I once wrote a first draft in six weeks. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to duplicate the effort. In fact the manuscript I wrote immediately after that one took me six months to finish. But the notion of writing a book in six weeks has continued to intrigue me—writing fast is a great skill to have—and I’ve tried a variety of methods to speed up my writing. So far, to no avail.
But there is something that keeps me steaming along at a good clip—preparation.
I’m a plotter, which means I prefer to have a map of where I’m headed before I start writing. As you might imagine, one of the items I prepare beforehand is the plot map. But I also do several other things to prepare:
1. Interview the characters. My character sheet describing height, weight, and family background only tells me so much. Asking pointed questions about why the character did XYZ in his past gives me a lot more to go on.
2. Explore the world. Some time ago, I discovered a wonderful set of world-building questions developed by Patricia Wrede, and from that I created a smaller set that works for my purposes. Answering the questions helps me add depth to my world.
3. Plan the number of pages needed each week to meet the deadline—factoring in holidays, sick days, emergencies, etc.
4. Research. I research the elements of the story that I need to know up front. A career choice for a main character, the types of weapons that character might use, the locale for specific scenes, etc.
5. Think. I spend a lot of prep time on this one. Is the conflict big enough? Is this the right place to start the book? Would that character really act that way? And a thousand more questions, some of which the answer is NO. I never cover off all the questions, and that’s really not my intent—it’s to roughly shape the story so I don’t get stuck on a big problem halfway through.
If I’ve done my homework, the writing goes along at a brisk pace—until I hit the first stumbling block. And there’s always a stumbling block. But the more advance work I do, the easier it is to recover and get back into the writing.
I’m still looking for ways to speed things up, though. If anyone has found the magic elixir to writing fast, please let me know.