Tuesday, May 16, 2017

5 Ways to Maximize Your Writing Time

with guest Melissa Jagears.

I recently wrote a 98,295 word rough draft in 24 days. That’s an average of 4095 words a day and I’m pretty certain I didn’t write all 24 days. Could you do it? Sure you can, because I’m betting 90% of you find the rough draft process fun.

I HATE the rough draft process! Like, really, really. Like, hate, hate. It’s not so bad once I start, but for some reason starting on it every day feels like I’ve asked myself to walk into a room full of people with the bubonic plague.

So, if someone who can’t stand the rough draft can write more than 5000 words a day, I hope my tips will make those of you who love the creative flow of words exceed my abilities.

So here’s how to maximize your writing time:

1. Get Accountable 

Writing is money. If you aren’t writing productively during your set-aside times, you’re stealing time away from other projects that could be making or saving you money. Or if you’re not trying to make money, you could be doing something else fulfilling. If you have trouble not using your writing time wisely, make it hurt when you fail. If you don’t get your quota, give money to something you DON’T want to fund. Maybe you pay your crit partner every time you don’t write when you said you would, maybe you put it in a piggy bank for that boat your spouse doesn’t need but really, really wants and would be tickled to get the money out of you.

 Have you ever used #1k1h on Twitter or joined the #1k1hr Facebook Page? If you’d be embarrassed to let others know you spent your writing time watching youtube videos, tell someone you’re about to write for an hour so you’re accountable. Text that friend that’s always asking when you’ll finish your book and make yourself report back at the end of your time. Broadcast your writing time on social media and report back with numbers. Find whoever it is or whatever it is that will make you feel bad for not giving it your all and tell them you’re about to write before you do.




2. Know what’s next in your story.

So you’ve rearranged your life to write and perhaps announced you are about to write, but the cursor is doing nothing but blinking. Or maybe you started out of the gate well, but your fun idea has fizzled into hard work. How could you possibly write 5000 words a day when you can barely squeeze out 500?

Don’t write until you know what you’re going to write.

Is this a plotter vs. pantster thing I’m springing on you? Not really. You can do it both ways. But I will say ahead of time I’m a plotter and the more I plot, the faster I can produce, but I understand some just can’t see themselves doing anything but pantsting. But you know what? Plotters are pantsters, too. We start in the same place, either with an idea, premise, setting, or character that has intrigued us, and know nothing more than that. We all pants.


Now, there are plenty of fancy plotting methods you can do beforehand that can be helpful, but even if you wouldn’t touch a plotting worksheet with a ten foot pole, we all have to pants a plot. But why pants during the arduous rough draft portion where you have to balance dialog and narrative, add in setting, make words pretty, fill out the story world? Whether you are a pantster or a plotter, you can write a pre-rough draft that simply TELLS the story—pure telling, as if you’re spoiling the whole plot by telling a friend your book’s plot from beginning to end, sprinkled with brilliant bits of dialog, pretty setting tidbits, deep thoughts, jokes, etc. that come to you as you write it. Don’t waste your time on writing craft while trying to come up with a story. For A Love So True, I wrote out a 32,000 word pre-rough draft telling me the story. For the book at the beginning of this post that I wrote in 24 days, I spent two weeks writing a 50,000 word pre-rough draft (It had more subplots to juggle).

I hear a whole chorus of you going “WAIT! Wait, wait. A 50k word synopsis, you mean? That’s nearly a book! No way am I writing an entire book worth of words before I write an actual book.

Well, it doesn’t take very long to write 50k words when you care about nothing about them being good: ignore punctuation, grammar, making things sound pretty, writing craft. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but yourself. Just transcribe the movie in your head. It’s much faster to write a story when you aren’t worried about the writing craft whatsoever. When you do this, you can easily go back and add in the secret baby you didn’t know was in there until about 2/3 through the story by inserting a sentence or two instead of fixing the whole darn book. You can rearrange, chop, and add with no real pain.

Once you’re happy with how the story works, then you just cut the pre-rough draft into sections/chapters/scenes. When you start writing each day on your actual rough draft, cut and paste the bit you plan to write into your manuscript’s margin, and use it as a guide. You’ll know ahead of time all the red herrings you need to weave in, you’ll know what needs to be set up for what’s coming next, you know how your characters will act because you’ve already become acquainted with them. It is AMAZING how fast you can write when you can just glance toward the margin when you lose steam, and go “Oh yeah, this is where I bring in the funny joke/plot twist/villain!”

But, if you’re a true pantster and got the heebie jeebies from the “50k word pre-rough draft,” you can write a pre-rough draft as you go. Read what you wrote yesterday, put a track changes bubble in the margin where you left off, then in that bubble come up with what’s going to happen next by telling it to yourself. Using what you know of GMC and other writing craft knowledge, fiddle with the scene setup until you’re happy. If you’ve got writer’s block, go take a shower or jog and play it out in your head or whatever helps you think until you know what’s coming next, then come back, write it in your plan, THEN start the actual writing. 

Just to give you an idea of what this telling rough draft looks like, this is what I used to guide me as I wrote chapter one of A Love So True:


“Hero must fire his father’s manager of the glass plant (or whatever business [I didn’t decide until much later in the pre-rough draft]). conflict: He’s not as ruthless as his father, he’s not certain he wants to do it as his father thinks it should be done. Once he does so, the entire office staff walks out. He’s always depended on his secretary to help him with business messes and now he doesn’t have his or the one from the glass factory to help sort out his mess. He’s starving and disappointed about not knowing what to do next and is overwhelmed with the unfamiliar paperwork. So he decides to leave it for the day and find something to eat. But he’s not in a good area of town for that, he smells something he wants, but he’s ended up in the red light district, who was the guy who thought putting a glass factory here was a good idea? He sees a woman who doesn’t belong in the area. He can’t get food and leave her here, can he? Is she as lost as he was? He decides to follow her and she catches him spying on her. She’s not very forthright on why she’s there and she seems to have a weapon, his talking to her doesn’t seem to change her mind about leaving the area. And he finds this stubborn woman interesting. But she isn’t at all interested in him, but he follows her anyway to be safe and he’s still hungry. Once she seems safe he looks for food, wishing he wasn’t going to be stuck cleaning up a glass factory business mess so he could meet her again, but then, if he hopes this business venture will prove to his father what he needs to prove, he’s gotta spend his time in the hot factory anyway instead of hobnobbing with the locals.”

BUT don’t just think out your plan! Write it down. For two reasons: One, there’s just something about writing down a plan that makes it easier to see flaws and problems before you start the actual writing and realize it won’t work. And two, when you’re writing the actual rough draft, fiddling with dialog, interior monologue, setting, and all that, can cause you to forget where you’re headed. But if it’s written down, when you lose steam, you can glance at your pre-rough draft, jog your memory, and get back to chugging. If your actual writing took you on a better journey than what you had planned out, wonderful, but the plan will save you more often than not.

3. Find what makes you excited to write what comes next – If what you wrote in your pre-rough draft document or margin bubble doesn’t make you excited to write it….well, is your reader going to be excited to read it? Likely not. So if you aren’t bouncing in your chair with itchy fingers wanting to see how this scene will look “brought to life” then you need to enhance or rewrite the plan to include something that makes you excited to write it. Is there a funny scene you could throw in there? Did you forget to add conflict? Can you add some romantic tension? Can you up the stakes? Can you change the secondary character to be more interesting? Are you perhaps having them act out of character? Do you need this scene at all? Can you scrap it and add the necessary elements to the next scene you’ve planned that does make you excited? 

Don’t start writing something until you’re excited about it—I promise, the difference between writing excited and writing bored is light years different in word production. It’s better to spend extra time fiddling with the pre-rough draft plan to get excited about where you’re going than to trudge through writing it anyway.




4. Forget the research – Whoah? What? Are you telling me to write poorly researched work? Nope. But only stop your rough draft writing to look up things that will completely derail your story or cause huge rewrites if the research doesn’t back what you’re trying to do. Finding out if the word “flibbertigibbet” was used in your time period is not worth stopping for. Highlight and move on. If you’ve used a word several times in a row, mark it to look up in a thesaurus later. If you aren’t sure potatoes were in England in your time period, don’t look it up unless you’re writing a two page joke about potatoes you couldn’t possibly substitute with some other vegetable. Don’t stop to look up what designer dress a kid could buy for $2000 in New York for her prom, just put in a generic description of a dress, flag it to beef up later, and move on.

Research rabbit trails can suck away hours of your writing time. Don’t let small research bits stop your word count flow; deal with it in editing. Especially since sometimes, you’re going ax it out completely anyway.

5. Write, Write, Write

Now, perhaps 500 words are all you’ve ever written in a day and 5000 seems insane. It might be, but hopefully my tips will help you at least double your current word count. The best thing to do to become a faster, better writer is to write more. The more words you write, the more stories you wrestle into submission, the more familiar you get with your process, the more well-crafted words you labor to create, the easier the words come and the faster you can go.





For Writers: What tip or tricks can you share for making writing time productive? Readers: If you want to binge read a book, what drastic things do you do to squeeze in reading time?

Today Melissa is generously giving away a copy of A Love So True to one commenter. Winner announced in the next Weekend Edition. 



Evelyn Wisely has a heart for the orphans of Teaville and works at a local mansion that rescues children out of the town's red-light district and gives them a place to live. But her desire to help isn't limited to orphans. The owner of the mansion, Nicholas Lowe, is willing to help her try to get the women working in prostitution out of the district as well--if she can gain the cooperation and support of local businessmen to go against the rest of the community. 

David Kingsman has recently arrived in Teaville from Kansas City to help with one of his father's companies in town. While he plans on staying only long enough to prove his business merit to his father, he's shown interest in Evelyn's work and is intrigued enough by her to lend his support to her cause.


They begin with the best of intentions, but soon the complications pile up and Evelyn and David's dreams look more unattainable every day. When the revelation of a long-held secret creates a seemingly insurmountable rift between them, can they trust God still has a good plan for them despite all that is stacked against them?



Author Bio: Did Melissa Jagears mention she hates writing her rough draft? Well she does, but she forces herself to do so mostly in the wee hours of the morning. You’ll occasionally catch her in the #1k#1hr Facebook group because she just doesn’t want to write but would feel like a real dork if she didn’t hit 1000 words an hour in front of people on social media since it’s not that hard to hit 1000 words an hour when you have an exciting plan sitting right next to you in the document’s margin. She writes for Bethany House and the second book of her second series A Love So True is out right now.




133 comments :

  1. We should have charged an admission fee to this blog post. We'd be rich! You would be too, Melissa. After our 15% cut.

    James Patterson outlines like you do. I took his Master Class (VINCE, AM I RIGHT?). This is a highly successful method for getting to the end.

    How come I haven't done it yet?

    Argh.

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    1. Probably because it masquerades as being time intensive or because you're just too "raring to go" ....Wait, is that really how it's spelled, how can there be a raring and no "to rare"....yep, that's it. Anywho....You're too excited to start writing and you really think it'll be faster to just go, but then when you get bogged down you think, surely I'm already halfway there it's best just to keep going....but it's like when you're lost and you're like surely the turn is coming soon, but you don't find your way out until an hour after the party started. If you'd done all the mapping before you left (or made yourself a new map at every corner/scene), you'd have arrived on time.

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    2. Melissa, you have inspired me! I love this nitty-gritty, in the trenches post. I plan but after reading your method, I realize I don't know the meaning of the word. :-) I'm intrigued with writing the story to myself as a guide. Pondering this.

      Janet

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    3. Thank you for that depressing answer.

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    4. Ha, deliverer of bleak reality, at your service.

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  2. I am seriously disturbed. Just a heads up. I could look at Kermie typing away, all day.

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    1. I have to concur with that Tina! (Kermie) HAHA, wouldn't it be nice to actually type that fast. Just think how little time it would take to write a book :-D

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    2. Giggling at this visual for Melissa's method. Who doesn't love this frog?

      Janet

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    3. I also loved the visual of Kermie on the typewriter. Too cute!

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  3. Welcome Melissa!!! So nice to see you here, and can I say, I LOVED your book "A Love so True"?? You totally knocked it out of the park for me :-) Can't wait for #3!

    Secondly...when I want to binge read, well, that's what I do, I read! The most drastic thing I do is NO INTERNET TIME...I know, I know, makes you want to gasp in horror! But seriously, I know I'll get off on a rabbit trail on FB or checking my email or entering book contest or reading "just one more" blog. Then I've lost valuable reading time and since I influence for many writers, it means I have to play catch up. I don't like doing that! It makes me feel like I have to rush and that's no good when I also want to ENJOY the book I am reading for review. So that's my drastic measure for when I want to binge read :-) I'm sure other people have various other things they do and I can't wait to see other answers in tomorrows comments.

    Obviously no need to put me in the draw for the book. However, I will share this post on twitter and my FB page for others to pop in here to have a shot at winning :-) Great post, I'm sure writers will get a lot out of this!

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    1. Yep, the no internet time is a biggie for writers too. It's love/hate for me. It makes the research of how to write and history so much more accessible, but drains so much time.

      Glad you liked the book, Trixi, and thanks so much for sharing!

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  4. Hi Tina and Melissa:

    You are right. James Patterson wants to sell more fiction than anyone else. It is said he does! His books have to be a lot better than just good enough to get published.

    He says he works two to three months on the story outline before he writes a word. He also rewrites each scene six to eight times. Not because there are mistakes but because he wants to create the most interesting and page turning copy as possible.

    He likes to show his new outline to normal readers and waits until these readers start asking when the story is going to be finished because they can't wait to read it. That's when the outline is done!

    Patterson says that when the outline is that captivating he can't wait to get started writing it. He never has writer's block.

    I'm with Patterson and Melissa but I think I get the true pantser because I've also experienced a pantser high. The whole joy of being a pure pantser is being entertained as you write the story just as a reader will be entertained by reading it. If the reader read an outline of the story before reading it, with tons of spoilers, it would ruin the reading experience and almost any entertainment value.

    A true pantser must not know what happens next. Would a reader enjoy reading a 50,000 word rough draft before reading the book? No.

    I've pure pantsered and it's a true joy. When the words are flowing, you can't write fast enough and the reading enjoyment is far greater than just reading someone else's book.

    Tony Hillerman would only pantser. He wrote mysteries and was fond of saying, "If I don't know what is going to happen next, the read sure as heck won't know either." Of course, Tony said he had a big chest full of half-finished manuscripts because he got himself in a situation he could not pantser out of. He'd just start a new book never knowing if he'd be able to finish it!

    Tony must have hit quite of few half-finished books because he took forever between his much loved, best selling, books. A whole industry cropped up to fill in the gaps between Hillerman's books with Native American Police mysteries!

    I've tried for ten years and no amount of logic will ever get a pure pantser to plot or outline or even talk through the story. What do you think creates the great and irrational fear of the synopsis! I should say 'the dreaded synopsis'!

    I think the only way to get a pure pantser addicted writer to plot is to give her a three book contract with a year's deadline. Deadlines kill much of the entertainment joy of writing to an outline but the added money makes up for the lack of fun.

    Please put me in the drawing for your new book. Us plotters need to support each other because when one of those pantsered books works, it is very hard to match for pure unpredictable spontaneity. No one ever matched Tony Hillerman!

    Vince

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    1. Yes, I agree, pure pantstering, what I did with my first book was pure fun. Also took me a long time to write and now it's in a drawer forever. Difference between hobby and work!

      And yet, all pantsters have to revise and it becomes "no fun" at that point, right? I just move that up a bit so I can write faster and don't end up with a manuscript in file 13. :)

      Plotters unite!

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  5. Great advice, Melissa! I'm most productive when I go off line and hunker down with my Neo Alphasmart - THANKS DEBBY!

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    1. NEO ALPHASMART is a pretty good word, too. I just got a Neo but the stories still don't write themselves. :)

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    2. I've been tempted by something like a alphasmart, but I just don't see myself not liking being able to hop up and add something else on the screen. I like the idea of seeing the whole paper I'm writing one. Maybe if I played with one I'd find out it's not that bothersome, but offline is a major calling factor!

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    3. Yikes, I should not reread what I write in the comments section, oh the typos! Grrrr

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    4. Hi Melissa:

      The AlphaSmart is a special use device. It was created to be a very durable keyboard to teach kids how to type. Writers liked it because it would run for hundreds of hours on small batteries. It was light but had a full keyboard. It started up immediately.

      The seeing of only two to four lines (depending on the model)of copy on the screen was found to be ideal for rough first drafts or even pre rough drafts because the idea was: "Just get it down. Turn off your internal editor. Get it down and edit later on a real computer."

      The most talk I've encountered about AlphaSmarts has been with the NaNo community. I bought my first one to do NaNo. I just bought the Neo because I wanted this much better version. But I don't use it except for 'mad dash' rough drafts and 'novel in a month' events.

      I just have to read more of your books because I believe we have the same philosophy on writing! : )

      Vince

      P.S. I bought both mine for just $20 each on the after market. It's not a big investment when bought used. And it does the job it was created to do very well.

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  6. Thank you for these great ideas. I absolutely love your pictures. They are motivation all on their own. Please throw my name in for your book.

    I usually do my best writing in the quiet morning before others wake up. The brain is fresh and the interruptions are minimal. That's what works for my personality. A morning walk sometimes spurs ideas before or during writing. Of course all of that works best when I'm off from my teaching for vacations but I still do a short version every day.

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    1. I do most of my writing in the wee hours of the morning, but I'm actually best in the late afternoon. But kids sort of mess with that, but yes, finding the best time for your brain is absolutely helpful in the word count marathon!

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  7. Bettie! How did not know you are a reader and writer. What are you working on?

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    1. Since you asked:
      I'm working on some stuff for kids right now. An early chapter book and a picture book. I have a Christian romance contemporary that I've been editing for years. I have one historical that's halfway written...originally for adults but may change it to young adult...its about a young run away slave couple. I have written many musicals for church and elementary school that have been performed over the years. My "real publishing " consists of magazine articles for church and music teacher journals. This fall I will be published with no pay in a book of teacher lesson plans that will raise money for the national music teacher's organization. I'll also be listed as an illustrator for that one.

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    2. That's so wonderful, Bettie! And gosh you are talented. Send that romance out into the world and see what happens.

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  8. Melissa, these are excellent tips. You still have children at home, so I know these came straight from the front lines. I'm accountable to my crit partner on a monthly basis, but probably not as much on a short-term basis as I should/could be. One of the things I do that you suggested is "knowing what you're going to write." I spend up to two hours a day in the car, so I think about my plot and characters A LOT. When I sit down to write, I've usually got something.
    Please enter me in the drawing.
    Kathy Bailey

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  9. Another tip, and it's WAY not original, is the oldie but goodie of ending a page, paragraph or chapter in the middle and coming back to it the next day. It's creating suspense for yourself. A bit of a mind game, but it works if you're desperate.
    I have a temp job right now and I write, on a yellow legal pad, on my lunch break.
    KB

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    1. This was the tip I was thinking about. When I do Speedbo, it really helps to be in the middle of a scene when I end the night before so I can continue the next day.

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    2. I've tried that tip and I can't do it! My personality is one where things need to be finished, I'll not sleep rather than leave something unfinished. But then, maybe I do that in my rough draft....but yeah, I like to write a scene a day at least and if I leave it in the middle I didn't get my goal!!

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  10. Great advice, Melissa! Thank you! Love your cover. Also love seeing your success!

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  11. okay, may I say the Kermit the Frog GIF is the best writing gif ever? Trying not to laugh too loud here at the office...

    This is a great post Melissa. You make things sound so do-able. I think I shall try this process and see where it leads. I do think at times I try to make one scene perfect before moving on, but end up getting lost somewhere down the line because I'm not clear on where I'm going. Thanks for the tips! Unfortunately, I don't have any good tips to offer in return *sigh*

    I love your writing voice and would like my name to be in the draw. Love the book cover, too.

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    1. Kermie is delightful, he's found the excitement before he began writing, that's for sure!

      Won't hurt anything to try, DebH!

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  12. Hi Melissa,
    I'm smiling at your reader question about binge reading. On Mother's Day after everyone went home I picked up your book A Heart Most Certain and read until past midnight when I couldn't hold my eyes open any longer. I picked it up again yesterday afternoon and didn't stop until about ten last night when I finished it.

    Nothing drastic involved, I just don't do anything except bare necessities when on a book roll.

    The story took me by surprise, not what I was expecting. The characters were great (I too am eternally grateful Nicholas wasn't named Friedrich, lol) but the storyline wasn't one I had read about before and so pulled me in I couldn't read fast enough to find out what was going on in "The Line". The ending was swoon-worthy! My favorite books are those that get me thing about bigger issues and your book certainly did that. I'll be thinking a long time about how the "church" decides who's "worthy" of their help and who is beyond help and "unworthy".

    Great characters, great story and great spiritual application, a reader can't ask for more!

    I didn't realize book two in this series was out until Tina mentioned yesterday you would be here today. I loved Evelyn Wisely in book one and can't wait to read her story in A Love So True, very soon! Thanks for the wonderful stories, your writing technique is certainly working!

    Could I please be in the drawing for A Love So True? Thanks

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    1. Aw, how fun that the binge reading question got an answer with my book! Yes, only bare necessities....like going to the restroom, food and water...eh? Maybe? :)

      So glad you liked A Heart Most Certain, I'm going to visit my friend Karen on Memorial Weekend, so I'll tell her you appreciated her talking me out of Friedrich, ha ha.

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  13. Melissa, I'm delighted to have you in Seekerville! I'm blown away by the method you use to up your productivity. I hate the rough draft as much as you do. I'm a revision addict! Yet I think there's something freeing about telling ourselves the story before we write without any attempt to get it in book form. This just might work for me!

    Love your cover and the blurb! You're rocking it!

    Janet

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    1. Well if you hate the rough draft, I really recommend it, it's the best way I've found since I don't feel like such a helpless failure through the process. Now, I still hate it, don't get me wrong, and it still feels like I'm a hack during the whole thing, but this way I know the thing is cohesive before I start and I feel a whole lot better about just powering through!

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    2. Melissa, we may need therapy to overcome this hack syndrome.

      Janet

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    3. Melissa, we may need therapy to overcome this hack syndrome.

      Janet

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    4. Sorry for the stutter!

      Janet

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  14. #1 Accountability and Money. Now you're talking my language! lol

    The Cowboy wants (not just wants, but NEEDS) a new Ranger... this is the equivalent of a suped up 4x4 side-by-side "golf cart" that goes 30-40 mph and we've discovered is almost essential for farming. We love the one we have, but it's currently out of commission and needs a new motor. :(

    But am I willing to buy it for him out of my Christmas money I'm squirreling away for years for some minor remodeling projects? Um...no.

    That said, I'd better get to writing!!! :)

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    1. I bet Cowboy will keep his eye on you if you tell him your writing wasting time feeds the Ranger piggy bank!

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  15. HELLO MELISSA! Congrats on your release of copy of A Love So True! Since I don't work, I'm able to "binge" read often. *wink*

    Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. That's the way to do it, have no job! :)

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  16. Good morning Melissa and welcome to Seekerville. What a great post and really timely for me. Thank you. I so relate to the "I hate to write the rough draft". I love all the editing and revising. So hate the rough draft. You really gave me some good suggestions and hints to get through it. I think if I can just turn off the editor in my head and get to the story first and then go back and flesh out, I will do better. Great suggestion. Thanks again and have fun today in Seekerville. Always good to see your smile.

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    1. Hope it works for you, it's certainly a great way to bypass the internal editor.

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  17. One more thing... I actually like the idea of a lengthly synopsis, and plotting the big picture of what's going to happen.

    On the book I'm almost finished with, I did this (kinda-sorta), but my method derailed me somewhat....

    I write in Scrivener, so I put my thoughts about what I wanted to write in the actual manuscript section of my document. As scenes morph, change, and in some cases are deleted altogether, this method messed with my "real" word count. I'll handle the next book differently. Not exactly sure how, but differently.

    For Scrivener writers, I know there's the synopsis section, but I'm not sure it's the perfect spot for "brainstorming" the story. Excited to finish this ms, and figure out the best plotting procedure for the next one. :)

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    1. Hi Pam:

      Scrivener has a simple add-on program called Scapple which is made for brainstorming. It's just $15 and you can get a 30 time free trail. There are several good tutorials on YouTube to show you want can be done. It looks great but I've not used it much. Everything can be imported into your Scrivener project. As a Scrivener user already, you might really benefit from this little program. They say it only takes a few minutes to learn!

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    2. Sorry that I can't help with Scrivner, I opened up the demo one day and decided it would take me too long to figure it out, too much writing time gone for me to try!

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    3. Oh, my goodness. That is EXACTLY how I feel about Scrivener. Too bad I realized that AFTER I PAID FOR IT. I flunked the class too, btw.

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    4. Tina, I think one should treat Scrivener like the English language: you don't have to learn it all before you start using it. I just learn enough to do what I want to do at the time. If I need to know how to do something else, I learn that little bit next. If you can do everything you want to do, then who cares if you don't know how to use the 90% of the program?

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  18. Melissa, thanks for writing such a helpful post. One way to change a panster into a hybrid verging on plotter is to write that first draft and then edit it or try to squeeze it into a plotting sheet. Ugh.

    I think your idea of rough first draft is what keeps floating around in my head and out of my mouth, getting comments from my daughter like, "Have you written it yet?". (My answer- "No I haven't finished editing the other one.") I think I'll just get that thing into my computer.

    I don't watch TV unless it's Nashville or Gilmore Girls on my kindle IF I ever make it to the elliptical machine. In fact I can't stand to hear the TV when I work especially old westerns. I think I may have a solution, but it might not work for everyone. I received a pair of noise cancelling earphones for Mother's Day (for mowing pasture with a tractor). They worked so well yesterday that I may slap them on for writing!

    I love your post and will try the helpful ideas.

    However, I think Kermit watches his hands when he types.

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    1. Yep. Works for me. Earplugs!! I broke my noise cancelling headphones. hahaha.

      Delete
    2. I've used headphones and the brown noise maker on simplynoise.com to drown things out as a write, could try that.

      Shame on Kermie for watching his hands!

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. But at least he's WRITING, right????? ;-)

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    5. He's writing romance, isn't he?

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  19. Good morning, Melissa!

    I love productivity posts. Probably because I've always struggled w/it and you make me believe I can do it.

    I'd say the biggest thing into writing fast for me is something you've already mentioned. Love what I'm writing. If I'm excited about a scene, it's not a chore so I move.

    Thanks Melissa.

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  20. Hi Melissa. Lots of good encouragement to keep going. Thank you! For someone who hates writing the rough draft, you sure do turn them into awesome books. Whatever you're doing certainly works! I know many of us here struggle with trying to keep up with this writing thing while holding down a full time job. That job always has to be priority even when your heart is in the writing. Aside from that it makes it hard to not only find the time but also the energy that writing requires. What I really admire about your process is the writing at night when everyone else is sleeping. I wish I could do that! Alas, my eyelids require a full night's sleep to stay open next day. Keep it up - what you're doing produces books I love (and feeds my partiality toward Kansas authors!)

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    1. What sweet words, Cindy, thank you. I actually write better in the afternoon, but you do what you gotta do!

      Delete
  21. Wonderful post, Melissa! Many of these tips I have heard before, but the in depth discussion of a pre-rough draft intrigues me. I may try that.

    The research one is hard for me. I have to watch myself very closely not to run off on a research trail for something that hardly matters. On the other hand, research is often a way that I get past a writing block, so it's a difficult balance.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

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    1. Yes, sometimes those rabbit holes give you a cool idea to add to the story, but yeah, you can certainly lose your entire writing time chasing after something elusive. Sometimes, just for sake of productivity, if I can't find an answer in a certain amount of time, I write around it if at all possible. So if I can't tell high heels are in fashion yet for the area (I'm just making this up) I skip describing the shoes!

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  22. About Kermit:

    Do frogs get carpal tunnel?

    That Kermit gif reminds me of the day I walked by an open office with the vice president and a lady working in that office was typing so fast that it did not seem real.

    "She's got to be faking it to impress us," the VP said.

    "No, you can't fake it that fast. You'll jam the typewriter up in seconds if you're not doing the real thing. I've tried it!"

    But then it's not how many words you type per minute -- it's how many of those words you can use that count.

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    1. Exactly. Which is why I do not do #1K1HR, I tend to write an hour of unusable crap. Now granted, with Melissa's method I would avoid that.

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    2. Right, if you're just writing for an hour of writing sake, crap is likely the product. If you already know what you're writing isn't crap, 1.5k of good words is EASY!

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    3. Then again, when you are having a satori, what you write the fastest, is your best work!

      Delete
  23. Great post, Melissa. I really hate writing rough drafts. I have the same problem when I write short stories. I can't even sit down to write a 1,000 word story without wanting to stop and fix everything. That is one reason Speedbo has been so good for me as I try to write my first novel. One thing that helps me is to just set a timer for a certain amount of time and tell myself I can't stop until the timer goes off. Then when I'm tempted to check Facebook or my email, I remind myself that time isn't up.

    I have a question for you. How many hours a day do you write?

    Please enter me for your book. It looks good.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. She's a midnight writer. She may very well be sleeping right now. I hear snoring.

      Amazing writer. Midnight writers also include Virginia Munoz. Go over to #1K1Hr and you can see the pattern. Who writes when. Creatures of habit we are.

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    2. That's the beauty of the prerough draft, you know it's not the actual draft so you don't have to fix everything it can be the most atrociously written piece because it's just the plan! It's very freeing.

      The timer is very good. Basically that's what I use #1k1Hr for really, it's my timer, it makes me write for an hour plus the added bonus of I look like a failure if I don't write. Heck, no one is even in the #1k1hr group when I'm there really, it's just me and sometimes I catch Ruthy coming in in the morning. :) so really, it's a timer, they are handy!

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    3. I try to write long enough to write one scene a day. So my scenes are usually around 3k-4k, so like 3-5 hours.

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  24. Hi Melissa. I'm in awe of your production. Thanks for the insightful post. I'm inspired.

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  25. Well done, Melissa!

    I can't think of anything drastic but I read a lot. Hundreds of books a year.

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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    1. Phyllis I'm a compulsive reader, too.
      I don't know about hundreds of books a year, but I'd bet at least ONE HUNDRED books a year.

      I just love reading.

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  26. I LOVE the "pre-rough draft" idea! I had never thought to do that before, and I'm going to try that this time around. Brilliant.

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    1. Hope the love for the idea turns into something that works well for you!

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  27. I don't know, writing that huge synopsis seems kind of daunting. I start with an 'author helper' myself and fill it with sketches and storylines and anything that might be helpful... For the beginning, but then I end up scribbling all my notes to myself above, under, and around my story as it comes.

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    1. Boo the thing is, if your method, which sounds unusual has developed by your own work, you've then discovered WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.
      Melissa's advice isn't necessarily to change your own methods, it's just to ferret out the things that we do that defeat us, slow us down, distract us. But you do what works for you!!!

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  28. Melissa, GREAT post! You share some of the things I've found work for me. :) One thing I do to know what is coming up next is that I write out a synopsis of the story with every scene I know of. Sometimes the scenes change as I actually get into the writing, but most of the big picture scenes stay the same. When I know where the story/scene is going, my fingers fly across the keyboard.

    Loved this post!!

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    1. Makes a ton of difference how fast those fingers fly, doesn't it?

      Delete
    2. Jeanne I think this is why, for me, the ENDING of the book goes so fast. I know exactly where I'm going by then and it just flows.

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  29. Hi Melissa:

    The idea of pre-rough draft reminds me of when I was learning computer code years ago. We had what was called 'pseudo-code' in which the software designer would write line by line what the computer program was going to do at each step of the program. Menus and screens could be described. Then people who were the intended users would critique the pseudo-code as to if it would do the job they needed the software for. It would be easy to add any features at this point. Better menus could be designed. Then when it looked like a very good software design it was given to coders. They would then have to write the code to do all the things the designer called for. Of course, the coders sometimes didn't know how to do what the designer called for. It took a real expert to write the code.

    Interestingly, Patterson does much the same thing with his scenes and co-authors. He'll write a note: "In this scene this is what I want to happen and this is the mood I want to show in these characters. You must show the hero is highly resentful or the scene won't work." After that the co-author will pantser how the scene is actually written. Patterson will also make such notes to himself so he knows the emotional tone of the scene he outlined many weeks ago.

    I also think that the idea of a pre-rough draft is well proven to work!

    Vince

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    1. Vince I like this, not the WHAT that's going to happen, but the MOOD, the feeling of the character. Very interesting way to put it.

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  30. Like you, I also hate writing first drafts. I applaud your impressive word count. Almost 100,000 words in 24 days? Yeesh, I was lucky to get just over 50,000 done in 30 days. Clearly I have things to learn from you.

    I'm very interested in the rough draft idea. Perhaps I should try that out on the book I plan on starting soon.

    Generally I do a checklist in which I write a series of simple sentences about things that have to happen in my book and arrange these sentences in order. Then when I write those scenes I get to have the immense pleasure of removing the sentences from the list.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Your sentence scene list seems a lot like what I did before this. So just go from that to a little more fleshed out, that's basically where I got it from, just adding more flesh to the skeleton without having to worry about writing craft.

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    2. Hmmm, I didn't mean "a little more fleshed out" it's not a little, by any means. :)

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    3. I do that, too, sort of Nicki. Not the whole book with sentences, but what I am leaving undone today.
      A row of things that need to happen.

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  31. Thank you for the great tips! I am one of the rare birds like you who hates drafting; I like feeling competent when I write, and that rarely happens when I draft. It's only later, during the polishing phase, that I remember why I like this and I'm actually not too horrible at it.

    Since I did most of my early writing in isolation, I found my "process" by trial and error, but it's a lot like yours. I do a lot of scribbling down ideas for what happens in a scene (especially when I get an idea at an Inconvenient Time; i. e., basically any time that my children are awake). When I start drafting, the first thing I do is dialogue, script-style, and then I go back in and fill in action beats, etc. Usually by then I have a scene that is ready for polishing.

    I greatly admire the people who can just keep drafting for an entire novel! I did that once, and the result is an entire desk-drawer MS that needs probably a total rewrite by this point. I do best when I go chapter by chapter. But the cool thing about writing is that there are as many different ways to do it as there are people who write!

    OK. I'm off to write for an hour. For real.

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    1. My process is still trail and error. :)

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  32. Happy Tuesday, Melissa and Seekerville!

    Over 4000 words a day? I think the best tip for me is to wait on research. Thanks so much for sharing, Melissa!

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    1. Yep, your entire allotted time can be lost trying to find something, if your story won't die if you find out you're wrong, highlight and keep going!

      Delete
    2. Although I do stop and research, if it's hard and I'm not sure, I'll type in a row of XXXXXXX and go on.
      Just leave it.
      Then I can do a FIND for XXXXX and pick up those places later.

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  33. Hi Melissa! Thanks for sharing this post with us today, and YAY on getting ALL those words done in such a brief amount of time - - WOW. Congratulations on your newest book with Bethany---lovely cover! And I LOVE Kermit typing away in that picture - - sooo cute! Maybe we just all need his long, froggy arms, LOL. ;)
    Virtual Hugs (wink!) from Georgia, Patti Jo

    p.s. Yes, I do remember that you're not a hugger, that's why I winked! ;)

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    1. That's what I need, froggy arms!

      **grinning and bearing the virtual hug** ;P

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    2. I don't quit understand those little repeating videos. Are they called gifs?

      I WANT ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Delete
    3. They are "animated gifs"

      I just googled "Animated writing gifs" and got this page.

      http://bestanimations.com/Books/Writing.html

      All you do is download and save it like you would a picture.

      I will say, I have absolutely no idea how people make these, but I will take advantage of the bored people with nothing better to do than make these and put them in posts if I can. :)

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    4. I think I googles excited animated writing gifs or something to find Kermie, it was on a discussion board somewhere.

      Delete
  34. Hi, Melissa! I'm a panster, so I'm amazed and inspired by your writing methods. One of my biggest problems is the research thing. I actually LOVE doing research, so if I'm not careful I end up spending hours on it. These days I'm trying to write "around" the things I don't know and come back later and research several things at once. Thanks for such an interesting post!

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    1. Yep, separate it out. Research during research time, write and nothing but write during writing time. :)

      Delete
    2. Laura I have sooooo been there. You start out researching some minimal piece of info and four hours later you're trying to work an albino squirrel into the plot of a future book.........it's WEIRD and it take be a real time sink. And fun

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    3. LOL, thank you, Mary! The thought of trying to work an albino squirrel into my book just provided me with a much-needed laugh. Glad I'm not the only one.

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    4. ON THE FLOOR LAUGHING. Laura is going to ACFW. Laura, you and Mary need to meet. You both have the same sense of humor. If at all humanly possible I am going to try to get there. I want to see this meeting of the abstract minds.

      In truth, Melissa Jagears has a similar sense of humor..only hers is a little scarier.

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    5. Yep, I gotta reign in the snark, watch out! I'm trying to be professional now though since I'm hosting...

      And I literally had a monkey in a hot air balloon historical article that I PUT IN A BOOK! But then I cut it out because it was WAY over word count and it could survive without it (RIP Mr. Peanuts) BUT that monkey was worked into the book by my creating a bearded lady and the bearded lady is still in the book. So you know, I lost the historically accurate hot air balloon monkey, but I gained a bearded lady! It's all good.

      I could definitely put in an albino squirrel.

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  35. Oh my gosh Melissa -- I was so surprised to read about your pre-rough draft idea! I did the same thing about a month ago and it worked for me. I just told the story -- even leaving ** where I didn't know what came next.

    The pantser in me was stunned by how much easier it was to write the rough draft. And my pre-rough draft didn't hold me to anything. Some things did change, of course, just the way they will in a rough draft (for me). But there was something immensely freeing about telling the story first.

    I did have to stop a few times for research -- the things that were instrumental to the story plot. It was hard not to do more research than necessary, though. Very hard.

    Thanks for the terrific post. And thanks for brightening my day with Kermit :-)

    Nancy C

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    1. Yay! A Testimonial from a pantster! Glad to hear it works for you and it IS freeing.

      Kermie is making quite the splash...no wonder Miss Piggy had such a crush. :)

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  36. Hi Melissa. Sorry to be so slow checking in.

    Your section about plotting and pantsing says (ore clearly) something I really believe.
    Plotters do more seat-of-the-pants writing than they realize.
    Seat-of-the-pants writers are plotting more than the realize.

    You just kind of have to do both.
    I have very vague long term plots laid out for the book

    Hero and Heroine attacked, escape, forced marriage.
    Bad guy gets away, no one saw him. One clue, the tattoo on a dead man's arm.

    Forced to marry.
    Bad guy needs all witnesses dead.
    Side plot, bad grandparents want grandchild back, parents are dead, because the child has a trust fund no one knows about but the grandparents. They need the kid to get the money....but are presenting themselves as loving grandparents...they must be revealed and stopped.
    Bad guy strikes again. Powerful man.

    I don't know yada yada yada. Couple fights for their lives, save the grandson for themselves, fall in love.
    Happily ever after.

    There, seriously, that's the plot.
    Vague, huh?
    But still a framework. Now I start my pantsing.

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    1. Yep, there is absolutely no way to get around plotting OR panstsing. It's just when you choose to do it. You can plot before you write or during the editing when you have to make the thing you spewed out on paper into an actual story. You can pants during your plotting or during your rough draft. Some ways are just more time effective.

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  37. Melissa I once wrote about 80,000 words in one month. That's about my personal best.
    And I once wrote 6000 words in one day.

    These are not normal paces for me.
    The 80k was under extreme pressure when I realized I'd misunderstood a due date.

    The other was a case of no wifi and extreme, trapped, boredom.

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    1. That's pretty impressive, Mare!

      As far as personal best, I once wrote a novel in two months working part-time, but it hasn't happened since. Ironically, it was my favorite couple and book in the DOB series, so it just flowed out of me, sometimes till 5:00 AM in the morning.

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    2. Ha :) Boredom and no wifi would make a lot of us more prolific. :)

      And I won't lie and say there was no deadline pressures for my massive word counts......

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  38. Personal best. 25 K in three days.

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  39. Melissa, after getting over the shock of 50 pre-rough draft words, I find I'm intrigued by this idea! Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Ha, yeah, when I looked up the word count to put in the article I was a bit floored too, but truthfully it didn't feel like work because I wasn't trying to make it nice whatsoever, it's more just like you're running off at the mouth.

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  40. I'm so relieved to hear that you don't like the rough draft process. I've been having a like-hate relationship with mine for a little bit now.

    I'm trying to do more scene planning to keep from getting stuck.

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    1. Nope, never liked it. I'm in love with the book before and after it's written. :)

      Delete
  41. Melissa, thank you for the productivity tips. I only scrolled about halfway up the comments so if someone else already mentioned this, I'm sorry. I turn off the wi-fi signal when I'm getting into an intense scene. I also love walking and thinking ahead when I'm writing a first draft because then when I sit down to write, I already have it in my head. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Walking and cleaning and showering are good ways to figure out where to go!

      Delete
  42. Hey, Melissa, WHOA -- 98,295 words in LESS than in 24 days??? That's AMAZING!!

    Excellent post, and although I don't subscribe to the rough-draft concept, I do write a very extensive synopsis that both my editor and agent have told me reads like a novel since I include dialogue and lines I eventually use in the book. That has been a GODSEND for this pantster who is now a plotter/pantster, primarily because I had 15 main characters in my O'Connor series, so pantstering alone became virtually impossible.

    You said: "Don’t start writing something until you’re excited about it—I promise, the difference between writing excited and writing bored is light years different in word production."

    I concur with this completely. I can easily have a 3,000-word day if I'm excited about the scene, but if not, I'm stuck at 1,000 words or under. Very sad. I know that when Mary gets writer block, she just shoots somebody, so when I get it, I just write a love scene. ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Your extensive synopsis sounds exactly like my pre-rough draft thing....I bet you're already basically doing it. :)

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  43. Melissa, I'm so sorry I missed your day! I was away from home most of the day. What a great post! Thanks for sharing your method. It really makes me want to try it! I think I could work well that way. :)

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  44. Melissa, thank you for being so generous with your time. You are going to have to write faster than Kermie after spending the day with us. We are so appreciative of you for sharing your tips, no matter HOW PAINFUL! Praying for continued success for your writing career!

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  45. I'm not a writer but it was interesting to read. The story for giveaway sounds very compelling and I'm interested in reading it.

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  46. I'm so sorry to be a day late commenting. It's the end of the school year, and right now, I'm just treading water and trying to stay afloat for eight more days.

    Melissa, I can not even begin to tell you how much I loved this post. My favorite line was "Forget the research." Oh my! I waste so much time on research, and it'd be so much faster to do as you suggested and flag the section and come back to it after the rough draft is completed. Thanks for the lightbulb moment!!

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    1. Research can definitely clog up the writing. It's important, but for me, the rough draft time is exactly that "rough" and that includes research. Fix it later. :) Of course, if you're writing 1700s France (or any period) and have no clue about the time period whatsoever, you should do some general research first!

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  47. What an interesting, educational, and, yes, funny article! I always so enjoy Melissa's books, and I am looking forward to continuing the story in this next book. Binge reading question - no errands, no cleaning, and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner!

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  48. Thanks for the insight into your writing process, Melissa. I might have to try this one or aspects at least. I'm a pantster, but you made some points that didn't make me totally cringe.
    I have found sometimes I have to get other jobs off my plate or do something else creative to get those juices flowing.
    Thanks again for the help and the giveaway. Hope your new story is a blessing to many.
    Happy Trails!

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    1. Thank you, Crystal. And yes, sometimes I have to get other things off my plate because I can't stop thinking about them. Sometimes it's just the state of my house that makes me so antsy my brain won't function, so taking time out to fix those first is sometimes well worth it.

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  50. Thank you so much for that article!!! It was very interesting to read. Hopefully I will be able to implement some of your tips--but 5000 words!!! (Is it really possible!? *boohoo*) ;-)

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