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A couple of months ago I felt like I had lost all self-discipline. I had a new novel to write but I wasn't getting the words down. Instead I was wasting far too much time online. In that unproductive month I must have signed over twenty online petitions, clicked on as many cute kittens and tweeted enough words for a few chapters.
Two things happened to get me back in gear. Firstly, I was at a party with Alix Christie, the wise and brilliant author of the upcoming Gutenburg's Apprentice, and she said to me:
"you must be careful you don't waste all your creative energy on social media and have nothing left for the book." That really woke me up. Social media is brilliant if you have great content to share, but it takes time and energy to create that. What would I prefer? A hundred thousand words worth of random tweets or a novel?
The second thing to happen was I asked my agent for a deadline. "Before the London Book Fair would be good," she said. "March?" Until I wrote Spray Painted Bananas I didn't think it was possible to write a decent draft of a novel in three months. I do now. I've found a way.
Writing fast isn't for everybody and some books need to be slow cooked for years. But I prefer to bash a draft out and edit later. If you wish you were writing faster, these tips might help:
7 Tips for Writing Faster:
1. Decide what is your writing goal for the week - this might be a word count, a number of chapters or to finish a particular section.
2. Set a realistic daily word count - it doesn't matter if it's only 100 words, what matter is that it's achievable so you won't be put off, and you will feel happy when you've completed them each day.
3. Don't go on social media until you've finished your daily word count - this one makes a huge difference! As soon as you go on Facebook, Twitter or your Email you're guaranteed to get distracted. When I'm feeling weak, I'll write half my word count goal, check my social networks, then switch off again for the second half.
4. Write DRAFT at the top of the page - it will make you feel less self-conscious. It's okay if your writing is terrible, at this point you just want to get the story down. Don't worry about editing until later.
5. Use post-its and a corkboard to track your chapters - useful for getting an overview of the novel and keeping on top of what you have and haven't written.
6. Leave the chores for your break time - put off the washing and hoovering until you need a break from writing. Doing something practical and physical will give your mind some space. Often a solution to my plot problems will come when I'm washing the dishes.
7. Plan what you need to write the night before - that way you're ready to get stuck in straight away the following day.