Equestrian and Horse JumpingHave you read Rachel Aaron’s book 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love yet?  You really should– it’s great.

Shortest.  WU post.  Ever!

Just kidding.  But not about my recommendation of Rachel Aaron’s book, it really is well worth checking out.  Now just to be clear, I don’t know Rachel at all, never met her, never even e-mailed with her.  I hadn’t heard of her or her book until another author whose blog I follow mentioned that she was giving the strategies recommended in the book a try.  This was six months ago, just after we’d had our third baby, and frankly anything that promised to help me write more efficiently in the obviously limited time I had sounded well worth looking into. So I downloaded the book and dove in.

It’s been awesome.  Seriously.  In the six months since my sweet baby boy was born, I’ve written two full-length books and am just this month finishing up a third.  I wouldn’t say that’s entirely due to having read 2k to 10K, since there are so many other factors that go into a creative streak.  (If anyone has others to share, let me know; I would LOVE to be that productive all the time).  But (I know I’m sounding kind of like an infomercial here, but it’s really true) the strategies Rachel recommends have helped hugely for sure.

I admit that I was skeptical at first of the title.  10K in a day?  I’m not sure I could ever write a book that fast.  I’m not sure if I did write a book that fast it would be worth asking anyone, even my mother, to read it.  Every writer is different, and I’m sure there are those who can write faster and still write well.  But I’ve found I have to live with my characters and my story for a certain amount of time before I really understand them and can do them justice.  If you feel the same, I completely understand that.  Good stories take time.  But the book isn’t about trying to boost your output willy-nilly up to 10k, forget about quality,  it’s really not.  I’m not currently writing 10K a day or anything like, but the strategies have helped me consistently write 2K in the same amount of time I used to take to write more like 1,000 words.  That’s still a speed I’m comfortable with, but it is also helping me finish the books twice as fast.  More importantly, the techniques don’t just bolster your word count.  I mean, we could all just add a minimum of 2 adjectives to modify every noun we write and call it good.  (He sat on the chair.   He sat on the big, red chair.  Look!  More words!)  More words isn’t the point; for me, the strategies really do make the writing better.

Okay, so what does the book actually say?  Rachel’s strategies are really simple– so simple I was kind of smacking myself in the head and wondering why, 10 books into my career as an author, I’d never thought of that.  But that makes them all the easier to implement.  Here are my two favorites:

  • Plan out your scenes first.  Now in the great plotter/pantser debate, I’m a plotter all the way.  But even if you’re a pantser and don’t outline your books, when you sit down to write an individual scene it can be incredibly helpful to figure out exactly what’s going to happen in the scene before you write it.  I like to take 5 minutes (or less) to just jot down a quick note-form sketch of how the scene is going to go.  That way when I actually write it, I can focus on the writing and getting the wording exactly right instead of getting bogged down with figuring out what’s supposed to be happening and how to move the action forwards.
  • If you’re not excited about a scene/chapter/section, figure out why.  We’ve all (I hope!) had the experience of feeling like we’re kind of slogging through writing part of our book, just hoping to get to the scenes we’re really excited about.  But instead of slogging, I’ve found it’s hugely beneficial to take a step back and ask myself why I’m not excited about a particular chapter or scene.  Sometimes I can’t identify exactly what’s wrong (hate that!).  But what I can almost always do is  ask what I could add that would make me completely, crazy excited to work on whatever scene I’m currently slogging through.  Simple, but it really works.  If you’re excited about the writing, it’s automatic–almost effortless– to write faster, and your scene/chapter/section will be better, as well.

Rachel also recommends keeping a chart of the hours that you work and the word counts you achieve in those hours so that you can figure out your most productive times of day.  I wound up not doing that, since I have a wee baby and homeschool my 2 older ones.  I’m sure my schedule and days are no more hectic than many of yours, but sometimes I feel kind of like the definition of time not your own.  I figured it would just depress me to know what my most productive hours are when the odds of my being able to actually work during them on a consistent basis are fairly low.  But I do think it’s a helpful idea that I’m stock-piling for the future.

Your mileage may vary, since there are as I firmly believe as many ways to write a good novel as there are good novelists.  But for me 2K to 10K gets an enthusiastic thumbs up.

What about you?  Do you set yourself daily wordcount goals?  Have you tried strategies to boost your productivity?

About Anna Elliott

Anna Elliott is an author of historical fiction and fantasy. Her first series, the Twilight of Avalon trilogy, is a retelling of the Trystan and Isolde legend. She wrote her second series, the Pride and Prejudice Chronicles, chiefly to satisfy her own curiosity about what might have happened to Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and all the other wonderful cast of characters after the official end of Jane Austen's classic work. She enjoys stories about strong women, and loves exploring the multitude of ways women can find their unique strengths. Anna lives in the Washington DC area with her husband and three children.