May PANorama – Write Faster, Write Better

Dear Readers,

It’s the last Sunday of the month, which means that it’s time for one of our chapter PAN members (PAN stands for Published Authors Network, a professional designation within RWA open to members who reach a certain level of sales) to visit the blog to share some of their wisdom and expertise.

This month, Maria Geraci is here to inspire us with some advice on writing fast and writing better.

Take it away, Maria!

 Write Fast, Write Better

Maria Geraci author headshot~ By Maria Geraci

There’s no right way to write a novel. There’s only your way. But what I can tell you, is that the faster I write a novel, the better it seems to be. By better, I mean less edits, less revisions, and a story that seems to come together a lot more organically. In the past year I’ve written and edited 3 full length novels. Kind of a big feat for me, because my previous books all took much longer to write and edit.

So what changed things up? It’s simple. I went from traditional publishing to Indie publishing and it’s a whole different world. A world made for authors who can produce more quality books in less time. In other words, I had to get with the program. And Fast.

I’d taken Candace Havens’ Fast Draft class and it made a lot of sense. Write every day, don’t edit, and the story will take off. Kind of like how running and exercise gives you endorphins, daily writing will give you the same kind of high. Only this one is a writing high. The goal is to write about 2000 words a pop, twice a day, and at the end of two weeks, you’ll have enough for a quick and dirty draft that will allow you to edit more in. The problem is, I can’t write every day (besides writing, I also work as a labor and delivery nurse). And I love to edit. I simply have to. So while there were some great tips I picked up from the class, a lot of it didn’t work for me. But it got me thinking. I could take the principles I’d learned and make my own version of fast draft. My goal was to write my first draft in six weeks.

This is what I did:

First, let me tell you that I’m not a plotter. I’m a total pantser. But in order to make this thing work I HAD to plot. Just a little. Before I begin any novel, I always have a basic idea of who my main characters are. Sometimes, I’ve been thinking about those characters for a long time, so they’ve been in my head and I believe that my subconscious has a good idea where the book is going. But I’ve got to get my conscious self into the game. So I write down a little bit about my characters. Not too much. But just enough to get started. I need to know their story goals, and just as importantly, I need to know what makes them tick. This is where I turn to the brilliant Michael Hauge and his Identity vs Essence theory. He’s taught this at RWA Nationals many times now and if you have a chance to hear him speak, do it! He’s awesome. So, I put all this information together into a really rough one page synopsis (that no one but me will ever see). This takes me about a day to do.

The next thing I do is divide my story into four equal parts (or acts). Each act ends in some kind of turning point (or big scene) with the end of Act 3 culminating in the Big Black Moment. This is the hardest part of the plotting process, but it’s critical. You need to know what the BBM is before you begin writing or else you’re going to waste a lot of time. This might take me another whole day to figure out. While I’m figuring this out, I’m also making a Pinterest board for my book. I like to have an image of my hero and heroine and any other major characters in the book. I also like to Pin locations, objects, that sort of thing. I’m a highly visual person and all this helps me “see” the book as I’m writing it.

Now that I have my four acts down, I begin to write. I write one act per week (usually at a pace of about 20,000 words a week). Some days I might write five thousand words and other days I might write five hundred. It just depends. At the end of the week (or the first act) I stop and read everything I’ve done and edit. This usually takes me about three or four days. I fix everything that I don’t like about the story and make sure that the turning point is strong. Then I do it again with the next act, and so on. If at any point in the writing, I need to go back and fix something, I do it. I’m a linear writer and if something doesn’t work, I need to fix it right then. When I get to the end, I’m exhausted (but happy!) and put the novel away for at least a few days. Then I read it again from start to finish and make more edits. And then it’s on to someone else to read, because at this point, only fresh eyes will see what I can’t.

Sources:

Candace Havens  http://www.candacehavens.com/index.php/workshops/

Michael Hauge  http://www.storymastery.com/

Maria Geraci writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction with a happy ending. The Portland Book Review called her novel, The Boyfriend of the Month Club, “immensely sexy, immensely satisfying and humorous.” Her fourth novel, A Girl Like You, was nominated for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA ® award. Her current addictions include watching the STARZ adaption of OUTLANDER to drool over Sam Heughan, hitting the beach on the weekends, and searching for the perfect key lime pie recipe (but not the kind they served on Dexter). You can visit her website at www.mariageraci.com

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