Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Writing Begins #3: Sprints

The tenth post in my "Writing a Novel Series", which details my experience writing 151, details the method I used to write the first draft of the novel... in less than two months!

I'm slow at planning stories. I won't deny it. As you've read in some of my previous posts, I spend a lot of time mapping out the concepts for my stories, the key themes, the story and character archetypes, the flow of scenes, and even the length and arrangement of the beats within the story. But, when it comes to the process of actually writing, I'm pretty fast!

The short stories in In-Futura, which ran about 4,000-4,500 words each (15 double-spaced pages), took me about one full day of writing to complete. But writing a 90,000 word novel is a completely different story. How did I approach the writing of this beast? How to maintain my writing speed when it would seem, through most of the process, that the finish line was nowhere in sight?

Easy. Through Sprints. Writing Sprints. As I noted in my previous post on Storyboards, I had previously broken down the story of 151 into a series of key scenes, each of which would form the basis of a chapter. I also set a goal for the length of each chapter: about 7 double-spaced pages, or 2,000 words. And so, since I knew the basics of what had to happen in each chapter, and I knew how much I had to write in order to complete each chapter, there was nothing stopping me from writing each chapter, each piece of the story, bit by bit. Each of these sessions, I called a Writing Sprint.

In the beginning, Writing Sprints seemed to work, albeit slowly. I would work in two chapters on a Sunday (4,000 words), matching the output from my previous work on In-Futura. But soon, with more and more full-days being committed to writing, I began to increase the pace of my Sprints. I was up to three chapters a day (6,000 words), and soon, four chapters a day (8,000) would become the daily pace to aim for. Eventually, when I really found myself in a groove, churning out 1 chapter every 2 hours, I hit reached my fastest Sprinting pace ever: six chapters a day (12,000 words). I achieved that pace several times, and a few days in a row leading up to the completion of the first draft.

But it worked! In less than 2 months, on March 8th, to be exact, I completed the first, shiny draft of 151. Feeling good about myself, now that the gargantuan task of writing a novel was one step closer to completion, I realized how I did it. Instead of treating the novel-writing process as a marathon, as a huge, insurmountable task, I treated it as a series of small steps--or Sprints--that lead towards the finish line.