It's nearly the end of March, which will mark three whole months since I embarked on my authoring adventure. Despite the sunshine, I woke up this morning feeling a bit disappointed in my relatively low word-count, so I gave myself a stern talking-to and tried to think of all the positive things I've achieved, and what I have learned.
Some of the most important and useful things I've learned are the little tips and tricks that help the words to flow a bit quicker, but we'll come back to those in a minute. First, what have I actually achieved?
1. My word count is hovering somewhere around 21,000 words. This is not ideal, given that I need to have written approximately 120,000 words by the end of June. However, it is still a decent chunk of work and I'm really proud of the way it is taking shape. I also realised that a lot of this initial writing period has involved detailed plot work, character summaries and world building. All of which are very important!
2. In addition to the actual number of words I've written, I'm really excited by the story that has taken shape in my mind and my notes over the last three months. The setting has changed completely from when I first started writing, and some major characters have been reimagined. I also spent a lot of time researching names for places and characters that fitted with the world I was building and felt right, and feel I've now got a really great cast and landscape that I can play with.
3. Not only do I have the shape of my first book worked out in my head, I also know where books two and three are going to go, which is fantastic.
4. In terms of my blogging platform, I'm really pleased that I've managed a pretty consistent stream of posts and – even if no one is reading them – I'm happy to be getting stuff 'out there' and looking forward to my posts becoming more and more useful as I experiment and discover things on my journey.
5. Social media wise, I'm getting to grips nicely with Twitter. I'm very proud to have hit 100 followers, although that's a teeny number in comparison with the big players out there!
As I said at the beginning of the post, I've also learned a lot since January. Primarily, I've discovered that there are lots of ways to make your writing quicker and make sure you hit your word count.
Set a target
I did this right at the beginning, but I had an 'overall' target of 120,000 words by June, rather than a monthly or weekly target. Now that I've been writing consistently for a few months, I know how many days a week I can feasibly manage to spend time writing and how many words I can hit on those days, so I have a much more realistic set of targets. I now aim to write on four days each week and to write 2,500 words on each of those days.
So, set yourself a target. Work backwards and decide on your deadline (remember this is for your first draft, not your finished work!). Then look at how many days you can manage, and how many words you can write on those days. If you fall off the wagon, don't beat yourself up, but do try to stick to your weekly goals. The more you stick to them, the easier it is to continue.
Your word count matters, the quality of your work doesn't
This might sound ridiculous and, obviously, it doesn't apply to your finished manuscript. However, at this early stage try to focus on getting the words out. Tell your story. Hit your targets and do the editing later. Joanna Penn, from The Creative Penn, says that first drafts are supposed to be crap and I am beginning to agree. This has probably been my most difficult to overcome learning curve, because I'm a perfectionist. I hate feeling unhappy with a scene or chapter. Partly, this is borne out of embarrassment. That feeling of 'Oh god how could I write something so silly, people will think it is awful.' But, remember, no one apart from you needs to see your first draft. Only share it if you think it will be helpful.
Tip: don't re-read your work from the beginning every time you open the document. I had a horrible habit of doing this and it meant that it would take me at least an hour of editing every day before I was able to move on to crafting new words.
Brackets, highlighting and PostIts are your friends
I saw a tip on Pinterest a while ago about using brackets to help you write quicker and it is now one of my go-to methods of moving on and getting the story out. If you're struggling for a word write (better word here) in brackets. If you need to go back and cross-reference with something you wrote earlier, put it in brackets. If you know you want to add more description about a character's physical appearance, but can't quite tie it down right now, whack it in brackets (more physical description here). I highlight my brackets as well, just to make sure I don't miss them when I go back through the document later.
Also use PostIts or comments features if you're writing on a computer to make notes about things you'd like to research more, or potential ideas you're not sure about.
This is the second time I've mentioned Scrivener, but that's because it is truly amazing and the absolute best tool I've found for helping to quicken-up the writing process. It allows you to set targets, or you can tell it your ideal word count, deadline, and when you will write, and it will work out the targets for you. It also has a little side bar that changes colour as you near the word count for each writing session, which is incredibly motivating.
Scrivener also has lots of cool features that allow you to make notes, store research, write character descriptions and place descriptions. Basically, it keeps everything organised and in one place. If you haven't heard of it or tried it, download the free trial and give it a go.
And my final tip – just keep going! Don't get disheartened if you have a spell of writers block, or you're ill, or busy. Just get back on the wagon and keep going. The more you write, the more you will feel like a writer. When you feel like a writer, your confidence will go up. And when your confidence is up, you will write more.
If you've got any write faster tips, I would love to hear them so do comment below or tweet me @CaraThurlbourn