When I started writing The Spirit War (Eli novel #4), I had a bit of a problem. I had a brand new baby and my life (like every new mother's life) was constantly on the verge of shambles. I paid for a sitter four times a week so I could get some writing time, and I guarded these hours like a mama bear guards her cubs - with ferocity and hiker-mauling violence. To keep my schedule and make my deadlines, I needed to write 4000 words during each of these carefully arranged sessions. I thought this would be simple. After all, before I quit my job to write full time I'd been writing 2k a day in the three hours before work. Surely with 6 hours of baby free writing time, 4k a day would be nothing....
But (of course), things didn't work out like that. Every day I'd sit down to add 4000 words to my new manuscript. I was determined, I was experienced, I knew my world. There was no reason I couldn't get 4k down. But every night when I hauled myself away, my word count had only increased by 2k, the same number of words I'd been getting before I quit my day job.
Needless to say, I felt like a failure. Here I was, a professional writer with three books about to come out, and I couldn't even beat the writing I'd done before I went pro. At first I made excuses, this novel was the most complicated of all the Eli books I'd written, I was tired because my son thinks 4am is an awesome time to play, etc. etc. But the truth was there was no excuse. I had to find a way to boost my word count, and with months of 2k a day dragging me down, I had to do it fast. So I got scientific. I gathered data and tried experiments, and ultimately ended up boosting my word count to heights far beyond what I'd thought was possible, and I did it while making my writing better than ever before.
When I told people at ConCarolinas that I'd gone from writing 2k to 10k per day, I got a huge response. Everyone wanted to know how I'd done it, and I finally got so sick of telling the same story over and over again that I decided to write it down here.
So, once and for all, here's the story of how I went from writing 500 words an hour to over 1500, and (hopefully) how you can too:
A quick note: There are many fine, successful writers out there who equate writing quickly with being a hack. I firmly disagree. My methods remove the dross, the time spent tooling around lost in your daily writing, not the time spent making plot decisions or word choices. This is not a choice between ruminating on art or churning out the novels for gross commercialism (though I happen to like commercial novels), it's about not wasting your time for whatever sort of novels you want to write.
Update! The talented Vicky Teinaki made a graphic of this metric and let me use it! She is awesome!
Side 1: Knowledge, or Know What You're Writing Before You Write It
The first big boost to my daily wordcount happened almost by accident. Used to be I would just pop open the laptop and start writing. Now, I wasn't a total make-it-up-as-you-go writer. I had a general plot outline, but my scene notes were things like "Miranda and Banage argue" or "Eli steals the king." Not very useful, but I knew generally what direction I was writing in, and I liked to let the characters decide how the scene would go. Unfortunately, this meant I wasted a lot of time rewriting and backtracking when the scene veered off course.
This was how I had always written, it felt natural to me. But then one day I got mired in a real mess. I had spent three days knee deep in the same horrible scene. I was drastically behind on my wordcount, and I was facing the real possibility of missing my deadline... again. It was the perfect storm of all my insecurities, the thought of letting people down mixed with the fear that I really didn't know what I was doing, that I wasn't a real writer at all, just an amateur pretending to be one. But as I got angrier and angrier with myself, I looked down at my novel and suddenly realized that I was being an absolute idiot. Here I was, desperate for time, floundering in a scene, and yet I was doing the hardest work of writing (figuring out exactly what needs to happen to move the scene forward in the most dramatic and exciting way) in the most time consuming way possible (ie, in the middle of the writing itself).
As soon as I realized this, I stopped. I closed my laptop and got out my pad of paper. Then, instead of trying to write the scene in the novel as I had been, I started scribbling a very short hand, truncated version the scene on the paper. I didn't describe anything, I didn't do transitions. I wasn't writing, I was simply noting down what I would write when the time came. It took me about five minutes and three pages of notebook paper to untangle my seemingly unfixable scene, the one that had just eaten three days of my life before I tried this new approach. Better still, after I'd worked everything out in shorthand I was able to dive back into the scene and finish it in record time. The words flew onto the screen, and at the end of that session I'd written 3000 words rather than 2000, most of them in that last hour and a half.
Looking back, it was so simple I feel stupid for not thinking of it sooner. If you want to write faster, the first step is to know what you're writing before you write it. I'm not even talking about macro plot stuff, I mean working out the back and forth exchanges of an argument between characters, blocking out fights, writing up fast descriptions. Writing this stuff out in words you actually want other people to read, especially if you're making everything up as you go along, takes FOREVER. It's horribly inefficient and when you get yourself in a dead end, you end up trashing hundreds, sometimes thousands of words to get out. But jotting it down on a pad? Takes no time at all. If the scene you're sketching out starts to go the wrong way, you see it immedeatly, and all you have to do is cross out the parts that went sour and start again at the beginning. That's it. No words lost, no time wasted. It was god damn beautiful.
Every writing session after this realization, I dedicated five minutes (sometimes more, never less) and wrote out a quick description of what I was going to write. Sometimes it wasn't even a paragraph, just a list of this happens then this then this. This simple change, these five stupid minutes, boosted my wordcount enormously. I went from writing 2k a day to writing 5k a day within a week without increasing my 5 hour writing block. Some days I even finished early.
Of the three sides of the triangle, I consider knowledge to be the most important. This step alone more than doubled my word count. If you only want to try one change at a time, this is the one I recommend the most.
Side 2: Time
Now that I'd had such a huge boost from one minor change, I started to wonder what else I could do to jack my numbers up even higher. But as I looked for other things I could tweak, I quickly realized that I knew embarrassingly little about how I actually wrote my novels. I'd kept no records of my progress, I couldn't even tell you how long it took me to write any of my last three novels beyond broad guesstimations, celebratory blog posts, and vague memories of past word counts. It was like I started every book by throwing myself at the keyboard and praying for a novel to shoot out of my fingers before the deadline. And keep in mind this is my business. Can you imagine a bakery or a freelance designer working this way? Never tracking hours or keeping a record of how long it took me to actually produce the thing I was selling? Yeah, pretty stupid way to work.
If I was going to boost my output (or know how long it took me to actually write a freaking novel), I had to know what I was outputting in the first place. So, I started keeping records. Every day I had a writing session I would note the time I started, the time I stopped, how many words I wrote, and where I was writing on a spreadsheet. I did this for two months, and then I looked for patterns.
Several things were immediately clear. First, my productivity was at its highest when I was in a place other than my home. That is to say, a place without internet. The afternoons I wrote at the coffee shop with no wireless were twice as productive as the mornings I wrote at home. I also saw that, while butt in chair time is the root of all writing, not all butt in chair time is equal. For example, those days where I only got one hour to write I never managed more than five hundred words in that hour. By contrast, those days I got five hours of solid writing I was clearing close to 1500 words an hour. The numbers were clear: the longer I wrote, the faster I wrote (and I believe the better I wrote, certainly the writing got easier the longer I went). This corresponding rise of wordcount and writing hours only worked up to a point, though. There was a definite words per hour drop off around hour 7 when I was simply too brain fried to go on.
But these numbers are very personal, the point I'm trying to make is that by recording my progress every day I had the data I needed to start optimizing my daily writing. Once I had my data in hand, I rearranged my schedule to make sure my writing time was always in the afternoon (my most prolific time according to my sheet, which was a real discovery. I would have bet money I was better in the morning.), always at my coffee shop with no internet, and always at least 4 hours long. Once I set my time, I guarded it viciously, and low and behold my words per day shot up again. This time to an average of 6k-7k per writing day, and all without adding any extra hours. All I had to do was discover what made good writing time for me and then make sure the good writing time was the time I fought hardest to get.
Even if you don't have the luxury of 4 uninterrupted hours at your prime time of day, I highly suggest measuring your writing in the times you do have to write. Even if you only have 1 free hour a day, trying that hour in the morning some days and the evening on others and tracking the results can make sure you aren't wasting your precious writing time on avoidable inefficiencies. Time really does matter.
Side 3: Enthusiasm
I was flying high on my new discoveries. Over the course of two months I'd jacked my daily writing from 2k per day to 7k with just a few simple changes and was now actually running ahead of schedule for the first time in my writing career. But I wasn't done yet. I was absolutely determined I was going to break the 10k a day barrier.
I'd actually broken it before. Using Knowledge and Time, I'd already managed a few 10k+ days, including one where I wrote 12,689 words, or two chapters, in 7 hours. To be fair, I had been writing outside of my usual writing window in addition to my normal writing on those days, so it wasn't a total words-per-hour efficiency jump. But that's the great thing about going this fast, the novel starts to eat you and you find yourself writing any time you can just for the pure joy of it. Even better, on the days where I broke 10k, I was also pulling fantastic words-per-hour numbers, 1600 - 2000 words per hour as opposed to my usual 1500. It was clear these days were special, but I didn't know how. I did know that I wanted those days to become the norm rather than the exception, so I went back to my records (which I now kept meticulously) to find out what made the 10k days different.
The answer was head-slappingly obvious. Those days I broke 10k were the days I was writing scenes I'd been dying to write since I planned the book. They were the candy bar scenes, the scenes I wrote all that other stuff to get to. By contrast, my slow days (days where I was struggling to break 5k) corresponded to the scenes I wasn't that crazy about.
This was a duh moment for me, but it also brought up a troubling new problem. If I had scenes that were boring enough that I didn't want to write them, then there was no way in hell anyone would want to read them. This was my novel, after all. If I didn't love it, no one would.
Fortunately, the solution turned out to be, yet again, stupidly simple. Every day, while I was writing out my little description of what I was going to write for the knowledge component of the triangle, I would play the scene through in my mind and try to get excited about it. I'd look for all the cool little hooks, the parts that interested me most, and focus on those since they were obviously what made the scene cool. If I couldn't find anything to get excited over, then I would change the scene, or get rid of it entirely. I decided then and there that, no matter how useful a scene might be for my plot, boring scenes had no place in my novels.
This discovery turned out to be a fantastic one for my writing. I trashed and rewrote several otherwise perfectly good scenes, and the effect on the novel was amazing. Plus, my daily wordcount numbers shot up again because I was always excited about my work. Double bonus!
Life On 10k A Day
With all three sides of my triangle now in place, I was routinely pulling 10-12k per day by the time I finished Spirits' End, the fifth Eli novel. I was almost 2 months ahead of where I'd thought I'd be, and the novel had only taken me 3 months to write rather than the 7 months I'd burned on the Spirit War (facts I knew now that I was keeping records). I was ahead of schedule with plenty of time to do revisions before I needed to hand the novel in to my editor, and I was happier with my writing than ever before. There were several days toward the end when I'd close my laptop and stumble out of the coffee shop feeling almost drunk on writing. I felt like I was on top of the world, utterly invincible and happier than I've ever been. Writing that much that quickly was like taking some kind of weird success opiate, and I was thoroughly addicted. Once you've hit 10k a day for a week straight, anything less feels like your story is crawling.
Now, again, 10k a day is my high point as a professional author whose child is now in daycare (PRICELESS). I write 6 - 7 hours a day, usually 2 in the morning and 4-5 in the afternoon, five days a week. Honestly, I don't see how anyone other than a full time novelist could pull those kind of hours, but that doesn't mean you have to be a pro to drastically increase your daily word count.
So 10k might be the high end of the spectrum, but of the people I've told about this (a lot) who've gotten back to me (not nearly as many), most have doubled their word counts by striving to hit all three sides of the triangle every time they write. This means some have gone from 1k a day to 2k, or 2k to 4k. Some of my great success with increasing my wordcount is undoubtedly a product of experience, as I also hit my million word mark somewhere in the fifth Eli novel. Even so, I believe most of the big leaps in efficiency came from changing the way I approached my writing. Just as changing your lifestyle can help you lose a hundred pounds, changing they way you sit down to write can boost your words per hour in astonishing ways.
If you're looking to get more out of your writing time, I really hope you try my triangle. If you do, please write me (or comment below) and let me know. Even if it doesn't work (especially if it doesn't work) I'd love to hear about it. Also, if you find another efficiency hack for writing, let me know about that too! There's no reason our triangle can't be a square, and I'm always looking for a way to hit 15k a day :D.
Again, I really hope this helps you hit your goals. Good luck with your writing!
And if you want to read more of my free writing posts, check these out:
12 Days of Glory (or how I wrote a novel in 12 days, complete with daily numbers!), How I Plot A Novel in 5 Steps, and Editing for People Who Hate Editing! I add new writing posts all the time, so feel free to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or on my RSS Feed (available on the sidebar to the left) for updates and information.
Thanks as always for reading and spreading the word!
Essay on Myself
Below we have provided some simple paragraph and easy essay on Myself for the school students. They are generally given this topic to write paragraphs or essays in their schools during exams or class tests. You can select any myself essay given below according to your need and requirement.
Myself Essay 1 (100 words)
Myself Rajani Tyagi, live in Ghaziabad in the New Panchwati colony. I read in the class 5th in the section B. I read in the school New Era Ghaziabad. I am very punctual and like to do my all works throughout the day at right time. I love to eat simple and healthy food. I like dancing, reading books, playing badminton and cooking in my spare time. I never bunk my classes and attend every class. I go to school daily in proper uniform. I do well in the exams whether main or class tests. I have many friends however Sarita is my best friend.
Myself Essay 2 (150 words)
There are many people living in world having different personalities. This is the personality which makes everyone unique and different from others. We can never see two people of exactly same personality. It never changes and decided the quality of a person. I am taking the example of me. I am so special in this world and have unique personality than others. I am very responsible and sympathetic person. I always help others and try my best to solve their problems. I am self-centred woman have not have any enemy in this world.
I always talk to others very happily with smiling face. I am a very simple student in my school and attend each class. I do my homework very well on daily basis and study well every day in the night till 10 pm and in the morning from 4 am. I always pay attention to my study and motivate my friends as well to focus on their study.
Myself Essay 3 (200 words)
My name is Archana Mishra but generally called by everyone as Gudia. I am 12 years old, read in class 7th standard. I am a second child of my parents and have an elder brother. I have a joint family in which my uncle, grandparents and cousins in the same big house. We love each other very much and closely related to grandparents. I have a group of friends however Sina is my best and true friend. I can share anything to her and she too. We read in the same school but in different sections. I like very much to tell jokes to my friends while being in the bus after school time.
I have a unique family. All the members of my family are broad and open minded. They always promote me to do well in every field. They never pull me back instead motivate. I am very happy to get birth in this family. My family is cross-cultural extended family where my uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, etc live together. I have great time with my family because we celebrate each festival together. I help other kids in family in doing their home works daily.
Myself Essay 4 (250 words)
My name is Queen but have a nick name called as Sara. My parents and grandparents generally call me by my nick name. My parents are very conscious to my health. They wake me up daily in the morning at 5 am and tell me to do all the daily routines. My mom gives me an apple a day in the daily morning and a healthy breakfast after one hour. I go to school at right time through school bus. I never get late. My school starts at 8 am in the morning and ends at 2 pm in the afternoon. My mom gives me healthy fruits for fruit break and healthy lunch for lunch break.
I read in 8th standard in the school, Ch. Chhabil Dass Junior Public School. I am 13 years old and live in Ghaziabad with my parents. I also have joined dance and piano classes out of the school as I like to learn dance and piano very much. I enjoy my school time thoroughly with my friends and home time with my dearest parents and grandparents. I have good neighbours; they understand each other and never quarrel. I love picnic and go to tour in my winter and summer vacations. I am very good student in my school. I participate in all the extracurricular activities of the schools and do well. I am very good in academic and sports activities. My school has a big garden and big playground provides all the facilities of sports. My school has healthy, nice and peaceful environment.
Myself Essay 5 (300 words)
My name is Sulekha; I read in class 9th standard in Delhi. I am a self-driven and self motivated student. I like to motivate my friends of the school always and help them in their difficult times. I am a bright student of my school and do well in the academic and sports activities. I am capable to do well under any stressful condition. I am very skilled and knowledgeable student in my school. I do very hard study for long hours around the clock at home. I never left my home works and class works incomplete and like to complete all before bed time. My teachers like me very much because of my goodness and punctuality. I never become tired and continuously do hard work because my parents take care of me always. They always become conscious for my health and diet.
Because of my academic tenure, I always get good marks and grades. I am a merit scholarship holder in my school. I learn computer very well in my school and know everything about computer. I do everything according to my organized schedule of work. I never avoid my any of the works whether at home or at school. I always respect my parents and help my mom in her house works and my father in his office projects. I share my mom’s laundries and washing dishes works. I always keep my room clean and decorate attractively every Sunday. I understand my all responsibilities toward myself and my family very well. I always try to make my friends and classmates happy through my interesting jokes and nice talks. I always become ready to give them advises and suggestions to get them out of their difficulties. I am very sympathetic girl and try to support old people and children in my colony or on the way.
Myself Essay 6 (400 words)
I am a lovely boy of my dear parents. I am 14 years old boy and read in class 4th standard in the section A. My name is Suresh Raina. I study in Ryan Public School in Ghaziabad. My grandfather likes to say me Guddu. He always takes me out with him in the morning and evening for the walk. I live with my family in the Rajnagar colony in Ghaziabad. I go to school with my school bus daily at right time in the morning at 7 am and come to home at 2 pm in the afternoon. I like to go school in proper uniform after become fresh. I say good morning to my class teacher when I reach to my classroom. I enjoy daily with my school friends in the bus and lunch time. I always take part in the sports activities and other extracurricular activities.
My school organizes inter-school competitions at every six months which I must participate. I always come first in every competition. My school celebrates all the important events of the year such as independence Day, Republic Day, Christmas, 2nd October, Mother’s day, Teacher’s day, etc in order to increase our awareness and knowledge about. We are advised by our class teacher to must participate in the cultural activities while celebrating any event. I generally take part in the poem recitation or speech recitation. I also like dance but not feel so comfortable to dance at event celebration. However, I take part in the dance in my annual function which gets celebrated in the month of November every year. My parents are also invited to the school annual function.
My parents get me out at picnic or long tour in my every vacation during winter or summer season. I live in very good society where some programmes are organized from time to time in order to increase awareness among common public about the social issues. My father always takes me with him to participate in such programmes. My mom always teaches me about ethics and etiquettes to make me a good citizen of India. I always keep my study room and bed room neat and clean. I always take care of my hygiene and wash hands well with soap before and after eating the food. My mom and dad love me a lot and care for my every likes and dislikes. I like to play ludo or carom with my parents whenever they become free.