In July, I made a goal to complete the first draft of a new novel. I’d been working on a book for several months and I needed to finish it so that I could move onto other things.
So I increased the number of pages until I was writing 10 a day, sometimes even 15-20 pages when I was on a roll. I tracked my progress on Twitter.
It was a harrowing time. I wasn’t sure I would make it, but on July 31st, I finished the first draft of the book. It is 151,000 words, 530 pages.
Since I made my progress public on Twitter, lots of people asked me how I was writing so many pages in a day. Here are some thoughts on that.
I can’t stress enough that this was a first draft. It will be a long time before I have a finished manuscript ready to send out for publication. For me, it’s easy to spit out a lot of words. It’s harder to edit them.
So, this draft is rough. Just because I wrote 10 pages doesn’t mean that they were all good pages.
I was motivated to finish because I took time off paying work. I put aside my day job–writing articles–to spend a month on fiction. I can’t afford to do that often, so I made the most of my time, not only writing this first draft but working on short fiction as well. When I plan time to write fiction, I take it seriously.
I used rewards to motivate myself. My writing buddy and I agreed that if we met our July writing goals, we would get a reward. That was doubly motivating because I wanted the reward and I didn’t want to let my buddy (okay it was Marcia) down. Now we’re going on a road trip!
I used markers to motivate myself. I find that visual evidence of progress is helpful, so I put a sticker by every completed bullet point on my outline and I made a dash on my notebook every time I finished a page, like so:
I also wrote my daily word count on my whiteboard. This is for July.
You’ll see I started on page 342 and finished on page 529.
The more I wrote, the easier it was to produce pages. When I started, writing this book was so hard that completing three pages was a decent day’s work. Then something clicked and I got used to writing a lot every day. It’s like any other discipline: You do something enough, you get used to it, and it becomes easier. It’s a shift in perspective.
Everyone works at their own pace. Several people contacted me saying they could never write this much this quickly. You know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. Every writer has a different process, and it doesn’t matter if you do 10 pages or 2 pages as long as you write regularly enough to make progress on your work.
Now this book will have a long rest before editing. I find that my fiction benefits from distance. Letting a draft sit for a period of time makes me more objective, which means that I can look at the book with clear eyes and have a higher chance of knowing what to do with it. Therefore this book is going to sit in a metaphorical drawer for several months before I pick it up again.
And that’s just fine… I have plenty of other things to write in the meantime.