by Dave Pasquantonio
Sometimes the words come easily—and sometimes they don’t. We writers know exactly what it feels like to want to write more, to want to write faster, but the muse is not cooperating.
But we can’t always blame the muse. There are actions we writers can take to make the words flow faster.
Anna Staniszewski led a recent craft chat at The Writers’ Loft, “Write Faster—Write More!” She gave the enthusiastic attendees exactly what they were looking for—methods and insights to help us get those words out.
Anna began the discussion with these questions: Are you excited about your new project’s potential? What makes it fun? What is your need to tell this story? Is this something you can work on for years, if needed? And will you be proud to show this project off to others when it’s done? Working on a project we are engaged in and committed to helps us write more, and faster, to get the project done.
Anna said that sometimes you have to be a magician, and sometimes you have to be an engineer. Writers need to use both sides of their brain. We discussed getting excited about a new project and wanting to dive in, and talked about the pitfalls of not planning the project, getting halfway through, and realizing that the idea may not be a feasible one. We also talked about trying not to plan the whole project to the point that all we are doing is planning, and not letting creativity take over. When we couple planning with winging it, we have a better chance to succeed.
Digging into Characters
Sometimes we need to talk to our characters to get unstuck. If we have a good grasp of what our characters’ goals are, and what their flaws are, we can usually find a way past a writing blockage. Anna has found success by drawing a map and visualizing where her characters walk and interact. (I use figures from my roleplaying gaming days.) Look at your characters and dig deep to find out how they, and their relationships, will and should change over the course of the story, and you’ll often find that the next scene writes itself.
The Writing Life
Those are great craft tips. But what about the writing life? Anna says we should make writing a priority, and that it’s never selfish to pursue your passion. Are there things you can bump down the priority list to carve out additional writing time?
We talked about the need for writers to be part of a community (like The Writers’ Loft) and the need to forgive ourselves when our writing plans go haywire (because every day that we write, we probably succeed in some places and fail in others—and we need to forgive those failures).
There was a good discussion about making a plan, setting deadlines, and creating goals. Anna recommended answering three questions:
- Where do I know I can be with my writing in six months? (This is the easily achievable goal.)
- Where would I like to be with my writing in six months? (It’d be great to work hard enough to meet this goal.)
- Where do I wish I could be with my writing in six months? (Perhaps it’s pie in the sky, but it’s okay to dream big.)
By setting goals, and practical ones at that, you have something to work towards, and you can celebrate successes along the way. And these goals, easily reachable or not, will drive you to the keyboard or notebook.
It’s okay to want your debut novel to be a best-seller, but as a goal, that’s a hard one to achieve. How about goals like finishing the first draft, then revising the first draft, then getting a thorough critique, and so on? You’ll be moving towards that goal AND celebrating along the way.
So, talk to your characters, forgive your mistakes, make achievable goals (and celebrate them), and be excited about your project. Anna covered much more in her excellent craft chat, but these tips can help you rely on yourself, the writer, to get those words out faster, rather than relying on the fickle muse.
Dave Pasquantonio writes quirky speculative fiction, and he loves mysteries, robots, parallel Earths, and sarcastic main characters. He is a board member at The Writers’ Loft, where he runs the Query Support Group and two Adult Critique Groups, and he writes a weekly real estate column for the Walpole Times.