19 January 2012

Writing Time

I've never been brilliant at maths, but I must admit to liking numbers and stats - I feel almost guilty at admitting this. So when I first started writing a novel I kept a spreadsheet with items such as: date, number of words written, and time spent writing.

A lot of writers talk about being either a pantser or a planner, and often use the terms as if those are the only two options. I tend to think of it as more of a continuum.  I lean more to the planning side, but in rough bullet point ways rather than detailed plans, and certainly agree there is no right or wrong way, just what is right for the individual.

I've taken a little time over the past couple of weeks to think about the mechanics of how I've been writing, what I've learned about my style, and what works best for me.

In this post I talked about the time it took me to write Lives Interrupted and Driftwood. I wrote the first 30,000 words of Lives Interrupted sporadically over the period of a year, and then in the space of two months I added around 80,000 words and finished the first draft.

What made the difference?

My work situation had changed and I was able to work on it fulltime, but the writing flowed in a way I've rarely experienced before. The words were spilling out so fast I could hardly keep up with them.

At the time I was too busy typing to analyse it, but I've been thinking about it this week.

I had a gap of several months without adding to the word count immediately before the mad two months, but I was still very much with my book and characters. 

I was writing the book in my head. Planning the scenes, the actions, and how the characters would react to those circumstances and events.  Occasionally I made a few notes to keep things fresh.

By the time I came to write those 80,000 words I knew the characters well. I understood what motivated them, and how they'd react. On some level I realised this was planning, though at the time it was more like thinking of friends you haven't seen for a while, and wondering how they're dealing with the problems life is throwing at them.

What I've realised - yes I'm slow on the uptake sometimes, is that this is a productive way for me to work. I'm more of a planner than I thought I was. Planning before beginning the novel (which I did), but also planning before sitting down at the computer. Knowing where the scene is going, the character motivations and needs, and how they are going to react.

As I said in the beginning we all work differently, and can only go with what works for us, but there is as much time to be spent in writing when we're not actually sitting at the computer. I do some of my best thinking (and planning) when I'm out walking.

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