Now that the first week of March is over I decided to take a look at my progress this year so far. What have I written? How much of it is usable? Is this actually helping improve my writing? Or am I wasting my time?
I have written 29,000 first draft words for the manuscript I’ve been working on since the beginning of 2017. And I added 9,000 words during my editing process. I don’t count words I add when I just rewrite a scene. But those 9,000 words are me adding entire paragraphs and parts of chapters I realised were missing in the original first draft.
4,000 words are biographies of my main characters and I spent 3,000 words writing an outline and figuring out how the dead people in my story died.
I edit as I go and so far there are approximately 28,000 edited words. I’m approaching the halfway point and I’m hoping to finish getting the story down on paper by the end of March.
Total words written for my current manuscript: 45,000
After editing: 28,000 words
That’s a lot of words I never used. However the story is moving forward and so far I’m happy with it.
I have written a first draft of three short stories. One is set in space, one is a ghost story with a (probably predictable) twist and one is an attempt at horror. In total 8,000 words. All of these need to be edited.
I wrote down ideas for a space opera, and even an attempt at an outline. In total 3,000 words.
I also jotted down ideas for a family saga, for a futuristic YA and for a fantasy romance. In total 5,000 words.
All of those ideas and notes I can work with in future, so they’re useful. So far I’m really happy with how it’s going, but I’d like to improve and produce more usable words and fewer ideas and notes.
However, I made a discovery that works every time I get stuck:
The goal of freewriting is to write automatically, straight from your subconscious without judging it. Whenever I get stuck, I set a timer and just write. Anything. Sometimes it’s about my fears, sometimes I describe the cup of coffee in front of me, and sometimes I just let a character be chased by a dragon and watch them flail.
Ideally, I try and get myself unstuck, after having written myself into a corner. Let’s take Leigh, one of my main characters in my current manuscript. She’s at home. She’s sitting at her desk. I don’t know what to do with her. I know where she needs to end up in the next chapter but I don’t know how to get her there. Instead of staring at my screen, desperately trying to get my brain to solve the issue, I just set her house on fire. It gives her a reason to move and eventually I have something I can work with and can go back and delete the fire in my editing process.
Sometimes I sit down at the kitchen table or on my sofa and take a notebook and write by hand. I have a notebook on my bedside table as well, though I rarely use it.
If you’ve never tried to freewrite and often suffer from writer’s block, you should definitely consider it.
Set a timer. 10-15 minutes or longer if you have the time. Use a prompt or choose a topic if you’d like, or just start somewhere, anywhere. Write quickly, always keep the pen moving, never stop. Don’t give your brain time to think. Do not stop to come up with the perfect word. Don’t worry if what you’re writing is ridiculous, just go with it and don’t worry about paragraphs or punctuation or spelling. Give yourself the permission to write bad words. Once the 15 minutes are up stop.
Usually, after using this trick, I have new ideas and can move my characters forward.
Have you tried freewriting? Does it work for you? Share your stories in the comments or come chat with us on Facebook.
See you next week,