How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 2)

Keep calm and write onGuest Post by Sheryl Scarborough

We shouldn’t be surprised or amazed when our writing suddenly starts to click. After all, this is what we’ve been practicing, perfecting, mastering and perhaps even MFA’ing, right? So it makes sense that as we grow as writers we will become more proficient. We will find our centers and words will flow.

But as all writers also know, the magic word faucet can suddenly and inexplicably develop a clog. So for those times – and regular times, too – I asked some of my successful writer friends to share their methods.

My friends publish a LOT of books and I’m predicting this blog will be relevant for some years to come, so I’m not listing their recent sales next to their names. Instead, I’m including a link to their websites where you will find the most up-to-date info on their publishing successes. Please do yourself a favor and check them out.

Kelly Barson, and Melanie Fishbane, don’t worry about word count per se but both of them try to get through a complete scene in one sitting. Then if they feel like they can go further, they do. I call this PACING YOURSELF.

The prolific Kekla Magoon, admits to not being very scheduled or orderly, but she writes up against DEADLINES so she sets daily goals for herself depending on chapters, pages and scenes. She also swears by Scrivener, saying it has enhanced her productivity. Kekla’s method seems to be GUN-TO-THE-HEAD + PROPER TOOLS = WORDS ON THE PAGE.

Carrie Jones, sets ridiculously low word count goals for drafting, then celebrates when she goes beyond that goal. She also points out that failure to meet her goals would result in starvation, so there is that. I’m calling Carrie’s method SURVIVAL as MOTIVATION.

Kristen Kittscher is another author/friend who advocates SCRIVENER. “Scrivener helped me speed up immensely because I feel freer to jump around and write where the energy is,” she says. I call this creativity freed through proper tools.  FORGET WILLIE… FREE YOUR CREATIVITY!

nanowrimo_logov101Heather Demetriios-Fehst just offered up two words – “Use SCRIVENER.”  I’ll forgive her the brevity since she has already released TWO books this year. This is the third vote for Scrivener… It’s starting to have an impact on me.

Tammy Subia did something she never thought she would do. She wrote a complete first draft of a novel in four months and she was anxious to share her secrets.

Tammy has identified three things that really worked for her and they might work for you, too.

  • One: she set weekly word goals instead of daily ones, but she kept a daily chart of what she accomplished. She said just seeing the progress each day spurred her on the next day.
  • Two: She read her first chapter to a non-writer friend who really loved it and kept asking to hear more. Consequently, she wrote more to satisfy her friend.
  • Three: this might be her most important technique of all. Tammy described feeling like this book needed to be written. She wanted the story to be told so badly she couldn’t stop writing it! I’m going to call this DRIVE (and for the record I’m picturing Nick Cage behind the wheel of a muscle car when I say this.)

PICK YOUR TECHNIQUE:

Everyone seems to employ a different technique. Below is the full list. Feel free to be creative. Try on different ones. Pick and choose. Combine two or three. Experiment and see if you can’t UP your output. And if you do… write to us and let us know.

GET A RUNNING START Hold something back for the next day
DEVELOP A ROUTINE Write everyday.
KNOWLEDGE + TIME + ENTHUSIASM Know what you’re going to write, put in the time and be excited about your story.
PACE YOURSELF One word after the other until you get to the end.
RESPECT DEADLINES You can’t blow ‘em, so you get it done.
WRITE FOR FOOD You can’t eat promises and I should’ves.
DRIVE Find a story that demands to be written.
KEEP A WORD COUNT Set word count goals, daily or weekly. It piles up.
USE SCRIVENER Yay for sophisticated writer tools.

As for Scrivener – I’m going to buy it and use Scrivener for my revision process. I will report back in my next blog.

Here are some Scrivener tutorials that came up in a search on Youtube.com. I haven’t looked at any of them yet… but I plan to.

Sheryl_Quote

Be sure to read the first half of this amazing two-part series: How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 1)

More guest posts by Sheryl:

Sheryl Scarborough - Photo by Russell Gearhart PhotographyOver the years, Sheryl Scarborough has written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters and Restaurant and Theater Reviews (for free food and great seats!) Now she writes what she really loves which are YA mysteries and thrillers.

Follow Sheryl on Twitter: @scarbo_author

Read more by Sheryl on her blog: Sheryl Scarborough Blog

 

How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 1)

Guest post by Sheryl Scarborough

Sheryl_KingandRice

I just finished the first draft of a new novel… my third.

I wrote it fast, with a vengeance.

280 pages, 63k words, 10 weeks. BAM!

That’s Wham, bam, thank you ma’am speed. Finishing this novel so quickly has restored my writer power. I’m excited and enthused, ready to roll up my sleeves and settle in for the revision stage. But looking back I’m a little amazed at my accomplishment. So, before my process becomes a hazy memory I want to document it and understand it, so I can do again. (And again… and… well, you get the idea.)

But before I get into my process, let’s take a look at how the Big Dog (and even some little dog) authors muscle through their drafts. You’ll find this interesting.

Sheryl_HemingwayErnest Hemingway… averaged 500 words per day.

… would begin his writing day in the early morning and stop around noon. But here was his trick: he would be sure to stop at a place where he knew what would happen next. He did this so he would have a place to start writing the next morning. I call this a RUNNING START.

Jennifer Weiner…

Sheryl_Jennifer W“When you have an editor with deadlines if you wait for a muse to get you there, you’re going to be out of a job.”

Jennifer Weiner starts her day with breakfast, getting kids off to school and hot yoga. She strives for 3,000 words per day.  She has a ROUTINE.

Jodi Pincolt…

Doesn’t believe in writer’s block. “Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. You might not write well every day but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”  JUST WRITE… edit later.  

So, the research started sounding like same thing, different day or, what we’ve always heard about writing. Butt in chair… just write… nothing really new and different. And then I discovered…

Rachel Aron…

Sheryl_Rachel Aron bookAron, a sci fi author, figured out how to go from 2,000 words per day to 10,000. That’s right. I said it. 10,000 words per day.

Aron had a new baby and a book on deadline. She arranged for childcare four days per week. And during those four days she needed to produce 4,000 words per day to meet her deadline. When it turned out she was only putting out 2,000 words per day, she got busy and figured out how to pump it up.

The minute I read Aron’s explanation I realized two things: 1.) she really has something here. And 2.) I had stumbled onto the very same method.

Read the basics of Aron’s method here. Or, an expanded e-book version. Aron’s thinking is amazingly smart and sound – and it’s a definite improvement from the evergreen butt in chair, blah blah blah. She gives some real, solid advice.

Even if you’re not a really fast writer, I believe you could use Aron’s method to increase your output. Here is the nutshell version:

TIME + KNOWLEDGE + ENTHUSIASM =

BOSS LEVEL WORD COUNT

Time – There’s no substitute for that, you still have to put it in.

Knowledge – Knowing what you’re going to write each day before you sit down to write is essential. Otherwise, you’re wasting valuable writing time figuring things out. When you come prepared to your writing time the words fly.

Enthusiasm – LOVE what you’re working on and the words will flow faster. Then when you get to what Aron calls “a candy bar” scene your word count for that day will go through the roof.

This is exactly how I wrote a 280 page first draft in 10 weeks.

My story is told in alternating chapters between a boy and a girl. Each morning when I woke up I would contemplate the scenes I would write next. I would figure out which character should instigate a scene and which should react to it… which might start something… which might finish it off. By the time I figured it out I couldn’t wait to get to the computer and get started.

So, for me it was exactly as Aron predicted. Knowing what I was going to write and being excited about it, plus putting in the time resulted in a very quick and energetic first draft.

As Jodi Pincolt says, “You can’t edit a blank page.”

Check in later this week for part two of my theory on How to Up Your Word Count, where I query my successful author friends to see what tricks they employ to get their fabulous words onto the page. I’ll be sharing what they have to say.

In the meantime here are a few links and tips to maybe inspire and power your word count progress:

ONLINE RESOURCES TO BOOST DAILY WORD COUNT:

  • A variety of word count meters can be found here.
  • The Secret to Writing 4000 Words Per day (A variation on Aron’s process, but he calls it daydreaming instead of knowledge. And I like that.)
  • The Pomodoro Technique, an interesting focus booster, read about it here.
  • The Daily Routines of Successful Writers – my source for the facts in the above post. Reading about the authors I didn’t include in my blog is interesting, too, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your daily word count. Read it here.
  • Inky Girl has a word count challenge complete with stickers and banners here.
  • And finally, Chuck Wendig weighs in on Word Count Uppage. He’s foul and funny. Don’t miss him.

Stay tuned for more great tips from Sheryl on how to up your word count. The second half of this article comes out later this week!

In the meantime, read another post by Sheryl:

Sheryl Scarborough - Photo by Russell Gearhart PhotographyOver the years, Sheryl Scarborough has written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters and Restaurant and Theater Reviews (for free food and great seats!) Now she writes what she really loves which are YA mysteries and thrillers.

Follow Sheryl on Twitter: @scarbo_author

Read more by Sheryl on her blog: Sheryl Scarborough Blog

 

Upcoming Writing Conferences and Workshops

WorkshopHere’s a little round-up of some upcoming writing conference and workshop opportunities. Keep developing your craft!

Advanced Writer Workshops at The Writing Barn: Writing Outside the Box 

  • Multiple Viewpoints, Unreliable Narrators, Unusual Structures—Oh, My! with top-selling agent/author Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary, and author K. A. Holt
  • WHEN: October 9 to October 12.
  • Event Details: In this interactive, hands-on workshop we’ll take a close-up look at a wide variety of structurally exciting books, dissecting and discussing and teasing out tips and tricks that will help you, no matter how you choose to tell your story. Come ready to brainstorm your work or just to get your thoughts flowing in a new direction—you’re sure to leave this workshop with an entirely new outlook.
  • Cost: Workshop with Onsite Lodging: $850, Workshop Only: $650
  • To Apply: http://www.thewritingbarn.com/barn-presents-registration/

Group or Solo Writing Retreats at The Writing Barn

  • On our 7.5 wooded acres located in Austin, TX, we can host from 1 to 17 writers.
  • Contact: info@thewritingbarn.com
  • Website: www.thewritingbarn.com

The Art of the Sale: with best-selling authors Jenny Han and Siobohan Vivian

  • WHEN: December 4 to December
  • Event Details: Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han have collectively published sixteen books, from picture books through young adult, and have over ten years of experience in the book business, from book buyer to librarian to educator to editor. Together, they will get you and your manuscript ready for the real world and give you the very best shot at getting published. For those who are already published, they will guide you in building your career.
  • This intensive will be a mix of formats. For those in the querying trenches,  there will be SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE: How to Craft a Perfect Cover Letter, Formulate an Engaging One-sentence Sales Pitch, and Land the Agent of Your Dreams. And for those with agents, there will be NOW WHAT? How to Build your Writing Career, Book by Book, Goal by Goal. These small groups will involve discussion and input from either Jenny or Siobhan.
  • Cost: Workshop with Onsite Lodging: $850, Workshop Only: $650
  • To Apply: http://www.thewritingbarn.com/barn-presents-registration/

Teaching Opportunities at The Writing Barn 

  • Opportunities: We hold half day workshops, full day, extended weekend events (Thursday eve through Sunday afternoon), and week long events. We are always adding programming and are NOW looking to build our 2015 schedule. Whether we fly you in or you teach with us while you are on a book tour coming through Texas (We work with Big Austin Indie Book People as well as Round Rock Indie The Book Spot–The Book Spot is good for school visits) we would love to hear from you with your ideas on classes, events, etc.
  • Contact: Bethany Hegedus, Author & Founder, The Writing Barn at bahegedus@gmail.com
  • Dates: Ongoing

YA Novel Writing Intensive in NEW YORK CITY with Nova Ren Suma

  • This is an intensive workshop for writers working on YA novels of any style or genre. During weekly critique sessions, we will focus on constructive feedback with the goal of helping the writer execute his or her intended vision. Participants will critique one another’s work in group discussions, and each writer will have a private conference, with feedback from the instructor on additional pages from their novels. Writers are expected to have a basic knowledge and appreciation of current YA novels, and are welcome to come to this class at any stage in the writing of their own novel: just beginning a first draft, with a novel-in-progress, or with a completed draft in need of focused revision.
  • This workshop is designed for experienced writers. Previous publication is not necessary, but writers should be serious about working on a YA novel, open to critiques and advice, and ready to help their peers succeed.
  • When: 6 Wednesdays, 6:30-9pm, September 24th, 2014-October 29th, 2014. Private conferences will be held in November
  • Where: The Writers Room, 740 Broadway, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10003
  • Price: EARLY BIRD PRICING: $600 by September 1st, 2014;  $650 after September 1st
  • Contact for any questions: Nova Ren Suma at nova@novaren.com
  • APPLY HERE: http://ideasmyth.com/ya-novel-writing-intensive-with-nova-ren-suma/
  • NOTE: As of AUGUST 11, the workshop is full. Any accepted writers will be added to the waitlist—spaces may still open!

Sanibel Writers Conference with Emily Franklin, Richard Russo, Steve Almond, others

  • Ninth Annual Sanibel Island Writers Conference
  • When: November 6-9, 2014
  • Where: BIG ARTS & the Sanibel Island Public Library, Sanibel Island, Fla.

Emily Franklin—Pitch Perfect: Finding Your Voice in Young Adult Fiction

  • Can any story be written for a young adult audience? What makes a YA voice believable?  We will explore dialogue, setting, structure and the key elements of trust in young adult fiction.  Is your story for middle grade readers, teens, or adults (or all of the above)?  Is your novel set in this world or an imagined one? Present day, past, or future?  Does it matter?  With a few writing prompts we examine the best way to tell your story, openings that appeal to teen and adult readers alike, and rules (are there rules?) for keeping your adolescent audience captivated. Emily is also doing individual conferences/meetings for query letters and works-in-progress. 
  • Registration and info: http://www.fgcu.edu/siwc/

Five Things I Learned From Doing NaNoWriMo

It’s been nine months since I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and wrote 50,000 words of a novel in under a month. It’s one thing to bask in the manic euphoria of pounding out 50,000 words like an intense sprint around a track. But it’s completely different thing to step back and look at what you’ve written and see if it’s worth anything. Yes, I braved reading my NaNoWriMo draft, and I’ve even begun to draft revisions. But what I’ve discovered in the post-NaNo-creation glow is pretty surprising…

First draft button

1) My First Draft Isn’t Shitty

First off, I’m not a fan of the term shitty first drafts. Yes, it was created to help us deal with our need for perfection in the first draft, but I also think it creates a cycle of negativity. The idea of telling ourselves our drafts are shitty, only reinforces the negative feelings we already fear about our work. Sure, a first draft may not be publishable, but honestly, I never think they’re shitty. However, if there was any instance where my theories on shitty first drafts would be overturned it would be NaNoWriMo … after all, I pumped out this draft in 2 ½ weeks. Only…

My NaNoWriMo Draft isn’t shitty!

Sure, it’s not polished gold, but there are so many important discoveries in it, explorations that led to new plot points, beautiful lines, sassy sections of dialogue, and even entire scenes that are good. Not scenes that are okay… but good!

My point is: we should trust our first drafts more. Trust the joy and the positive energy that can come from freeing yourself up and writing quickly. Trust the fact that you do know what you’re doing and your writing is better than you think it is!

female-empowerment2) Revisions are Empowering

Okay, so my first draft isn’t complete crap, but there’s still plenty of work to do. The second great discovery about writing a quick first draft is that when you approach revisions you immediately know what to do to make the book better. Revisions don’t become nail-biting, hair-pulling, exercises in frustration. Instead, revision become empowering!

For me, it can be the despair, the sense that I don’t know what to do, that makes writing so hard. But revising this novel has been invigorating and fun. There’s power and purpose in sitting down with raw material and knowing exactly what to do to shape it. It helps me to see how much I already know about crafting good stories, and that I’m able to do it with intention.  

old chronometer3) It Doesn’t Take as Long as I Think to Write a Novel

Looking back at my NaNoWriMo time sheets, I’ve discovered that I spent an average of 1½ hours writing per day. Yes, there were a few days where I put in 3 to 4 hours in a sitting. But mostly it was 1 ½ hours a day. As I’ve moved on to revision, I’ve also put in an average of 1 1/2 hours per day. By keeping a time sheet I’ve started to see how much I can accomplish in a short amount of time. In fact, I haven’t even put in a full month’s worth of work into this novel yet!

One of our big struggles with writing is finding the time to get it done. But I’ve been floored to discover how much I can accomplish with only 1 ½ hours a day! I bet most of you could find 1 or 2 hours in your day to write.

no_plan_road_sign4) Scenes That Went Nowhere…

Not every section of my NaNoWriMo draft works. But, I discoverd a pattern to the pages that fell flat or went nowhere. These scenes were searching for direction, and without it they floundered.

In my pre-planning stages I outlined and created scene-cards for the scenes I knew existed. I did, however, leave a few blank. I made the excuse that I’d figure it out later, while writing. It turns out that every scene I promised to figure out later on, didn’t go anywhere. Sometimes I’d know the general action of a scene, but the things that really killed my momentum were not knowing what my character wanted in the scene, or what his or her emotional change would be. All the scenes with a clear character goal and emotional change came alive on the page. Perhaps this is the through line I needed to guide me while writing really fast.

blinders5) Everything You Think You Know is Wrong! Or… Don’t Put On Writing Blinders.

I was certain that NaNoWriMo was going to be a huge failure. I had some snobby ideas about how a novel should be written. I was certain those participating in NaNoWriMo were wasting their time. But boy was I wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

I don’t think I will write every novel in my future this way. But I do think it will be a great way to write some of them. But man, if I’d stayed in my stuffy singular way of looking at things, I would have never discovered this amazing tool and these important lessons.

So get out there and try new things with your writing. Try things you’re certain will not work. Allow yourself to fail. We never know what will work until we put it into practice and give it a whirl.

What Did You Learn from NaNoWriMo?

Did anyone else participate in NaNoWriMo this year? Have you re-read your work? Started revisions? What discoveries have you made?

Author Photos

Hey Friends!

I’m in the exciting and fun phase of choosing an author photo for my book (Eeeeek!). My lovely fiance Russell Gearhart took the below portraits. I like them all so much I don’t know which one to pick. I’d love to hear your opinion. What would you like to see on the book jacket?

Please leave a comment below.

Untitled-1

Thanks for your input everyone!

Transitions in Time

The landscape of time can be a ticklish beast, particularly when writing. We live our lives in a linear fashion, always moving forward, never backwards or sideways. Our characters often live their lives linearly as well. In fact, books themselves must be read in a front to back fashion where chapter one leads to chapter two and so on. Yet time – or story time – is more malleable in a novel than it is in real life. Engaging a reader in the whole history of a world and character requires flashbacks, summarization of memories, and whole scenes that make us time travelers. Or as my favorite time traveler Doctor Who would say:

As authors, the question is how do we deal with all this wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff without disorienting our reader? Jumping around in time is a luxury we can explore, but walking blindly into a flashback, without any cues to the reader, will break the fictive dream and draw attention to itself. It will commit the cardinal sin of writing, which is to remind the reader that they are reading.

One of the best ways to transition a reader in time is through the careful crafting of language. Words are our tools and used craftily, that can lull a reader through an invisible portal from one time space to another.

Let’s look at four techniques to help a reader flawlessly transition through story time.

mango1) Word Repetition

Create transitions through the repetition of sounds, syllables, objects, and words. In the excerpt from The House on Mango Street below, the repetition of the words know and because are used as a portal from one time period to the next. The words move us from the present day story space to a new location in Mexico, and then back again.

“I have never seen my Papa cry and I don’t know what to do. I know he will have to go away, that he will take a plane to Mexico, all the uncles and aunts will be there, and they will have a black-and-white photo take in front of the tomb … because this is how they send the dead away in that country. Because I am the oldest, my father has told me first and now it is my turn to tell the others.”

2) Sentence and Phrase Repetition

Create transitions through the repetition of phrases, images, and sentence structure.

In this second example from The House on Mango Street, the repetition of a sentence structure creates a rhythm and punctuation to the paragraph. It is the repeating words along with the repeating rhythm that transitions the reader from impression to impression.

In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine … It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings … songs like sobbing. It was my great-grandmother’s name and now it is mine.” (The House on Mango Street)

humanbraincloud_shot13) Word Association

Remember being a kid and playing the word association game? The mind likes to make connections through visual images evoked by single words. You can also use this technique to create transitions in time and space.

The word association game begins with hair in the example below. It then riffs off of imagery to transition from hair to bread, thus moving the reader into a memory.

“But my mother’s hair, my mother’s hair, like little rosettes, like little candy circles all curly … sweet to put your nose into when she is holding you… is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell  when she makes room for you on her side of the bed … the rain outside falling and Papa snoring.”  (The House on Mango Street)

wordUp-44) Question and Answer

You can also use a question to transition the reader from one time to the next. The question creates curiosity in the reader’s mind and the answer works as a transition into the new time space.

“No address. No Name. Nothing in his pockets. Ain’t it a shame. Only Marin can’t explain why it mattered … but what difference does it make? He wasn’t anything to her. He wasn’t her boyfriend … Just another brazer who didn’t speak English. Just another wetback … How does she explain it?  She met him at a dance. Geraldo in his shiny shirt and green pants…” (The House on Mango Street)

There are a lot ways to transition between time and space in a story. In later posts we can discuss things like: cause and effect, causality link-chains, or pause button violations. For now, focus on the magic of phrasing and how your words can makes a transition seem inevitable, natural, and invisible.

See these time transition techniques (and more) in practice by reading and studying these awesome stories:

  • How to Tell a True War Story by Tim O’Brien
  • The House on Mango Street by Sanda Cicneros
  • Small Damages by Beth Kephart