How do you produce so quickly?

I’ve been lurking on Reddit using their AMA feature. It stands for Ask Me Anything. One of the common questions I get asked is “how many words do you write?”

The answer is simple. I measure this in “sittings”. See, I’m not someone who writes every single day. I write my books project-by-project.

For example, today I began writing In Their Shoes – The Artist, Book 4 in the series. I thrashed out 13k+ over four chapters. In actual fact I could have kept on going, but decided to stop for the sake of the story. I needed the first four chapters to dwell in my mind for a while. I started writing at 7am (GMT) and finished around 2pm. Over one fifth of the book finished (50k total).

So, how do you write so fast? Here’s my laundry list.

1: Daydream. Spend time with your characters and story. I had the idea in my head and played it out visually for about a week or so. I knew the key scenes and the imagery that summed up the whole story. Character names are helpful. Traits, personalities- all part of the “in my head” process. You’re a fool not to have spent time with the characters and the scenes/settings etc…

2: The roughest of rough outlines. One sheet of A4, scribbled. I try not to stick to it rigidly outside of the mandatory beginning, middle and end. It’s not always feasible to have a beginning, middle and end, however. When I was writing The Actor, I had an end, a sort of beginning and no clue how the events played out in the middle. It was sort of made up on-the-fly. Hard to believe that now that I think back to it. But it’s true. Check out this pathetic outline which I used, for real, earlier today.

Ignore the cigarettes on the left. Especially if you don’t smoke. I’ll explain those in a moment… this sheet was all I had to go on for beginning The Artist today. Just a bunch of character names and names of organisations. That’s it. It’s all I needed.

3: Trust your instincts. It’s always a daunting prospect heading into a new story. Trust yourself. If you hit a brick wall, write your way around it. You may find it was better than anything you could have planned for.

4: Be a fast typer. Why not measure yourself using this awesome tool? Keep going back to this speed test once or twice a week. I guarantee you – it’s the fastest way to get faster at typing. Trust me, I still only use my forefinger and middle finger when I type. My WPM is 80, at the moment.

5: Music. Sounds daft, right? But have you thought about a soundtrack for your book? Seems silly, but as a screenwriter this definitely helps. Visualise how your story takes place. For example, The Artist is about a collective of miscreants who graffiti their way around town. They go to extreme lengths for their cause. My soundtrack listing helps me set a mood – in this case, it’s hardcore, pensive and against-the-clock. Here’s my track list so far (and they’ll be getting mentions within the book to underscore the story):

  1. Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue – Kids
  2. Zardonic – Vigilante
  3. Pigforce – Doin Jobs For Tha Mob
  4. Celldweller – Shut em Down
  5. Limp Bizkit – Full Nelson
  6. Prodigy – Get Up, Get Off
  7. KRS One – Sound of Da Police

6: Know When to Stop. As I mentioned earlier, I could have gone on for another ten thousand words. But I felt a pain in between my shoulders and my fingers started to ache a bit. It was time to stop. Not just because it was a bit painful, but also to let my mind work subconsciously on what I think I have written for tonight and while I sleep.

7: NEVER re-read your work till it’s finished. Seriously. British writer Ben Elton said you should never re-read your screenplay until you’re past the first ten pages. Let me one-up you, there Ben. I never re-read anything till it’s finished. Why? Because I want to spend a day or two away from the whole thing. A pregnant woman doesn’t pause halfway through childbirth to inspect the baby’s head and torso, does she? No, she screams and kicks and thrashes about until it’s delivered. Same goes with writing a book. Stay away! Resist! You’ll thank your fresh, objective eyeballs later down the line.

I don’t think I could ever daydream stories without three things – coffee, cigarettes and music. Although for God’s sake, if you don’t smoke I don’t advise you start. I did start, and that was one of my life’s biggest mistakes. I wish I hadn’t started. But for all you smokers out there, don’t forget – smoking is cool and you know it.

Anyway, I hope this helps! If it does, please share this post – maybe someone else might find it useful!

Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to CVB’s mailing list – and to get your FREE short story prequel: In Their Shoes – One Size Fits All!

Happy writing!

Andrew x

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