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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Seven Ways to Write a Book Faster

Seven Ways to Write a Book FasterBy Evan Marshall

Once you sell your first novel, chances are good your editor will want you to deliver at least one book a year. Some writers have no problem with this schedule, while others scramble to keep up. I used to find it difficult to deliver novels at this rate, since I needed at least six months to develop my plot outline and at least another six months to write the novel.
My current publisher wants me to deliver my novels nine months apart. This was a problem I'd always dreamed of having, but it was a problem nevertheless. So I had to come up with ways to speed up the writing processes. I'll share my tips with you below.
Set quotas
Novels are built a page at a time. The bottom line is that you've got to produce those pages. If you don't write enough pages a day, you won't have your novel finished on time; it's as simple as that. Here's what I do. After my outline is written and approved by my publisher, I take the number of pages I need (around 350) and divide that number by the number of days I have until my deadline-less two weeks for editing and polishing. For the novel I'm currently writing, the magic number is 13 pages a day. That's carved in stone. I am not allowed to leave my office until those pages are done. Quotas take the stress off because you know that when you've produced that number, you don't have to feel guilty when you attend to other matters.
Don't print out.
When I'm writing a novel, I don't allow myself to print out a hard copy until the first draft is completely finished. Printing out-for me, at least-leads to all kinds of distractions that slow writing down. For example, I'm tempted to reread everything I've written, which can lead to changing my mind about story elements, which can lead to taking my book completely apart and virtually starting all over again. If you're starting a writing session and need to reread some of what you've written in order to get back into the flow, reread the previous few scenes or chapter; you don't need to reread the whole book.
Follow your outline.
Your outline should be detailed enough that it's a reliable roadmap for the novel. When you're writing the first draft, keep to this outline; don't veer off in new directions. It slows things down.
Don't over-research while you're writing.
There will of course be times when you need to do some research to decide something major about how your story will go. But if you come to a place and need some details for "color," just type TK (the old journalist's abbreviation for "to come") and deal with it when the novel is finished.
Make notes.
Similarly, if as you're writing you think of things you want to go back and put in, make notes (right in the manuscript is fine) and deal with all of these later. Don't go back and put them in now.
Paste liberally!
Let's say I'm writing a scene set at the Wollman Skating Rink in New York City's Central Park, and I need some details for authenticity. I Google the rink, find some photos, and paste them right into my manuscript so that I can look at them as I'm writing. When I've finished, I simply delete them. You can do this with text from other sources, links to Web pages, audio-anything. Gather up everything you need and paste it in. Just remember to remove it all when you're finished.
Write directly on your outline.
Why have your outline at your elbow as you write your book? Simply turn the outline itself into your novel, developing it paragraph by paragraph.
Implement any of these tips and you'll see your writing going faster. You'll produce more, which will help build your career. You may come up with more techniques that work for you. With solid speed-writing tricks, you can be both fast and good.
Evan Marshall, president of The Evan Marshall Agency, is a former book editor and packager. Recently he and coauthor Martha Jewett released The Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software, based on his bestselling The Marshall Plan® writers' guides. Evan is also the author a number of popular mystery novels; recently released are Death is Disposable and Evil Justice. Visit http://www.writeanovelfast.com and download Evan's 77-page Fiction Makeover Guide with tips and ideas on writing a great novel.
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