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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - A Writer's Productivity - What is it?

I just read four very interesting blog articles that I'd like to share with other readers and writers.  First of all, I want to say that there is no wrong or right way to write a story, although I think writers are basically in one of two camps - The Plotters and The Pantzers.  My personal preference is to plot out a story map, so I know where I'm headed.  But as I started to plot out my next couple of books, I ran into a problem.  I began to see and hear the complete scene in my head--like a movie.  My characters were talking to me, so I started to actually write the scene instead of just plot it.  And once I started, I didn't want to stop.

So, here I am, a plotter by nature suddenly writing as a pantzer.  It's liberating and fun, but at the same time I feel like I'm only setting myself up to fail.  But what should I do?  I'm really enjoying the journey as I cruise along at an amazingly fast clip despite the tiny voice in my head saying, "This won't last you know?  You are going to run out of steam soon, and as of right now you have no idea where you're headed.  What if that bridge is out ahead?  What are you going to do to save everyone when you're plummeting head first into a disaster?  Hmm?"  Okay, that hasn't happened yet, but the fear is still there coiled up in my subconscious like a silent serpent waiting for just the right moment to strike.  I hate snakes.  And I'm beginning not to like train rides over bridges, either.

Scrivener - Rachel uses this program and it looks good!
In a nutshell, one of my main concerns is wasted time.  What if I'm fully delineating and polishing a scene that I'm only going to end up trashing?  My writing is already a little non-productive since I tend to polish as I go.  That means I'm spending time editing a scene that may end up sitting forlornly in that little trashcan on my desktop.  So, I started looking for advice.  Did other authors have this problem, or was I unique? 

Still don't have an answer to that question, but I really liked some of Rachel Aaron's suggestions.  She is definitely a plotter, and a very efficient one at that.  So I thought others could possibly benefit from her wisdom.

The first article I read details how Rachel increased her productivity from 2K-10K words a day.  Now she is a full time writer, but her methods work for even the weekend scribbler.  In her article, which you can read yourself by clicking the following URL,
Rachel discusses the triangle of writing metrics.  Below is a graphic that Vicky Teinaki made for Rachel to illustrate her point.  You can also see a much larger and clearer version of this graphic at the above listed link.

The pinnacle of the triangle is KNOWLEDGE "know what you're writing before you write it."  I took that to mean genre and basic plot.  That doesn't mean all the research is done, or the details have been worked out, but you have a beginning, an end, and an idea of where you plan to take your characters through the middle. Rachel starts with the end, which is probably a very good idea.  I always start at the beginning, since that's usually the inciting incident that prompted me to write the story to begin with.

The left angle of the triangle is TIME "track productivity and evaluate."  Rachel actually charts the number of words she writes in a given time slot, and divides it by the number of hours she spent writing to get her average number of words per hour.  In addition she puts down the location where she was writing to help her determine where she was most productive (Is that marathon writing session at Starbucks really as beneficial as you thought it was?).  So, all of this efficiency tracking would need to be done on a computer, of course.  If you still hand-write your stories or use a typewriter, this method won't be of much help to you unless you want to count pages instead of words.  That might work.

Since Rachel embedded this chart in her blog, I can't reproduce it here, so if you wish to see her charting progress on the novel she completed in two weeks, or 12 days, visit:

The right angle of the triangle is ENTHUSIASM "get excited about what you're writing."  This is a crucial point.  You have to enjoy the story you're telling, because if you don't it's much more likely no one else will like it either.  While looking over her productivity, Rachel discovered that the days she exceeded 10K were the days she was writing what she calls her "candy bar" scenes.  The scenes she'd "been dying to write" when she first started planning the book.  Those are the scenes that put you into "the zone."

During her low productivity days, she was writing scenes she wasn't all that excited about.  This was her "Duh" moment.  So, she fixed that little problem by doing what she needed to do to get "excited" about every scene she wrote, and she did that by playing the scene through in her head and looking for the bits that get her muse hopping up and down and clapping.  If the scene got no applause and her muse was sighing, she rewrote it.  But no matter what, Rachel insisted that every scene in her book had to do the following three things:
  • Advance the story
  • Reveal new information
  • Pull the reader forward
And it had to do all three, or it wasn't pulling it's weight.  That's a hard lesson to learn, but I think it's an important one.  She writes more about these three points here:

So, where does that leave me and my creativity spurt?  Although I've enjoyed my pantzer experience, I think I need to go back and do a quick plot summary.  I already know how many chapters I want, and where I think the book should end, now I need to go back and make sure my chapters are helping me achieve my overall story goal.  That way I am better prepared to provide my readers with what I've promised them at the beginning of my story, and make sure they enjoy every step along the way.  And I can do it with a lot less wasted time.

P.S. - Also check out Rachel's article on "How I plot a novel in 5 steps" by clicking here:

Hope you find this as helpful as I did.

1 comment:

Thank you for making my day! Writers with any thoughts at all (Naughty or otherwise) love comments, and I'm no exception.