Blast from the recent past — Write like the Wind

(Sarah is at TVIW this week and asked me to fill in for her. Well, in light of some of the comments we received in the various threads asking what you’d like us to write about as well as some conversations I’ve had recently with other writers, I thought this post Sarah did back in April might be appropriate. — ASG)

Write Like the Wind

There was a time I wrote a short story in six months.  I took days to write it, weeks to lovingly polish it, MONTHS of agonizing over every word.  Then I sent it out.  And it was rejected.  (All but one, which was accepted eight times, but killed magazines and/or editors. No, I don’t know why.)

Then I attended the Kris and Dean Oregon Coast Professional Writers Workshop (the first) and in those two weeks we HAD to — had to — produce five short stories and two novel proposals.  I did.  Also, at this point all of those short stories have sold.

After that I launched into a year of a short story a week (while writing two novels.)  It was a challenge of my writers’ group.

We didn’t succeed.  I think I ONLY wrote forty short stories.

The funny thing was, recently, reading over my past stories (I was transferring things from diskette) that the quality difference, after about a quarter of a story a week, more or less, was marked, visible and obvious.  I was much better after a quarter of forced production.  And from that point on, pretty much all the short stories have sold.

Novels too started being much faster.  Honestly, if I can stabilize my health at some point, a novel a month is neither unfeasible nor unreasonable.  I once wrote two novels (Heart and Soul and Plain Jane) in a month, and finished another one, though I can’t remember which (might have been one of the Musketeer books.)  In fact the main reason I didn’t write a book a month back when I was healthy was that in traditional publishing there was nothing I could do with that many books.  (Ah, for a way to send my old-self a little note.)

One of you emailed me last week and asked me if writing that fast was some trick that could be taught.

Sort of.  I’m not sure it can be taught, but it can be learned.  It’s a frame of mind you put yourself in, a mental block you remove.  And the only way to put it firmly in place is if you PRACTICE it and set yourself deadlines and goals.

However to the extent I can help, there are some principles to keep in mind that might help break the barrier.

1- how long you take to write a story doesn’t make it better or worse.  My highest-selling book was written in two days, and the next-highest-selling in two weeks.  By the standard that counts “how many people pay out good money to read this?” my faster written books are the best.

2- nine times out of ten the things you’re agonizing about on the story aren’t really important.  No, seriously.  Things like passive voice, overuse of to-be and too many adjectives and adverbs are things editors and critics care about, but most readers don’t notice, not if your voice is confident and strong enough.

3- Keeping a strong voice is much easier if you write the story fast.

So, that’s why.  Now HOW to do it.

1- Write as fast as you can.  If you are a slow typist, try voice dictation.  Put your mind in the story and write as fast as humanly possible.

2- Don’t edit.  I can’t say that enough DO NOT EDIT.  Write to the end without editing.  If you typed teh instead of the, it will wait till you’re done.

3- To facilitate do not edit, DO NOT read back to see what you did yesterday.  For best results leave yourself a sticky note about where you are going next.  That way you don’t need to read what you wrote and be tempted into editing.

4- if you’re an outliner, have a complete outline before you start, and then mark on the outline what you’re doing tomorrow.

5- if you’re a partial outliner like me, outline what you’re doing tomorrow at the end of the work day.

6- Did I mention write as fast as you possibly can?  Short story or novel race to the end.

7- Once you’re done fix typos then let it sit for a week.  This is an excellent time to send it to your betas, unless like me your idea changed in the middle and your beginning and end don’t match.

8- Fix continuity issues.

9- Make sure all your foreshadowing points right.

10- Make sure you got all your points in.

11- Do not revise/get caught in rewrites more than three times.  Three times, and let it go.

12 – move on to the next project.

Now I can say all this till I’m blue in the face, but you HAVE to practice it.  You HAVE TO PRACTICE it.  But if you do, I guarantee you’ll get better.

11 Comments

Filed under SARAH A. HOYT, WRITING: CRAFT

11 responses to “Blast from the recent past — Write like the Wind

  1. So, I think this question has been asked before, but how do you get past the point of, “He’s here now, and soon he’s going to be there, but how the heck do I get him from here to there?”

    • Not sure about anyone else, but I jump to what I know, write that bit, and frequently find that it has knocked loose what I needed, or gives me a hint as to how to continue with the middle. And my muse/subconscious takes over from there.

  2. paladin3001

    I remember this post. I am still trying to write. Given up on the “short story a week” thing since it takes me a little longer then that. I am trying to aim for a minimum of 500 words per day. Some weeks are worse then others though. I look at it as practice for when I can focus more and better.

    • Usually I’m a slow writer, but I cranked out a complete short story Saturday evening polished it Sunday evening, and submitted it Monday. This was the one that wouldn’t gel, but when I thought about compressing it and telling it from the villain’s POV, it all clicked.

      Keep in mind I already had the entire thing mapped out, so it wasn’t “Okay, so what does he do now.” Those go very quickly once they come together.

  3. amiegibbons15

    My best book still is the first Ariana (obviously had to edit it for actual writing technique once I was better at that) and I wrote the original 150K words first draft in 5 weeks.

    It works. If you can get into the character’s head and just go, it really does work.

    • That’s probably why the current large WIP is going slowly – I have to jump heads between two characters, and it is seriously slowing me down.

  4. lfox328

    I’m working on it. I’ve made notes on edits on a hard copy, and am working to get those edits in over the next 2 weeks (it’s hard – I’m overcommitted, and also cleaning/organizing a house that BADLY needs it).
    The continuity/foreshadowing stuff is particularly important as this is a mystery. Gotta have those clues in the right places.
    I’ve made a personal commitment to getting the novel to beta readers by the middle of the month. If you’d like to be one, email me at:
    rightasusual2003-at-gmail-dot-com

    Warning: it’s a murder mystery/suspense, not sci-fi or fantasy. I only want those who like that genre to apply.

  5. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Back before current issue was stressing me, I’d gotten pretty good at the Sunday vignette. I’m on hiatus due to RL. I also need to improve my stress management plan.

    I’m short on sleep, and more than a little stupid from it. I’m wondering if doing a 250 short over every weekend would be a good plan.

    (2,000 words a week might be doable during the next summer, if I can make the arrangements I want.)