Swoon Author Sandy Hall: Think Less, Type More

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Something I’ve learned over the course of writing this blog post is that it’s not easy to write about writing fast. I apologize in advance if this whole post is nonsense to anyone that doesn’t live in my brain.

But I did my best to break down my process because it’s NaNoWriMo, that beautiful time of year when every writer is trying to find a way TO WRITE LIKE THE WIND!

The biggest thing for me in terms of writing fast is to think less, type more. Or even more plainly, think before you type. Get all the thinking and planning out the way so that when you sit down to write, you can focus on getting the words on the page.  

We all know there is no right or wrong way to write. These ideas aren’t going to work for everyone. Writers need to find their own style and it’s no easy feat. This is just how I personally draft quickly. 

Without further ado, away we go.

1. I create an outline. Always. It’s never very complicated, just a list of scenes with notes and other ideas under each one. I print it out and keep a copy of it handy while I work.

2. I know my typing pace. This is important to me because it allows me to set a limit. I type about 70 words a minute with a fair amount of accuracy. I know that in a ten-minute time frame, I could potentially type 700 words. I’ve never actually typed 700 words in ten minutes, but I have come pretty close thanks to number 3. 

3. From my outline, I take each scene and plot it out deeper using this method. I’ve changed the list a bit to suit my needs, but my current NaNo novel is the fourth book I’ve written using this technique and I’m drafting as fast as I expected to.

Here’s how I used this method for Been Here All Along. This is a deleted scene that never made it into the final book, but it’s a solid example of how I create my lists.

sandy plotting 1

4. A quick reminder that THIS IS ONLY YOUR FIRST DRAFT. Do not edit, do not double back, definitely don’t delete, and try not to think about things that need to be changed. I make sure to always have post-its available while I write. If I think of something that I need to add or fix in a previous scene, I jot it down on a post-it and stick it to my printed outline so I don’t forget about it when it’s time to sit down and edit.

5. I write in a separate word doc. I have a document for the draft but the only thing I do in that document is paste from my writing doc. I keep my writing doc open at all times and it’s all formatted and ready to go whenever it’s time to write.

6. I only write in ten-minute intervals. This might seem like a really short amount of time but I find that twenty minutes feels too long to me. My mind starts to wander. Ten minutes keeps me focused on writing. I write for ten minutes, and when my timer goes off, I make a note of my word count and then I start the timer again. I repeat until I can’t handle it anymore and need a break. 

When I started working in ten-minute intervals, I could only write about 300 words. Now I’m up to between 500 and 600. Except for that first interval of the day, that always requires some warming up.

sandy plotting 2

So there you have it. Now you know all of my secrets. When I use all of these techniques together in perfect harmony I find that I can write a first draft of about 50,000 words in two or three weeks. It’s not a pretty first draft, but that’s not the point. All first drafts need to do is exist. (Repeat that mantra to yourself regularly.) 

But no matter what, I know you can get through that NaNo novel you’ve been dreaming about. Just find what works for you.

Give yourself over to the blank page and WRITE SOME WORDS! Good luck!

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Sandy Hall


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