Want to know how to write 50,000 words fast? Throw some of them away.
I’m not joking. The essence of writing 50,000 words in a month for National Novel Writing Month – or of writing 2000 words to a features editor deadline, or indeed of writing anything to time, is not getting stuck. And the biggest trap for writers – the biggest sink-hole for productivity – is when you end up wrestling with a recalcitrant passage. It just doesn’t flow right and nothing you do seems to unsnag it. But it’s a thousand words and that’s part of your word count.
My advice – throw the duff text away and start again. You won’t regret it. One of the biggest traps when re-casting is revising older text. It always frames and shapes what you are trying to do. Better to re-start with a blank page. An hour spent writing fresh can be way faster than two or three hours struggling with something that isn’t working – or which has led you into a dead end.
That doesn’t mean totally re-casting. Your book plan might require a scene of the kind you’re stuck on. But it does mean re-thinking the approach. Look back at your general writing plan – can the scene be re-cast to fit in any way? Brainstorm it; make notes, and get ready to re-launch.
One way to avoid getting immediately sucked into the old cycle of thought patterns the second time around is to wait until two or three days later before re-writing the problem passage. Of course you have to write other stuff, but that’s the strength of pre-planning and of word processors – back-filling is easy. And in the meanwhile, you’re still producing.
It’s a skill professional writers must have, because the returns on writing are never great. Time spent running in circles drops the return on time for the whole project. And yes, that’s a consideration when writing professionally. At this level, writing is a business like any other. One with a good deal of emotional investment – but it also has to be handled in a pretty hard-nosed way if you’re going to eat.
And National November Writing Month is a great place to practise it.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013