Ready, Set, Write I

Miles Between Chair And Keyboard

It is perhaps appropriate that the first post of a series on writing fast (without sacrificing quality) should go up late.

In my observation most people who are really slow at writing – including myself in my slow periods – owe their slowness to one main reason: they don’t actually sit down and put butt in chair.

I know – oh, trust me, I KNOW – how many miles there are between your real life and sitting butt in chair and putting fingers on keyboard.

Let me start by saying this is not how I imagined being a professional writer would be.  First of all, of course, I never imagined being a professional fiction writer.  I was going to be a journalist.  I read the bios of journalists, I interned in a newspaper.  I was going to go in, early morning shift, type furiously away, while news came in by phone.  Flunkies would run to get me coffee…


If I imagined writing fiction at all, I was – of course! – going to be a bestseller from book one.  After which, I’d have this wonderful office, with built in bookcases all around it, a secretary and a researcher and a flunky to get me coffee.


Of course now I know bestselling writers, and even they don’t have that.  But never mind.

Real life turned out much different.  I sold my first book while I had a three year old and a six year old.  Boys.  For those of you not similarly blessed, picture the stock exchange room during a buying frenzy.  It’s about like that, only not as peaceful.

Yet, over the next six years, through a house move and several illnesses (my body doesn’t like me) I wrote about ten books and seventeen proposals.  Also, about fifty short stories.  All of this trying to only minimally neglect the kids (Not really.  I just didn’t hover over them.)

So, how did I do it?  Well, there are tricks.  Some will work for you, and some won’t.  Today for instance, my schedule was shot to h*ll and back by a couple of friend-emergencies this morning and the fact the cats peed on the older boy’s bed.  That too is a lesson to use.

Tips and trips to get to the chair, with fingers on the keyboard:

1 – Set a time.  No.  REALLY set a time.  Say you decide your writing time is at 8 am every day.  Treat it like a job.  At 8 am be at the keyboard, hands ready to type.

2 – But the attic roof just caved in (remember I get these examples from life?)  Well, if you were at the office, would you know?  Make calls on your lunch break.  Right now, work.

3 – But my kid has a full diaper.  I can’t ignore him.
True.  Pretend you’re at the ofice, and a secretary wants to ask you a question. Change that kid’s diaper, then sit down again.

4 – Speaking of which what do I do with the kids/cats/screaming stock brokers?
Have a plan.  If the kid is awake and mobile, setup a play area for him next to you.  If he’s old enough and you’re a mean mommy (TM) give him work to do.  Actually kids react very well to this.  Give them a laptop with a learning program or a notebook to do his writing in.  Explain you’re working and the kid should too.  They’re grownup now.  You’ll see how much they do/learn.  Cats are a little more difficult.  My method is to have one draped across my lap and one on my shoulders.  Screaming stock brokers… I got nothing.  Why are you trying to write in the middle of the exchange, anyway?

5 – But what if I can’t sit down?  I need to clean house/paint walls/garden and there’s no one else to do it.  Dragon Naturally Speaking.  I hear you can work with one of the remote dictation recorders.  I keep meaning to try it, too.  I know several authors who’ve written entire (good) books while doing this.  (I really need to try it.)

6 – But the phone rang!
Unless it’s someone who is bleeding on the floor, ignore it.  And if they’re bleeding on the floor, ignore it too, unless you’re a registered MT.

7 – I’m HUNGRY
Every writer on first coming home gains a bazillion pounds.  This is because your brain learns to short circuit your chair time with “you are hungry.”  Take scheduled breaks.

8 – But I’m just sitting here and not writing.
Unless you’re ill (it happens) it’s probably a case of the block.  Hint, you’re never blocked on everything at once.  Blocked on your serious vamp novel?  Write a funny short story about nuns in space (I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours!)

9 – Give yourself license to fail
By which I don’t mean just to write crap.  Some days that happens also, but I mean more than that.  Give yourself license to have a truly horrible day, like mine today, where you get nibbled to death by ducks.  It doesn’t mean tomorrow won’t be wonderful, or that you shouldn’t continue trying to bring order out of chaos.

10 – Try and try again
Sit down every morning at eight (or whenever) and start afresh.  Today, it’s going to work.

Tomorrow: Running on empty.

12 responses to “Ready, Set, Write I

  1. “8 – But I’m just sitting here and not writing.
    Unless you’re ill (it happens) it’s probably a case of the block.”

    For me, right now, it’s the procrastinate not the block. I actually know exactly where my next story is going. I can see pretty much all of it. I can (mostly) see how to get there — though I need to do a little research to get a couple of bits right. And I really like the story idea. I think it has lots of potential.

    But when I sit down to write, on a good day I get a page or two. Last night I got a paragraph, and was happy I did that much. Many days I can’t get myself to focus on the next word.

    In my case today, “the block” would be just another excuse to procrastinate. It’s time for me to put one word in front of the other and get this story out the door.

  2. Procrastinator? I’m not even an amateur crastinator. [Sad Smile]

  3. Whereas, I am a master crastinator

  4. Unplugging the internet, or taking the notebook to the dining room, or on nice days, the picnic table, really does help me get to

  5. Oh, how very true it is! Only I don’t get nibbled to death by ducks. I’m usually found up to my armpits in alligators (I live in Florida, you see. The ‘gators have eaten all the ducks).

  6. Priceless, I’ve got nothing to add… oh, wait. This one is from Kate Paulk’s commentary (I think, please please don’t quote me, she’s scary),
    When at work, fill your dead time with writing paragraphs, notes, whatever.

    Ok, I’ll go be quiet now.

    • Kate is NOT scary at all. Well, not compared to the rest of us. 😉

      • I am sweet and innocent and pure and not at all scary. There is also someone who’d like to sell you some prime beachfront real estate in Arizona.

        (And yes, I’m the sanest and least scary person around here).

  7. Might find this useful. Go from 2,000 to 10,000 words a day? Well, yes. — three ideas — think before writing, write when you are most productive, and write the things that you are excited about. There’s an implicit one there, too — measure your writing, and think about what you find out. But you knew that, right?

  8. And then there’s extrovert, attention-demanding kids who seem to telepathically KNOW when mom is getting focused… (Seriously. Kid never slept in that **** swing. Gave it to another family; their kid slept in it!)

    But even they go to school eventually. And only call home sick half the time. >_>

  9. I’m a procrastinator. Plus any stop for research probably leads to hours of wiki walking, or I end up reading half of the book I took out of my bookshelf to check for one specific thing. Perhaps I should stop checking for things while I’m writing? Do it only after I have written some specific amount of words, or have been writing for a specific number of hours, or something.

    And I keep playing with what I have written. Some editing is of course necessary, but how can you tell when you should stop doing it?

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