Monthly Archives: January 2016


How I wrote 50K words in a month (part 2)

This is part 2 of how I wrote 50,000 words in a month. Check out part 1. If you don’t want to read part 1, here’s a recap: Have An Idea. Have The Time. Have A Plan. Have At It.

I’d just reached the point where I had a 20K first draft, which I’d typed up from my longhand version.

And on we go…


Step 5: Have Back-Up


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After the digital conversion, I started to panic. I doubted what I had and where I was going. I’d lost my way.

So I did what any good writer does. I emailed my crit partner and begged for some plot doctoring.

The best thing about emailing your CP is the fact you have to type out this hot mess of An Idea, and often that’s enough to help you see what you need to do. I gave her background info on the characters and then laid out the plot.

She came back to me with encouragement and probing questions. But we both agreed there was something worth pursuing.


Step 6: Have Another Go


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One of the things Step 5 helped me work out was that I’d started the story too late. There was an event the MC was reacting to, but it had happened “off camera”. I decided to go back in time and start with that event. It would be better to see the character live through it.

And–BAM!–my doubt went out the window and I got another 15K words.

Now that, of course, caused ripples in what I’d already written. I went though and fixed the really big stuff, but I left the minor details to be fixed in the next draft.

Then I went through filling in gaps in the story. Scenes I knew I needed but hadn’t written yet. Or gaps where too many days went past (within the story) where nothing happened. Or places where there were lulls or a misbalance between the emotional scenes and the physical scenes.


Step 7: Have Faith


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This was the point where shit started to feel real. I had somehow reached 40K words in only 20 days. That NaNo target suddenly seemed doable. (I also have to refer back to Step 2. My husband was away for a week, which meant once the kids were in bed I had nothing to do except write while MTV played in the background. In a related note, MTV is really crap at playing the same 20 songs over and over again.)

And then things got hard. My holiday was over. I’m extremely lucky that I work part time and my hours are flexible, so I had a couple of days at home with the kids and a couple of days at work while my husband had the kids. But the writing dried up.

But by this stage I had to write less than 1,000 words a day to get to that 50K mark.

It’s amazing what having the end in sight will do.

The only problem was, I was pretty sure I’d written everything. All the plot was there. Very condensed, certainly, but there was no way I could come up with MORE plot. Could I?

I started to read back over what I’d done, then stopped. I decided that wasn’t the way. I’d keep writing new scenes until I got to 50K, even if I ended up tossing them out later. Only once I’d passed 50K would I allow myself to go back and start expanding.

I cranked some more out on Friday night (Ah, yes, another wild Friday night), pushing myself over 48K. I tortured the character emotionally to get to 49K, and then physically (though not literally) to get to 50K. And then (because who needs to stop at 50?) I added another little addendum scene, ending at a whopping 50,400 words.


Step 8: Have A Break


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I’m not done yet.

I know there are lots of things to fix. Because the story, characters, and motivations evolved as I wrote, I know I’ll have to go back through and sort it out.

I also know there’s more to add. I need to foreshadow certain things and make sure the motivations are clear for others.

But 50K is a massive achievement. So now I’m going to take a break. Step back. And return to this MS in a month with fresh eyes.



How I wrote 50K words in a month (part 1)

If you travel in writerly circles, you’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo. If you’re anything like me, you never thought it was possible to write 50,000 words in a month.

I’ve never done NaNo for a couple of reasons.

  1. If I have an idea, I don’t want to have to wait until November to do something about it.
  2. It seemed like setting myself up for failure. (Writing’s hard enough as it is, and not reaching the 50K mark would make me feel like shit.)

But somehow I managed to write 50K words in less than a month. Not November though. So I’m going to call it my very own ChrisNo, and I’ll tell you how I did it.

Note, this isn’t a You Can Write 50K Words In A Month, Let Me Tell You How post. Because I’m convinced it was a bit of a fluke. It’s more a record of what I did.


Step 1: Have An Idea

You can’t write a novel if you don’t have something to write about. My idea happened, as most good ideas do, in the shower.


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Actually, let’s step back. Cue the wibbly-wobbly flashback special effects.

I had an idea a couple (or four) years ago. Let’s call it The Mermaid Story (though it isn’t about mermaids.) A girl discovers she has magical powers. There was a bit of romance. I wrote a few scenes. But it didn’t go anywhere.

Fast forward to four weeks ago. I was in the shower and the two main characters from The Mermaid Story jumped up and told me it was time I wrote their story. Now, it’s not unusual for me to have characters rattling around in my head, nagging at me, but this was like being struck by lightning. Sudden. Strong.

I pulled the notebook (in which I’d scribbled those old scenes) out from the box under my bed and read through what I had.

The characters were good, but THERE WAS NO PLOT. It seemed so obvious now, and maybe that’s why I lost interest in it years ago.

But this is me we’re talking about. Why have one idea when you can have two or three? I’d noted down a couple of things that could possibly be turned into book 2 and 3 in the series. (Think big, right?) So I took one of those ideas and said, That’s the plot.


Step 2: Have The Time

I had my idea on the 22nd of December. I’d finished work for the Christmas holidays. I had about 3 weeks ahead of me where I had pretty much no plans, no commitments, and a whole lot of free time.


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This was really the clincher. Because writing takes a lot of time.

I started the first draft longhand. With a pen and a notebook. I took it with me to my parents’ place. I wrote in bursts throughout the day.

Statistically I averaged about 2K words a day. But I didn’t write every day. So some days I did 0. Some days I probably managed 5K. At the beginning, when there was so much to write, it flowed easier. But I couldn’t have written that much if I only had a couple of hours at the end of the day once the kids had gone to bed.


Step 3: Have A Plan


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Did I mention these steps aren’t in chronological order?

Normally I don’t have a plan. Normally I have an idea and start writing. Sometimes I know where I want to end up.

But this time, something weird happened.

The first thing I did (once I’d found the plot) was write down a sequence of events.

Then I wrote a short synopsis.

Then I took the sequence of events and used them to fill in a beat sheet. (This time I tried the Story Engineering one from Jami Gold’s website.)


Step 4: Have At It

Then I wrote the first few scenes, based on the sequence of events I’d worked out.


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I got to the point where ideas were coming too fast and I thought I could re-use some parts of the earlier version. So I wrote out another sequence of events, expanding on the one I’d done earlier.

Then, I started to turn some of those events into scenes.

I do tend to jump around when I write, but this time it felt even better than normal, because I had A Plan. I knew what came before and after each scene I was writing (to a point) so I could guide the scenes.

Now, normally, if I plan things out too much, I get bored. It’s like a movie I’ve already seen. But that didn’t happen this time. Each scene I came to still felt new and exciting.

The more I wrote, the more I got to know the characters. Relationships developed. Motivations became clear. The synopsis I’d written became outdated and the plot points I’d plotted got a bit fuzzy. But The Plan was still there to guide me.

After a week, I reckon I had somewhere in the vicinity of 20K words and things were starting to get a bit hinky. I was losing track of what I’d done and what still needed to be done. It was time to Type It Up. And holy moly did that ever take a long time. That’s the one draw back to starting longhand. At some point you have to go digital. (At this point, all I did was type up what I had, fixing only glaring errors. I didn’t expand on it or improve it.)

Let’s call that the first draft.

Phew, okay, this is turning out to be a lot longer and ramblier than I planned, so I’m breaking it into two pieces.

Check out part 2.