Writing 20,000 Words in 4 days

Writing books can be a daunting task. However, there is a lot of copy cranked out every year. According to Wikipedia, The United States published 328,000-plus new titles in 2010. There are probably that many more manuscripts in some stage of preparation every year. Writing books can be a labor of love or slave labor, depending on your perspective. Which is it for you?

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I began last week with one objective: gather 25,000 words into a completed, coherent manuscript. I scurried around and found 20,000 words in four days, falling short but knowing why. Whether you are just diving in or struggling to stay afloat, here are five ideas for making a successful push to complete a short manuscript in a short period of time.

1. Be Prepared

The Boy Scouts aren’t speaking specifically of writing but being prepared is critical if you are to make the most of your available time. Some of the areas in which I prepared ahead of time included working out the logistics of where I was going to write, developing a daily schedule I would follow and organizing all my supporting resources. Spending time thinking through the week in advance and making preparation limits distractions, disruptions and keeps the flow going.

2. Be ready to write

I am most effective when I write from a detailed outline that is well prepared in advance. I’ve been writing for years and I know every writer is different, but I am most efficient when I know what’s coming next. The objective is to have an outline comprehensive enough to keep the flow going. If you have to stop writing to research content, you’ve killed momentum. Gather research and outline, then sit down to write. Dividing the process into pre-writing and writing maximizes your limited writing time.

This is actually where I lost momentum for the week. The outline I worked from was complete enough that I could easily expand beyond what was prepared, but the last few chapters needed more substance. I decided instead of pecking sporadically at the keyboard in a frustrated attempt to forge ahead, I’d call it quits on the draft and turn back to the outline. Once it is in shape, I believe I can quickly wrap up the book.

3. Be scarce…as in hard to find

I have the great luxury of access to a secluded place to write. My parents own a houseboat docked at a tiny marina not close to anything on the Tennessee River. There is limited cell phone access and no wireless connection. I can text with the outside world, but sustained Tweeting, Facebooking, Web surfing and sundry other technological distractions are impossible. Frankly, there is an extremely limited number of things to do, except write. You need long blocks of uninterrupted time if you plan to produce a large volume of coherent copy.

4. Be distracted…as in you need some diversion

My schedule had me in the writer’s chair at 5:30 am each day with an eye toward pushing until 9 pm. Any writer can testify that’s a long time to engage the brain. If you want copy you wrote at 8 pm to be as fresh as the copy you wrote at 8 am, you have to efficiently disengage the mind throughout the day. Fortunately for me, sitting on the front deck of the boat, I wrote an hour, fished for 15 minutes then back at it for another hour. There is also a high-quality, low-volume golf course a half mile away from the boat. A quick nine holes is a great way for me to keep the mind renewed. Point is, limit distractions but don’t eliminate distractions.

5. Be rested

If you are planning a marathon writing session, get adequate rest. I may have been up at 5 am, but I was in bed before 10 pm each night. Twice I stole a 15 minute nap in the early afternoon. Every writer hates that feeling of fighting for a coherent thought while trying to keep from dribbling into their keyboard. As you plan your writing schedule, plan for adequate rest.

Writing a significant volume of copy in a short period of time can be a great way to get that first draft out of your head and into a format that can be then be shaped into a book. A little planning will maximize your effort and make life easier.




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