Three of my favorite books on writing faster are 5000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox,
2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron, and
Writing In Overdrive by Jim Denney. Each has valuable insights of their own, but also share a common theme. Fast writing is not bad writing. We don't have to agonize over each word before moving on.
Some legendary authors do it that way. I read that Kurt Vonnegut perfected each page before moving on. Personally, I tend to start from the beginning when writing organically, which results in the first three chapters being heavily polished. The words come harder after 30k words, because it becomes more and more time consuming to read from the beginning as the novel grows.
It is a good method and I like it. So does the author of Story Trumps Structure, Steven James. Writing organically is sometimes fast and often slow, but there are many real advantages, assuming you don't get stuck. I will talk more about this in a separate article.
This article is not about plotting versus pantsting, but about productivity.
The Number One Reason to Write Fast
The best reason to write quickly is not just to make your word count everyday, but to find continuity. There is a high probability that a rapidly written story (a novel in one month or two weeks or nine days...) will need a lot of revision and editing. Parts may be destined for the circular file.
But you will learn a lot about your characters and their journey. There is also a good chance that the first draft will be better (and more consistent) than you could have hoped for. As a bonus, all those rabbit trails might be the start of other stories with real potential.
So try this to jumpstart your writing:
1) Brainstorm an outline in one day; create a list of scenes and characters.
2) Set that outline aside and refer to it only when necessary if at all.
3) Set a high word count goal for each day am meet it.
4) Do not edit anything.
5) Take a break before revising.
The results may surprise you.
It is still early in the new Kindle Unlimited game. Since the beginning of this blog, I have focused on positivity, avoided rants, and tried offer something useful whenever I can. So please don’t expect to see me pulling out my hair or acting the fool here or anywhere else. I am sure the big brains at Amazon have reasons for everything they do. They didn’t become a world power by accident.
In my previous blog post, I briefly highlighted some of the rules for the new Kindle Unlimited payment system. On July 1st, I looked at how many pages had been read of Enemy of Man. My confidence has continued to build as more and more pages are consumed by readers. Now maybe it will drive me crazy in the long run. How devastating will it be to my ego when sales are down and there is proof that now is reading the books borrowed. Because that will happen. People won’t be reading the book every single day.
There are a lot of days when I get too busy to read. (A keen observer will notice how cranky this makes me, but it happens.)
The only real problem I have with the system, is that it doesn’t say how many books were borrowed, so I have no idea what the pages mean. If my report says 699 pages were read yesterday, is that two and half books or one page each of 699 books?
It is far too soon to decide if this will be a disaster, though I know some writers who are reporting a seventy-five percent loss in daily revenue already. My prediction is that there will soon be a mass exodus from KDP Select.
Yesterday, I received an email from the editor-in-chief of a publishing house. This was a result of a novel pitch I did at OWFI 2015. I hand't planned to pitch, but something inspired me to go for it. I wasn't ready. I had every expectation of making a fool of myself. The interview went well, because the editor was professional and just an excellent person. (I know this because I watched how he treated other people at the conference, and was impressed.)
Now, I can tell you that this type of thing makes my day. I would be willing to bet that most writers do the happy dance when a traditional publishing house shows even the slightest interest in your writing. What do you think? Am I wrong?
You might ask, which story I pitched.
I'm not sure I want to talk about it here and now, but I will say that as I proof read it one last time, I realize it is some of my best writing in 33 years of serious effort. Maybe it will be a good fit with the publishing house in question. Maybe not.
But reading the manuscript caused my adrenaline to race through my veins.
How cool is that.
During the incredibly rainy month of May, I worked on the first of several serial short stories that have been dying to get out. This has been a lot of fun to write, but has been the genesis of serious distraction. First off, I started to develop a pen name for the project, mostly because I have always wanted to have a pen name. The reasons vary, and are the subject of another blog. Let's just say I doubled my work for the same results.
Like many writers, I have a regular job and a family--lots of important life choices to make. Play with the kids, yes. Pay the bills, yes. Maintain twice as many social media sites, no. Why start over when promoting and marketing is already hard enough? Why not take advantage of the modest success I have experienced thus far as a writer. When I began working with a pen name I realized the colossal amount of work I have already put into this web page and publishing project.
So I decided to publish my short stories under my name, without partitioning each genre to a separate name. The genre of my Grendel Uprising series is science fiction, with a twist. One of my universe building projects has focused on a society where there are planets dedicated to various forms of recreation, like a golf planet or a NASCAR racing planet. The most common theme in this Commonwealth, are various historical reenactment societies. Grendel Uprising focuses on a planet dedicated to an imitation of 9th Century Earth, specifically, the rise of Vikings.
This allows for adventures that feel a lot like time travel without the paradox issues common to time travel stories. It also creates interesting worlds where the historical reenactments have gone off course. Hello creativity, hello fun.
The first story in the Grendel Uprising series (of rather long short stories) is schedule to be released in June. The advantage of shorter works of fiction, is that the editorial expenses are more manageable, since most price schedules are based on length of the work. This should allow me to put out the series monthly while still working on my novel length projects.
I am really excited about this new era in story telling. Please take a moment to visit Grendel Uprising and my bibliography page for my current novels.
It will come as no surprise that I dream of earning a living with words; writing full time; going pro and whatnot. As such, I revisit the idea of writing under various pen names in various genres. I read widely, why not write in the same manner. The idea of using pen names is purely for reader convenience. When someone searches for Scott Moon on Amazon, that awesome person knows to expect science fiction adventure, urban fantasy, and a little horror.
A reader would not expect literature fiction or political fiction, or let’s say erotica. Would I consider (or have I tried) writing either of these genres. Sure. None of it is fit for sharing at this point. Any writer who wants desperately to become a full time, professional author, must consider writing romance, even if said writer drops the idea. Romance writers make money. I even read and enjoy reading it from time to time.
Amazon allows for authors to publish under three names on one account (the last time I checked). Currently, I am not using a pen name, but I think there is one in my future. Perhaps it will be a different type of science fiction or horror or something else.
What are your thoughts on pen names? Do you currently write under a pen name? Do you plan on trying this out? If you have experience in this matter, what are the pros and cons?
Thanks for visiting my blog. My currently published fiction can be found here.
Stephen King has a way of drilling a phrase or detail into your head. The last time I wrote a blog post, it was “Travlin Jack.” I discussed how the use of this phrase and others could be analyzed through the lens of Book Architecture (a new literary technique by Stuart Horwitz). As The Talisman progresses and Jack Sawyer heads west with his werewolf buddy, each Series (as Horwitz calls certain repeating story details) varies in usage, meaning, and intensity. As Wolf might say, “It’s happening right here and now, wolf!”
The “Travlin Jack” and “My Mother is Dying” series/mini-themes continue to find their way into Jack’s internal dialogue, but less frequently. Somewhere around chapter fourteen, Jack begins to struggle with a recurring memory (..Jack was six, Jack was six, when everyone lived in California and no one lived anywhere else…who plays those changes...) of his father and Morgan Sloat discussing Jerry Bledsoe, a maintenance man they employ. In the memory of a six year old, part of the conversation about a jazz album mingles with a growing understanding of what happened to Jerry Bledsoe.
“Who plays those Jerry Bledsoe changes?”
The fate of the maintenance man becomes a metaphor for unintended consequences. Jack sees every catastrophe as something he caused by his actions in the Territories. This mini-theme, or Series, dominates the “plot” for several chapters. Mr. King likes taking the scenic route, which is probably why I enjoy his novels!
(Also, Jerry Bledsoe in the real world, the right here and now, God pound it, not in the Territories, is an American author and journalist according to Wikipedia. This could mean nothing, but I find it terribly interesting.)
Today I am deep into chapter twenty-one of The Talisman, enjoying every audiobook minute, and not for the first time. The “Travlin Jack, My Mother is Dying, and Jerry Bledsoe” Series remain powerful and vivid, but Wolf has taken center stage with the changing of the moon.
“You’re the herd now, Jack. A wolf who harms his herd is damned…”
The interesting thing about the link between Book Architecture and Stephen King’s work, is that Mr. King is the champion of organic writers (seat of the pants, story excavators, and so forth). If you Read Blueprint Your Best Seller and Book Architecture, both books provide useful tools to coming to grips with a long, winding first draft. What do writers say? First get it written, then get it right?
For several years I have struggled to understand and wield story structure more intentionally. I love the concepts in Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell and Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. What I am coming to discover, is that the entire process is faster and smoother for me if I write like King advocates and then revise and structure later. Thirty-three years of serious writing brings me to the method I currently use. In essence, it is all about story--some entertain, others do not.
Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to read your comments.
Presently, I have five books available here, if you are interested and enjoy a good read.
Some weeks are harder than others--full of bad news and unexpected expenses; you know, dropping your smart phone in a puddle during a rainstorm, learning that the vehicle you just paid off has a cracked radiator, power steering leak, and main oil leak. You work long hours and get nowhere.
But as we all know, life is full of ups and downs. The older I get, the easier it is to recognize that better times are just around the corner.
I have been struggling with several major writing projects and revisions. Thus, I was totally jazzed when an advanced reading copy of Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline without Using a Formula, by Stuart Horwitz, arrived in my in box.
You’ve got mail!
Yes. Yes I do.
As you might remember from Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method, also by Stuart Horwitz, there are three foundational concepts used in book architecture: scene, series, and theme. I remember reading Blueprint and then watching World War Z. The plot points were perfect and I suddenly had a better understanding of why I loved the movie so much.
I knew about scenes, and thought I knew about theme. Horwitz explained both in a way that opened my eyes to new things. And I got to learn about the series concept, which was the first new thing in books about writing that I have seen for a while.
I haven’t decided if Blueprint made writing easier, but I know it helped me grow and improve. I’ve never shied away from working hard, as long as I’m working smart. Blueprint definitely gave me a lot more bang for my buck, as in, the time I invest in every novel.
I can barely wait to read Book Architecture and apply it to my current project(s).
The Pale Horseman (book two in the Saxon series by Bernard Cornwell) continues the bloody life chronicles of Uhtred of Bebbanburg. Why does this matter? Is this just another book review?
Let me address the second question first. This is the start of a book review; I will be sharing my thoughts as I venture through Cornwell's books. He is one of my favorite writers of historical fiction. Today, while listening to the audiobook on my way to a second job, several things struck me about The Pale Horseman.
This matters because Uhtred is a complex protagonist. He has many traits that are common to heroes in other books: strength, bravery, a vicious brand of loyalty, and a sense of justice that should make him easy to appreciate. Yet he is not always likeable. In fact, I would say I dislike him more often than not--and yet I continue to listen to the story.
The Pale Horsemen starts with Uhtred foolishly drawing his sword on his rival, Ealdorman Odda the Younger, during a religious ceremony, thus offending King Alfred and violating the king's laws. Uhtred is not dumb. He should know better, but his "monstrous pride," as Cornwell describes it, constantly gets Uhtred in trouble. By the end of chapter one, he has committed an unjustifiable murder (both by modern standards and the laws of the time) and put himself and his household in danger of retribution. Why did he commit such a crime? Because he was pissed of and full of, you guessed it, pride.
This is good for moving the plot and keeping "tension on every page," as Donald Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, advocates. It is not good for my feelings about the protagonist. I'd like for someone to take Uhtred in hand and teach him some humanity. Yes, he is essentially a Viking and their moral code at the time of the story is different than mine. Yes, he is true to his character and possesses many positive traits.
I still struggle with the heartless brutality of Uhtred. It is kind of a love-hate relationship with this character that drives me to read on. So in the grand scheme of things, Bernard Cornwell has again proved himself a master writer.
Please check back for future articles on The Pale Horseman as I strive to improve my writing, and possibly share some useful information on anyone thinking of reading the Saxon series.
My science fiction and urban fantasy novels are current available here.
This one goes out to my fellow writers. Do you have a magic trick to increase productivity? How about a daily goal?
The most common goal, promulgated by Stephen King and his book, On Writing, is to craft a certain number of words each day. The master of horror reports to write 3,000 words every, single, day. Do the math; that's a lot of words at the end of the year. Over the course of a career as long as Mr. King's bestselling super-stardom, the total creative output staggers the imagination.
And I say it's totally doable.
Another method of prompting productivity is to track time. I was at the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Incorporated (OWFI) 2013 where a bestselling romance author mad this claim: "Show me a writer to writes twenty hours a week, and I'll show you a New York Times bestselling author." She went on to clarify this meant actual writing time, measured to exactitude, and not fiddling around with quasi-writing activities. "Time yourself, and turn the timer off when you get up to go to the bathroom..." (When I get home, I will dig out the workshop handout and credit the author who said this.)
For the last several years I have strictly logged word count and writing time. At the zenith of my efforts, I was putting in twenty-eight hours a week. Daily word count averages went up and down, depending on the level of editing I was doing. (I had negative word counts during many editing sessions, which I countered by writing a little something new on the side when I could.)
About six months ago, the numbers started to slide--twenty eight hours a week to ten hours a week, sometimes less. At first I blamed this on a change of work schedule, yet I had also resigned from two parts of my job that subjected me to call-outs anytime day or night. It had been my goal for nearly a decade to normalize my schedule, get into a steady routine, and really start to follow my dream. So now I have the same days off every week, at the same time each day, with one of my days actually landing on a real weekend (Saturday).
Where has my time gone? Why is it so much harder to get a couple, or perchance a few, hours of solid time at the keyboard each day? There must be thousands of writers with the same challenge. I'd love to hear from you if you are one of them.
In the mean time, I am sitting down with pen and paper to simplify my goals in life. Stephen Covey would be so proud. I have been very goal oriented since grade school, so it amazes me that I haven't gotten this right. Perhaps I have too many interests (duh).
Today I will consider things I really need:
1) I need to spend time with my family,
2) I need to pay the bills,
3) I need to write,
4) I need to read,
5) I need to exercise,
6) I need to study martial arts (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu).
This is as short as I can make the list today. Unfortunately, number 2 takes a disproportionate amount of my time. Welcome to the American Dream, right?
Please leave your comments bellow. I'd love to hear from you. If you have time and are looking for something good to read, click on the Scott's Amazon Author Page button above.
Thanks. Have a great day.
Over the last few years, I’ve written a lot of posts about novel writing. Most of these have focused on editing or story structure. For years I used organic / seat-of-the-pants drafting methods with heavy revision and editing, but why talk about that. It’s self explanatory. So to improve my craft, I’ve studied structure and posted what I’ve learned. I write in several genres, but prefer science fiction, fantasy, and a mixture of urban fantasy and horror with a dash of crime fiction thrown it. These are the types of things I like to read. Historical fiction is a also particular favorite of mine, though I have not tried to write anything in that genre yet.
Science fiction contains several subfields of specialization such as space opera, military, adventure, and even fantasy or horror. I never worried exactly which type of scifi my stories fell into, as I was busy dreaming the adventure to life. There are usually aspects of each subfield in my novels. I am, however, aware that readers of science fiction have standards and preferences. For science fiction to truly be science fiction, it must at least start from what is known about the universe. The speculative technology is imagined or extrapolated from that basis.
Recently I began a project to sharpen my skills in this area. I did a Google search for "science fiction for science fiction writers" and was directed to several books on Amazon. I selected numerous titles and put them on my wish list, then started planning when they would fit into the budget. Fortunately for me, I already have of a couple of books on the topic which I read years ago. For the purpose of educating myself in hopes of being a better science fiction writer, I have begun a fresh read of Space Travel: A writer's guide to the science of interplanetary and interstellar travel.
Space Travel is edited by Ben Bova with Anthony R Lewis. As I write this blog and look at the book, I am at a loss for exactly who is the author…such is the way of nonfiction I suppose. Space Travel was copyrighted in 1997 by Ben Bova. Content was edited by David Tompkins and David H. Borcherding, production edit by Jennifer Lepore, design by Angela Lennert Wilcox, and the cover illustration credits go to Bob Eggleton.
If I remember correctly from the first time I read this book, it is a good overview of issues that come up when writing a science fiction novel. Part of my mission to improve my science and thus improve my science fiction, will involve more than just reading books, but this is a good place to start. And I thought I would start with somebody with a great deal of credibility. So let me mention a little bit about Ben Bova.
This is a quote from the about the editor section of Space Travel: A writer's guide to the science of interplanetary and interstellar travel:
About the editor
Ben Bova is author of Mars, Moonrise, and more than ninety other novels, nonfiction and instructional books, including The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells for writer's Digest books. The former editor of Analog Science Fiction and Omni magazines, Bova is the six-time winner of science fiction's Hugo award for best professional editor. He is president emeritus of the National Space Society and a past president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
This blog post is a book review. It is about becoming a better writer. I've just started reading Space Travel and am learning about rockets and some basics of physics. Other topics that are listed in the table of contents include orbit, living and working in space, space industries, space habitats, the moon, advanced spacecraft, the solar system, the stars, starships, the universe, legal aspects, and military uses of space.
I hope you'll join me in this blog in the future and open a discussion about writing in general and also the genre of science fiction. I'm not someone who has formalized training in science and I don’t work in an industry of the scientific nature, so I need all the help I can get.
Life is an adventure. I read to expand my horizons and write because I must.
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