Knowing What You’re Going to Write Before You Write

How many words do you put on the page in a typical writing session? Finger-blank-paper-25643-l

500?  1,000?

When I wrote my novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior, my deal with myself was to write 2,000 words a day.  Didn't matter when I wrote them, but if I hadn't written them before bedtime, I had to stay up until they were done.

I was delighted to produce 2,000 words a day, let me tell you.  But how about routinely writing 10,000 words in a writing session?

Apparently, it can be done.

Somebody (I forget who, forgive me) tweeted this article about author Rachel Aaron, who wrote about how she went from an output of 2,000 to 10,000 words.  Every day.  (If you're in the mood to challenge yourself to write this much in even one day, head on over to Milli's Fear of Writing blog and sign up for one of her regular 10K day challenges.)

Rachel says that she attributes her word count success to three things:

Knowledge–Knowing what you're going to write

Time–Tracking and evaluating productivity

Enthusiasm–Excitement about what you're writing

I'm not so keen on the tracking and evaluating part (which is probably why I ought to pay attention to it), and generally for me enthusiasm is a given.  What can hang me up is not knowing what I'm going to write.

Over and over again I've found that following this simple rule leads to writing success:

Have a place to go.

It'll save you from hours spent internet surfing as you try to figure out what's next in your writing.  It will allow  you writing sessions where you write 10K words.  Your house will be lusciously dirty because you won't be spending time cleaning it instead of writing.

But how do you create yourself a place to go?

When you're in the flow, several chapters in, it is usually pretty easy.  You just write the next chapter on the scene list.  (This is one reason I advocate for outlines.  Nothing fancy, just a structure that gives you someplace to go next. Or, if you get excited about a scene that's out of order, go write that.)

But what if you're just starting out?  Or what if you're just a few chapters in and you don't really know your characters yet?  It can be way too easy to end up staring off into space because you don't know where to go.  (I admit, I've found myself in this place a few times recently.)

This is when the value of prepping to write a novel (or any kind of book) becomes evident.  When you know things about your character, place, and the structure of your novel, it will be much easier to get in stellar word count writing sessions.  I've actually taken the time to go back and really get to know my characters recently and it has made an enormous difference in my writing, and my engagement with the work. While this kind of novel prep can seem like busy work, I highly recommend it for the insights it will give you.  And for the fact that it will give you a place to go.

By the way, I'm going to be presenting a class on prepping for the novel this summer, so if you're interested and you're not on my list, sign up with the form to the right.

Do you have any pet ways that you prep for writing sessions that improve your word count?

Photo by OmirOnia.