Saturday, June 28, 2014

Book in a Week: Numero Uno

First, let's attribute this properly. Scroll past this next paragraph if you don't want to see references to awesome people (whose names I have linked to their twitter pages).

To be read in a stereotypically breezy, gossipy teenage girl voice:

So the other day I saw Julie doing this #bookinaweek thing on Twitter, based off of this #bookinaweekend thing that Taryn does because she's freaking awesome, and then Julie was like, "I'm totally going to do this again on June 30th!" and John and Olivia were like, "We'll try it too, the week before!" and I was like, "OMG, I'll try it on the 30th too! But first I've gotta try to make progress on my current WIP..."

Long story short, I wrote like 30k in three days.

Julie and Taryn have posts on these things, respectively, but I figured I would recount my own experience of how I wrote more in three days than I have in the last three months combined, and wound up with a finished novel draft and energy to spare for the next book.

I did not keep as detailed accounts as Julie or Taryn, mostly because I went into it thinking, "Well, I'll just get as far as I can, but I'm not actually officially doing it, officially."

So the night before John and Olivia officially started, I wrote about 6,000 words that I didn't really count as part of the experiment. That alone was a great writing day for me, because my motivation had really been flagging this summer (despite loving the project I was working on and getting really inspired for it while on my study abroad trip to Greece).

Then came Day 1.

And here is what I did:
I sprinted.

Starting at around 1 PM, I started wordsprinting with John and Olivia (and sometimes KT).

For the most part, they were 20-minute sprints in which I wrote as fast as I possibly could, generally hitting around 800 words each time.

We'd done seven sprints by 4:30, and I'd gotten around 6k.

Started up another five(?) sprints around 9 PM, stacked up another 5k in the next hour or two.

So in total, I would have ended the first official day with 11k picked up from twelve wordsprints.

But then I powered through on my own for a while because I was in the middle of a huge scene that involved kissing and you do not just stop in the middle of a kissing scene, especially not when the playlist you have on shuffle is hitting the perfect dramatic heavenly children's choir song to complement the momentous kissing...

So I actually ended the first official day with 13,117 words.

And no, I have no freaking idea how that happened.

They were all written somewhere between 1 PM and not-long-after-midnight? With lots of breaks. And if I didn't have a mandatory summer bedtime of around midnight (or my parents get cranky), I could've kept going.

Day 2

Again, all the sprinting.

We started around 10:30 AM, but there were bigger breaks in the middle that day. My sister came home, dragged me to the fair, there was food eaten and socializing done and all this other stuff that broke up the sprints. I did not mark down times along with my sprint results.

But after another ten sprints and (I think) a chunk of solo writing time, my total for the day was 10,574.

Three days earlier, my WIP had been around 20k, I think.
Somewhere between 11 PM and midnight, I finished my draft at 51,218 words.

 Book in a week was interesting because I've done NaNoWriMo since I was twelve, and have long touted its usefulness in building determination and persistence etc.

But there have been plenty of years where I started scraping toward the finish line (generally around the dreaded Week 2), and I never had that in this manic sprint toward finishing over half a novel in a couple of days.

My theory is that things flowed so easily because I never had to worry about Week 2. Week 2 wasn't going to be an issue. And things were moving so fast, I was whipping through my outline so quickly, that any time I reached a scene that had the potential to feel kind of blah or slow-moving or boring to write, I could just zip through it and was back to the fun scenes.

All of the big moments I'd planned, which felt so far away when I started plodding through the new draft. They were all right there, within reach, and that kept me excited to keep going.

If I hadn't run out of plot, I could've kept going. At no point did I feel burned out or tired or ready to just stop for a few days. I'm excited to try a full draft starting on June 30, and hopefully that goes as well.

Some notes to keep in mind:

  1. I wrote a bare-bones draft of a book. This is probably not an ideal method, but I tend to fall into using placeholders when I'm sprinting, then go back and fill in details later. That's why I'm not freaking out about how my urban(?) fantasy book is only 50,000 words (a relatively short novel, as far as fantasy goes). I know that it's going to gain a whole bunch of length when I go back and revise. I didn't worry too hard about coming up with descriptions on the spot; if I hadn't planned how something looked, I decided to skim over it and add it in later after I'd had time to think. Same with character motions and emotions. There's a lot of telling, and there's a lot of nodding, shrugging, smiling, etc. I wrote enough to remind myself what kind of feeling I was looking for, then moved on. I used place-holders. Again, probably not the greatest method, and I know I'm going to have a lot of work to do later.
  2. I wrote half of a book. I was only doing this for two, three days. We'll see how the full version goes.
  3. I wrote the latter half of a book. This means I'd already been with the characters for a while.
  4. I wrote a rewrite of a book. Not only had I been with the characters recently, I had a whole other draft to use as a basis. I'd plotted everything out before, and I'd been working out how I was going to fix it for quite a while. As I mentioned, I made a lot of notes for this novel while I was on a trip to Greece.
It's not like you have to do a rewrite for this, but I cannot emphasize enough how much it helps to know your plot. Know your book. Know where you're going next. The hardest part I went through was at the very end, where I hadn't plotted out exactly how my final conflict was going to go. The more prep work you do at the start, the smoother this will probably go.

If you are looking to write a well-structured, meticulously-crafted, publishable work in seven days, you will probably be disappointed.

But one thing is for sure. It gets you on such a writing high, and that feeling of powering through is amazing.

I'm doing it again on the 30th. Feel free to join in.

And while I'm at it, is there anything else you'd like me to keep track of while doing this again? Any stats you're desperate for?

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