Writing Fast While Writing Well

There is a book of that title, written by the person who founded NANOWRIMO.  I read it many years ago, and retain a vague memory it was helpful, tongue in cheek, but not particularly well proofed or edited, which might be one of those things.

I don’t remember the book, though, and it only agreed with my own rules on writing fast and as well as you can on two or three points.  (Taking a lot of showers wasn’t one of them, but I adopted it from them, because, weirdly, it helps.)

Now, when going full tilt I’ve been known to hit 40k words, edited in a day.  I’m not going to suggest people still in full possession of their faculties (or even half their faculties) attempt this.  Look, some of us are less than all there, and our one charming virtue is that we know it.  And at any rate, I couldn’t do it, myself, when I started out.

And that’s where we’re going to go – when I started out, I wrote at the speed most people write.  One short story could take me an entire month, writing and polishing, for a paltry 6k words, sometimes less.

And heck, honestly, Thirst took me almost three months to release into the wild, and while pregnant with second son, the ENTIRE TIME I wrote a single short story (I THINK it was High Stakes.)

Then I took the Oregon Writer’s workshop, and I came back and decided I’d write a short story a weekend.  This in addition to my first novel, which I’d just sold, and which was being written during the week.

Now, you’re going to make some sort of bleating noise (of the sort youngest cat makes when we say we’re going to make him into chat-mein if he doesn’t stop peeing in the front hall) about how, surely, those stories I wrote in months were better than those insane things pounded on a weekend.

Bah.  Thirst was the first (IMHO) publishable short story I wrote, several light years ahead of everything else I had written to date.  I actually typed it in in a crazed 8 hour jag (yes, I type faster than that, but I had just been released from the hospital after giving birth and having a near-lethal uterine infection, and I was high as a kite on morphine.  It’s amazing I hit the keys.)  The problem is I then SPOILED it for over three months, polishing it until it was boiled oatmeal with no taste left to it.  What Kris Rusch calls a Recital piece.  Thank heavens, after the 80th rejection, I took the story out and read it, then read the original.  Then said, “Bah,” (loudly) fixed the typos in the original and sent it out.  It sold.  Unfortunately the magazine was confiscated by the Australian morality police (whatever they call it) though it still got me a year’s best honorable mention in Best Fantasy and Horror.  I sold it eight times after that – the eighth the magazine (Dreams of Decadence) and editor failed to die and it was published.

High Stakes was also publishable, but in the middle of a run of other stories that weren’t.  In fact, since I’ve decided to go indie, I’ve been going over my old cr—oh, pardon me – efforts, and I was a very hit or miss writer (we all have variable quality.  It’s just that at the time, I had 10 REALLY BAD stories for one publishable one) throughout all that “write slow” period and into about six months of one short story a week, when the quality started to pick up, and eventually – eventually – it sort of flipped, so I had ten good stories for one that sucked eggs.  I’d like to say I’m still stuck there, but I’m not.  I’m probably at 7 to 3 because I’m out of practice on short stories.

Anyway, my rate of sales, and my rate of fan letters too, got much better on the fast written stories.  Since then I’ve found, too, that a lot of writers I loved – Rex Stout – wrote that fast or faster.

However, note what I said above – practice might have more to do with quality than how fast you write the story (in fact it does, I know that.)  And writing fast allows you to practice more. — AND you train up to the faster speeds.

 

I’m forever puzzled when I come across my colleagues who write 1k words a month.  Mind you, this last year I’ve been slower, but that’s because so much of it was sick as a dog and too ill to write.  (I seem to be moving away from that, between cutting down some on my blogging obligations and this herbal anti-stress thing I found (No, not pot, even if it’s legal in CO.  I’m deathly allergic to pot, as I found in college-age parties.  My airways close and I either collapse or get the heck out of dodge.)  I could go downstairs and read the composition, but I’m too lazy, but it’s the normal herbal blather, including mint.  I didn’t think it would work, but it seems to.  I FEEL healthy, which is new.  I hope so, because at this point I’m like five novels behind if you count ideas shouting at me.)

 

The difference seems to be that they think it isn’t “proper” to write faster, and if you analyze their work flow, they are spending a lot of time playing computer games, or other distractions.  (Right now a big distraction for me is getting books ready for Create Space. Eh.)

 

So, in no particular order, here is (I hope) how to break out of the turtle pace and write like a hare (or like the tazmanian devil, which is what my husband calls me.)

 

–          Take all games out of your writing computer.  No, I don’t care how disciplined you are.  Take all of them out.  If you can take out internet access too.  At the writing computer, write.  Have other machines for other stuff.  (Your writing computer can be a slow, old thing you got off craigslist, thing.  You’re not going to do anything fancy on it, just treat it as a glorified typewriter.

–          Improve your typing speed if you can – there are games that teach you to type faster.  Try that.  (Just not on the writing computer.)  Part of the reason I write fast is that I type fast.  Also, the faster you type, the less opportunity there is for your conscious to insert itself and start editing.  The less aware you are of what your fingers are doing on the keyboard, the better you can immerse yourself in the dream of this story you’re telling yourself.  In fact, if you can’t figure out how to type fast, or until you can, give Dragon Naturally Speaking a try.

–          Of the various things that make a story good or bad, the least important is the language – yes, you heard me. — In fact, — trust me, I’ve been there – if you’re relying on language for your emotional or story effects, it’s possible that you have nothing else.  Stop that.  Most of the people I know who write agonizingly slow are agonizing in fact over every-precious-word.  Give it up.  Unless you’re a poet, there’s room for error, and at any rate, what you’re doing is writing a story, not composing a prose poem to recite after a heroic dinner.  Look, yeah, sometimes when you’re just typing things in, trying to follow the story in your head, you’re going to make awful word mistakes.  Not just leave for live, which might be my peculiar bête noir, but really bad word choices that break story flow, or pop you out.  BUT the thing is sitting there agonizing about the word isn’t writing – it’s editing.  Suffice onto the day the trouble of the day.  Today you write.  Tomorrow you can come in with your editor’s hat on and polish every word till it shines like a star.

–          While you’re at it, for the love of Bob (Heinlein) do NOT let go of your writing to go and look up exactly what kind of gruel 13th century villagers ate.  Put in some sign you don’t use for anything else, or curly brackets or whatever and {whatever in heck they ate for breakfast} and continue writing.  At the end of the day, when your mind plays out, there’s time enough to go and look up what the heck it was, after you do a search of curly brackets.

–          Minimize your hours of staring at the screen.  I tend to only do it for long periods of time when I’m really tired or sick, but I know people for whom it is an habit.  Don’t do that. If you’ve stared at the screen for an hour, either start up another story (not abandoning the first, but with intention to clear the mind.  Usually the interloper story should be short. I will sometimes take a day and do a short in the middle of a stuck novel.  That allows my subconscious to pass out of the block, and write again.) or go for a walk, or do 100 pushups, or something.  The thing is that your “distraction” activity must be either hard/unpleasant (and when block strikes, cleaning toilets suddenly seems pleasant, so this is a hard thing), or exercise – and limit yourself to an hour in the middle of your writing period – though this does help, particularly if you’re by nature a depressive, or it must be writing of a different kind.

–          This brings us to the next rule: the most important relationship in writing is between you and your keyboard.  Give it some quality time.  Set yourself hard and fast time.  This is your job, treat it as such.  Three hours or four hours or ten hours, whatever it is, respect those boundaries.  (I wrote two novels a year in the days I could only devote two hours a day to writing.)

–          Start slow, but give yourself permission to write as fast as you can.  Rid yourself of the notion that slower is better, and just write.

–          Stop second guessing yourself “should they go to the ship?  Perhaps they should go to the market instead.”  Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, the best kind of writing is one in which you write in a semi-dream in which the story is real.  If it’s real to you it will live for others.  Keep writing. My first three novels, I wrote 1/3 more than ever saw the light of publication.  That was logical, because I didn’t have  a very clear idea of structure.

–          It’s easier to cut/polish/reword once you have the whole thing in front of you.  Trust me.

–          Also, if you’re reasonably “young” in writing, your raw writing – fast enough the editing part of your mind can’t catch you – might be better than the edited one.  If you don’t know what you’re doing, the stuff you do instinctively will be better.  Again, trust me on this.

Oh, and the showers… they do work, as do brisk walks.  I can’t guess why, unless it is because it refreshes you.

Mostly, mostly, the most important thing about writing fast, more important even than increasing your typing speed (I wrote Musketeer’s Apprentice by hand, because I had an infected splinter in my left hand that made typing impossible) is giving yourself permission to write fast.  Do that.  And lock your internal editor in the dungeon of oblivion, promising to let him out when the novel/story/article is done.  Everything else will come.

100 comments

  1. unfortunately, my writing computer needs office and a web browser and skype and…. well lets just say most of my writing these days is nonfiction, that’s the writing that is paying me.

    1. LibreOffice is free, has all the same functions (that I use, anyway) as Office, and will open/edit/save all of the Office file formats (.doc, .xls, .docx, .xlsx, etc). And free. Free is good. Free is affordable.

  2. I’m beginning to think that the only way I’m going to get my book done is if I start writing it out of order, because parts I’m not nearly up to keep taking up my mind, which turns the part I’m working on into an uninviting chore.

      1. Actually, on my first big Dr. Mauser story I wrote ahead, and then having two scenes to bring together was an interesting problem to solve. But it’s been a while since I did one that way.

        1. On my last book I had 2-3 extended sequences which were eating up all the emotional energy. I settled for “writing ahead” in very detailed outline, and that laid them to rest well enough for me to get back to work in order. Then when I got to them, they were so near-final that they just boomed along.

  3. I write and play games at the same time, but I still usually manage between one and three thousand words a day. I use the games as the distraction for the internal editor, and being a die hard gamer, I know which things I can do and which things I can’t do so that I can combine the two. At the moment since I’ve been working on a pure science fiction space opera piece, I write and mine asteroids in EvE. For fantasy, it’s usually house on the hill solitaire, for editing, Civ IV. I’ve found I have to be doing something else while editing or I tend to get into my stories and miss sentence structure and word choice mistakes.

    I’ve also been known to do what you suggest, with starting a new project when I get blocked, though I try not to, since I have so many unfinished projects that I’m still trying to complete already. I’ll have to give the showers thing a try, it makes sense. A warm shower to release tension and the white noise of the water to help the dream-state meditation you write in percolate while invigorating your body.

  4. Any suggestions for those of us who type so fast that we lock up the word processor? I learned on a manual and then electric typewriter, and my touch-typing speed kills my computer. Spinning ball of doom, total lock up, time to hit the kill switch, get a drink, and turn the beast back on. Grrrr.

    1. Wow. Err.. My only suggestion would be to thank G-d that you can create it that fast. I was in awe of David Weber when he mentioned that he could do 290 wpm on Dragon too. I can’t even type at my max speed because it won’t come that fast.

    2. If you typed it in plain text and added things like formatting and emphasis later, would that work? I don’t think it’s possible to lock up Notepad by human typing speeds. Type in that, and then paste into your more flexible word processor at the end of the day? Myself, I would never be able to find all the places I wanted to edit for formatting again, but if it would work for you, that’s one suggestion.

      1. Hmmm, I may try that for my next piece. I’ve always been half afraid that I’d get, oh, a couple thousand words down, go to copy it into Word, and Word goes “blargh” and I lose everything, or it gets turned into word salad.

          1. I just ran into a problem with notepad, again. Older versions, like on Win98, can have a character limit. When I switch to wordpad, I don’t see the same limit. I’m pretty sure the problem doesn’t exist on XP.

            I don’t have access to the machine I’ve been testing emacs, vi, ntoepad++ and so forth on.

    3. I think it’s the keyboards. I don’t type that fast, but sheesh, lost letters galore. It’s like the new cheapies aren’t very sensitive, or responsive. I’m contemplating buying a pricier one real soon if this one doesn’t stop not-registering key clicks.

      1. USB keyboards get this problem more than mechanical ones. The mechanical ones are, irritatingly, often more expensive these days (darn gamers). With USB, there’s only a certain number of keys that can be pressed “simultaneously,” where that is within a few fractions of a second.

        For most USB’s, I think you can have three pressed in that miniscule time limit, for mechanicals (with the little round “PS2” connector), it’s NKRO- N-key roll over, means you can have a bunch more pressed quick. Good switches on the keys helps, as some are a bit sticky (like the cheap Packard Bell I’m typing on now, as my last one just died).

        If you type *really* fast, that might be a consideration to look into.

            1. That can be fixed. Motherboards with a PS/2 port are rather cheap, and swapping one out isn’t a big deal. *chuckle* Best if you can upgrade the main processor at the same time, saves effort. Contact your local computer geek, wave shiny things in front of him and let him play with hardware. Oh yes, he’ll want this semi-mythical thing I’ve heard called “cash,” too for some reason.

      2. Thank you for mentioning this! I was wondering were certain random letters went! I’m pretty aware of what happens with my fingers even if I don’t see the keyboard. If I don’t know where my hands are for too long, I get gibberish and my work is lost. But lately, I’ve been losing letters and thinking I’m getting sloppy or going crazy. Now I know that it’s my blasted cheapo keyboard.

        My issue with keyboards is that I learned how to type on a selectric. I loved them because I could type as fast as I can and have no trouble. Sounds like I’m junior league compared to you folks, but on cheaper typewriters it was an issue. Whereas the awesome Selectric always kept up with me. Also, the keys didn’t’ get jammed up, and the returns worked properly, etc etc… and it was like typing on an anvil. Only comfortable. 🙂
        It was the Volvo of typewriters.
        And now everybody thinks chiclet keyboards are the bomb. I HATE them. How on earth can you approach accuracy with one of those? I drift too much on those things, and wind up typing random jumbles instead. Not only that, but the keys pop off. Is that a feature? Furthermore, wireless is a bad idea. Too much information gets lost. Who ordered this?!

        1. I learned to type on a manual olivetti. The d*mn thing was indestructible. Once, exam week, I got up without paying attention. I had one of those fifties desks with spindly desks. It overturned, the machine fell to the floor and crunched together. Dad pulled it back into place with his bare hands, and it typed fine. Only… Only I had to have the roll replaced once a year. The repairman said I typed with unnecessary force. Okay. He said “she types like a plowman.” The only keyboard that has lasted me more than a year is this one I’m typing on, and it’s getting flakey.

      1. Actually Reason magazine ran a test and people — even trained typists after training with it — are actually slower on Dvorak. I wish I remembered which issue. Um… sometime in the nineties?

    4. If you’re running Windows 7, there’s speech recognition already built in. My system doesn’t have the horsepower to put speech directly into Word (blasted CPU hog…) so I put it into Wordpad, then cut and paste into Word. When I’m doing dialog, I’ll dictate one character’s lines, hit ‘Enter’ a couple of times, then do the next. I haven’t seen what I could do on a words per minute basis, but it significantly increased throughput…

      1. I think Win XP had that too, I tried it for a bit, but my microphone sucked too much in the excess noise. How do you turn it on?

        Oh, and as for keyboards, I still wish there were some way to use my old Apple Extended Keyboard II (AKA the “Saratoga”) with my PC, because those were the best feeling keyboards ever. Unfortunately, they don’t stand up to cleaning well. I stocked up on them some time ago, but each one now seems to have a bad key. 😦

        In the meantime, I rather like my current Logitech wireless. And the best reason is because after violating the warranty, I discovered I could literally take the keys off the rubber sensor mat, and run them under the faucet to clean them out and get the cat hair and spilled Coke out. Although it also helps that I have an air compressor in the shop and could blow out all the water (and cat hair).

        Cleaning the plastic circuits underneath is a harder chore, but usually not necessary.

  5. I’ve always liked that mantra of yours, “words can be fixed”

    I’ve combined it with lying to myself. When I sit down at the writing computer, I tell myself all I need to produce are 200 words of complete carp, so it’s okay to start writing. Sometimes it works, and I produce 800-1000 words without agonizing and overthinking.

  6. So stop being so anal and rewriting Chapter 1 five times before I start Chapter 2?

    Stop worrying about every typo and grammatical error?

    Start actually GETTING SOMETHING DONE instead of constantly re-working EVERYTHING every five minutes?

    This sounds like good advice. I’ll have to try it.

    And while we’re talking about staring at screens…

    Does anyone else get freaked out by a blank screen on your word processor? I’ve actually been so stressed out by not seeing anything in front of me that I’ve actually had to write a paragraph about how stressed out I was before I could calm down enough to tell my story.

    But hopefully that’s just me.

    1. I do this sometimes. Just write stream of consciousness nonsense asking myself what the carp my heroine’s doing and why she’s running around like a hamster on caffeine it when she could be at home enjoying hot chocolate, the latest Bujold,, and a snoring dog at her feet … and then somehow, it turns into more story. Sometimes even decent story.

    2. It’s not just you. That’s when I go to my snippet file and pull something out, paste it into the blank screen, and see what happens. It usually does the trick.

    3. Yes, stop rewriting things. Wait till novel is done. And even then rewrite lightly. Rewriting is WAY harder than writing, and when you’re a newby you’ll screw rewriting up, even when writing might be fine.
      It doesn’t have to be perfect. It has to be done.

  7. So, how about a portion where you simply don’t know how it would go? I’ve got some need for government interference in the WIP, but I really stink at predicting what the government will do, so I’m having really slow slogging right now. After a certain point, I expect the difficulty level to ease up, because I’ll be on familiar ground, but should I leave the space open for that and work on the rest, while perhaps asking for suggestions?

    1. Oh, let me help. I work for the government. (No, really, I do. Don’t judge.) What are they doing, and I’ll tell you why they shouldn’t?. Also, I still owe Sarah my guest post on space law, so I may be able to pull you something from that.

      1. I’m just looking for general business interference; something to irritate various business owners and rich people. Gotta prod these guys to make them want to leave.

        1. Going by what I read in the newspaper, everyone hates (from Wikipedia:) the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 (Pub.L. 107–204, 116 Stat. 745, enacted July 30, 2002), also known as the ‘Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act’ (in the Senate) and ‘Corporate and Auditing Accountability and Responsibility Act’ (in the House) and more commonly called Sarbanes–Oxley, Sarbox or SOX, is a United States federal law that set new or enhanced standards for all U.S. public company boards, management and public accounting firms.

          You could also highlight all the penalties attached to growth beyond a certain number of employees (just make that number up if you are in the future) because having more than x number of full time employees kicks you into health care, insurance, working condition and collective bargaining requirements. You could mention big squabbles internal to the business between human resources and the business people who want certain people to work more than 30 hours per week, but the accountants will freak because then all sorts of regulations kick in. You could have the NLRB interfere with a business decision to relocate a plant to a right to work state (see, e.g., Boeing’s desire to move to South Carolina and the NLRB’s response). EPA compliance kicks in for businesses over a certain size. You have to hire lots of people to abide by all these rules. Tax them. Put the IRS in charge of chilling political speech so they can’t fight back. Put the executives through Congressional hearings to explain why they are destroying jobs by not making light bulbs anymore. Obviously, I’ve made all this stuff up.

          1. See? I can never remember all that horrendous garbage. I’m pretty sure it’s because I get angry whenever I do, and I already have high blood pressure and possibly an ulcer, so I’m trying to keep down the stress level.

            Those are great reminders, and I’ve copied that to a resource file. I DO have a guy who’s going to quote Warren Buffet on the tax structure, coming up in a page or two. That should raise some characters’ blood pressures.

            1. Sarbox alone should be enough to have some folks heading for the exits, and maybe add a clause that private companies over a certain size also have to comply, because they are competing with the publicly-held corporations, yadda, yadda, and so on.

              1. Consider also Dodd-Frank, wherein banks can be liable for criminal charges based on their lending practices, sepcifically things they cannot control, like, say, the veracity of their borrowers.

                Add in EO bullsqueeze, quotas, and more meddling in the affairs of private individuals and businesses. Pile on confiscatory tax structures (“soak the rich!”), limits (at first…) on free speech, free enterprise (see above), and free association. Twist the language into Orwellian doublethink (“Affordable” “Care” “Act”- what do these words mean, individually?). Snatch children from their parents, indoctrinate them into becoming informants on said former ‘rents.

                Lower the trust value between individuals. Destroy the family (no more fathers). Devalue the currency, sell out to foreign interests inimical to the country. Wink at corruption that feeds the greed of the political class, punish the hard work of honest citizens. Use the police as a big hammer, destroying a tradition of service and sacrifice going back many decades. Destroy the trust in the military by using it on American soil against citizens who follow the true spirit of our laws, if not the twisted, blackened thing the political class have constructed.

                Start wars for ego, to distract the masses, or simply to punish other countries that don’t follow the New Way. Establish and continue a tradition wherein elected officials are bought and paid for through lobbyists and special interests, gaining outrageous “perks” while in office and palatial sinecures once “retired.” Create (race, class, wealth) divisions within the mob so it never grows cohesive enough to challenge the political class.

                Alter recorded history. Re-establish slavery in all but name. Slay hope, embrace “Hope & Change.”

                Did I miss anything?

              2. You mention fire exits. I recall a story about a small restaurant running afoul of multiple different agencies over which way the door on the tiny bathroom could swing. If it swung inward, it would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. If it swung outward, it would block the hallway to the exit and violate the fire code. Not having a door at all violated the Health code, and the building code wouldn’t let him put in a sliding pocket door.

            2. Put in a new tax on high income earners, that the business has to match.

              This will make business more leery of hiring salaried employees. This will bump the unemployment rate and lower the employment prospects of such, including entry level engineers. (I think I’ve heard Petro grads some places could look at starting near 100k.)

    2. I hear you Wayne. I got stuck because I knew what sort of small problems and interactions needed to be worked out but I couldn’t see any real reason for the, uh, antagonist elements to do anything truly stupid. I even wrote a briefing scene explaining why they probably wouldn’t do anything stupid. Had I kept writing I might have figured it out sooner but after a day (and total loss of momentum) I realized that I figured they’d all react rationally to their new situation because they can’t get home again, but that *they* think that they can get home again. Thus, they are about to do something very stupid, step on every pet peeve I’ve got about TV shows or movies where it is all about trying to get home again when the chance of doing so is zip (hello Voyager), but that I will have the last laugh. Ha!

  8. When I can’t think of a word or name, I write (——). I try to fill in names quickly, because I don’t want lots of (——) to confuse me. And I’m so confused I originally posted this at According to Hoyt.:-D

    1. Have you considered getting a random name generation program? I like to generate fifty names or so and just keep them handy when writing. When I need a name, I grab one off the list and keep going. I can always change it later, but at least I have something to call the character in question while writing!

      1. Well, I’m very particular about my made-up names. Anal, even. Real-life names usually don’t give me any hassles, since there’s so many resources out there, like Sarah mentions.

    2. I’ve gone to baby-name lists on occasion, especially if I have an ethnic type in mind (say, quasi-Hungarian, or semi-Polish, or Ethiopian).

      1. Google is good for this. Just fire up Goog, and search “popular _____ baby names”. You shouldn’t have to even scroll down the page before you find a link or two that will help. Also, use browser tabs for this. Don’t just click the link, right-click and “open in new tab”, so that you can compare several sites and get the best names, or decide they’re garbage sites (for your purposes) and your original Goog search is still there with more options.

        1. Did you know that you can configure Google search to automatically open links in a new tab? In the Search Settings, there’s a selection for
          “Where results open”. Just check the “Open each selected result in a new browser window.” box (it will normally open in a new tab).

    3. I actually collect names. At work whenever I have to authorize a name that I think would be good for a character, I make note of the name for my own future reference.

      1. It’s fun trying to create names for Alien characters. [Wink]

        As I mentioned elsewhere, I’ve often used “place holder names” like “Gracious Lady”, “Evil Clan Lord”, “Retired Assassin”, etc. [Smile]

  9. The thing most beginning writers (and far too many experienced writers) tend to forget is that words are not the story. Words serve the story. As long as the words draw the reader into the story, they’ve done their job. Yeah, some words may be prettier than other words, but a reader who’s immersed in a story probably isn’t going to notice the difference between the pretty word and the serviceable word.

    I associate edit an ezine (Bruce Bethke’s Stupefying Stories, in case anyone wonders) and am amazed at the number of stories we get where each word appears to have been lovingly and carefully selected to fit exactly with all the other words in the sentence. Each sentence is crafted to fit with the others in the paragraph. And each paragraph painstakingly constructed to fit with all the other paragraphs in the story. The problem is that all of that work resulted in a story which is boring at best, incomprehensible at worst. (Many of these people have advanced degrees in creative writing or teach creative writing, leading me to wonder what is being taught in creative writing classes.)

    Write the story first. Craft the story when the writing is done.

      1. Reminds me of an episode of “Friends” I was forced to watch (my wife was addicted back when it was on TV), where Joey writes a letter to an adoption agency on behalf of Chandler and Monica. He was afraid it sounded too …uneducated, so Chandler showed him how to highlight a word and hit the thesaurus. He ended up doing that for EVERY WORD in the letter, including signing the letter “Baby Kangaroo Tribiani”.

        My personal thumbrule is, don’t repeat the same words over and over. If I’ve described something as, say, a “dismal swamp”, I don’t use the word “dismal” again for at least another paragraph or two.

        1. Unless, of course, you do it on purpose “…a dismal swamp under a dismal sky on a dismal mission to…” Same with alliterations. Accidentally using too many words that start with the same letter is jarring, unless your whole purpose it to draw attention to them… aaaaaannnndddd… I’m now firmly in the morass (not dismal swamp) of nit picking word choice.

          Bad me.

          1. One of the reasons why I love reading Matt Ruff is that he makes fun of himself inside the novel for making those kind of errors. Sewer Gas and Electric is pretty famous for that.

          1. Sometimes, yes. Back when I dribbled out poetry, I’d catch it in writing because trying to reorganize rhyme and meter after the fact is a royal nightmare.

          2. Actually, this is a common misconception, but the truth is, the pet words catch you. Yes, like a dog or other overfriendly beast, they just jump up on you, shed on your clean clothes, insist on being scratched and trying to steal your food… dismal, isn’t it?

              1. With a comfy chair? Oh, wait. NOT the comfy chair! Oh, please, please, not in the corner with the comfy chair, ebooks, and a nice warm cup of tea. Anything but that! Oh, woe is me, life is just… wait for it… dismal.

                I’m going, I’m going.

  10. Whenever I try and write anything other than family letters, I feel as though I am prying the words out with a crowbar so this blog post really hit the spot for me.

  11. This is exactly the post I needed to read today. I’m my own worst enemy and make the worst excuses and get stuck on the dumbest things. I’ve tried to do NaNoWriMo more than once, begin with a firm “no editing, I’m allowed to write crap” mindset and one day think “wow, this is good” and screech to a halt. This time I managed the opposite and even knowing that every single published author I know (or a large percentage of them anyhow) swings between “wow, this is good” to “wow, I really suck” to “wow, this is good” to “I’m delusional, this sucks”… I hit, “wow, this just isn’t very interesting is it…”

    I was even going to ask, yesterday, if someone could write about how to keep going when you suddenly decide that you don’t have a plot.

    So this was like a Christmas present. 🙂

    1. Good. You suddenly decide you have no plot? Since my muse switched to “pantsing” I don’t see the plot till I finish, so I slog through the despond going “This makes no sense, and I have no plot” till the last fifty pages where I go “Oh, nifty!”

      1. So you mean my hulking corpses without much plot just aren’t done yet? The threads that seem like five different novels wrestling for domination just means I gave up before the end was insight?

        1. yep. Also, they might be five novels. This happens when you have lack of practice. Mirrorplay, the pre-Micean thing that will get re-written is at least three novels, and might be five.

    2. My attempt this year started with compiling a numbered list of qualifying and semi-qualifying bunnies. I’d use the list to label the day’s efforts by which story they plugged into, or to find something that I could get interested in.

    3. I had that problem with NaNo this year. I can tell you from personal experience that what happens is you write scenes that you know have to happen, even though they may later be too dull to keep, and hope that you discern a plot there. Adding new characters helped. What really helped was writing up a giant flashback, which is where I found more plot. Now I’m not so sure I like my plot, but I have one.

  12. hmmmmmmmm…..Wow, thanks for this.

    You need to get healthy Sarah. It’s “food” and “drugs”.
    Anything that is made in a factory does NOT go into your body.
    Seriously!!!!
    Fred

  13. I have a soft spot in my heart for NaNoWriMo, being the resident ML for my area and (so far) hitting 50,000 words six times with six attempts. And mostly, when I’m stuck, I pull up writeordie.com and let things flow.
    Right now the problem is finding SPACE and TIME to write – more space than anything else. I can’t seem to get into the right mindset with people running around, constant distractions and interruptions, etc…

    1. Ditto. Used to scribble a lot when single…now that I’m married (10 years last Friday!), I find it very difficult when I’m anticipating at any moment either my wife or my daughter coming into the compooter room and asking “so, whatcha workin’ on?” COMPLETELY throws me out of the groove, and its darn near impossible to get back in. When I try, there’s usually another interruption or two, accompanied by “I’m sorry, I know I promised I’d leave you alone, but…..” :sigh:

      1. I still get this, and my “boys” are 22 and 18. Their father is worse, as he’ll come in and TALK at me, and ask questions like “So, what do we do about groceries” while I’m writing!

          1. To which it’s so tempting to respond “Well, I could be writing… or I could be beating you over the head with a crowbar until you go away. Your choice.”

            1. Ah, I see you have a computer that periodically needs percussive maintenance also. (by the fact you have a crowbar ready to hand at your writing computer)

            2. It’s the plaintive cry from another room (or another floor)…

              “Karen?”
              “What?” Silence. “WHAT?” Silence. “WHADAYAWANT?”
              “Hmmm?”

                1. “Well, if you aren’t motivated enough to come see me here, then obviously it’s not that important, is it?” *cranks up the music* Well, that’s what I’d be tempted to say. Probably a good thing I don’t have kids.

  14. Yeah – needed the kick. Ignoring the Christmas short I wanted to do as I wouldn’t be able to get it out by a few days before Christmas. But there’s New Year’s I can try for. (And I’ll have a Christmas short plot waiting for next year.)

  15. This is such great advice and one which induces facepalming once you realize how much pre-revelation time was spent NOT writing fast and furious. Once I got over (well, not completely) how many of my characters put a consoling hand on another character’s shoulder, I realized how easy it is to fix the second (and third and fourth…) go around.

      1. Coffee? Mine guzzle tea. And tap the floor with the tips of their tails. And mutter under their breath in strange languages. NTTAWWT.

  16. How do I keep my charaters from distracting me with their life stories? (Yes, Mattan, your death is tragic, or at least sad, but it’s some 40 years at least after the story I’m trying to tell.)

    1. Let the other characters beat them down! That’s what happens in real life, right? Mattan starts telling everyone one more time about how he died 40 years ago, and someone pours a bucket of water over his head and they all go on. So just let them squelch the old rascal, and proceed to plan the perfect crime.

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