a short amount of time, helped keep the creative juices flowing.
Second, I shut off the music. Normally, I listen to music while I’m writing. I find it either puts me in the right mood, inspires me, or gives me something to tune out while I’m working. But sometimes music can be very distracting, so for the day, music had to go.
Third, I turned the brightness on my laptop all the way down, so the screen was black. And then I just. typed. I couldn’t see what I was writing, so I couldn’t get stuck in an editing vortex of doom, making sure all my words were spelled correctly, and that all my sentences were structured properly, and that I was using the active voice, and showing instead of telling, and… you get the picture.
It was probably this last thing that was the key to my high word count. It took some getting used to, and in the first half-hour session I found it difficult to keep up momentum because I was still in a mode of re-reading what I’d just typed, wanting to make everything perfect the first time. After a while I found it freeing to not be able to see what I was writing. It was basically an opportunity for my brain to puke all over my keyboard, but I didn’t care because I couldn’t see the mess.
And there was definitely mess. The result of my efforts was 12800 words, half of them spelled incorrectly, the other half typos, and a few moments where I told the story I needed to write. Because a half plus a half plus a little bit more equals one short story… :p
Would I recommend going on a writing binge and pounding out a boatload of words in one day? Maybe, maybe not. It’s exhausting work, writing all day. And now instead of one WIP begging me to edit it, I’ve got two. So my problem of that pesky short story taking up my brainspace hasn’t really gone away (I’ve also got a whole ‘nother novel idea waiting for me to finish edits so I can get working on it, but that’s a story for another day).
However, I did write just under 13000 words in just over 8 hours. Basically half the NaNoWriMo word-count goal in one day. Which gives me hope that I can be a ‘fast’ writer after all. It makes me think that maybe I could join the ranks of those magical writers who meet their word count goals without enlisting the help of gnomes. It was just a matter of letting myself simply write; typos, spelling mistakes, poor sentence structure and all.
What do you think? Are you going to do Camp NaNoWriMo this summer? Or NaNoWriMo in the fall? What do you do to silence your inner editor and get words onto the page?