POWER WRITING

I recently started writing a new book, along with a new writing process, and decided to journal my journey. Be warned, I journal as though I am talking to you in person and this means I can be a very chatty, talkative person!

This all started when I decided to self publish my SpiritWalker series. Book one, Summer of the Eagle, had been published many years ago in print format. The publisher went belly up and I got my rights back. I decided to make it digitally available. Book two, Autumn Dreams had been around the publisher/editor block and back and I have two more unwritten books to this mini-series.  With no publishers interested in the first two books, I decided not to even try to sell the other two. But in order to build my readers again after so long a time since the first book came out in 2007, I knew I had to power up my writing, set up a production schedule and treat myself as though I were under contract and deadline.

First, a bit about me.

I AM A PROCRASTINATOR

I WORK MY BEST UNDER DEADLINE

Being out of contract for so long has been horrible because I had no one to answer too. So putting these books out there on my own is a great way to put pressure on myself.  But one of my problems is, that although I am a fairly fast writer, I am extrembly slow to start. When I start a new book, it takes me forever to get the first 3 chapters solid. This is due to the fact that it can take time to get to know the characters, the setting, and even the theme, even if it is plotted out. It can take me as much time to do the first three-four chapters as it takes to write the remaining fifteen chapters!!

This process does not make for very productive, fast writing. I can take three-six months on the first part of a book, then finish the rest of the book in two months or less—that’s when a deadline looms! And my writing is more polished and needs less rewriting once I’m past the beginning.

So I set my own production schedule and it is brutal, much more demanding than when I had contracts and deadlines. I’ve set myself the task of completing seven books by the end of 2014, (2 are done) seven books for sale, and at the end of 2014, I’ll be half way though book eight.

HELP!!!!

At the time I was setting this up, and getting Summer of the Eagle ready for release in July (I did my own covers, readied files for Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords, sent out for reviews, and created my own trailer and am working website updates), I was rebuilding my social media presence and noticed on facebook that an author friend was doing something called Power Writing and was very excited about it. I called her up and we chatted. Before I could ask her about it, she told me all about it and how wonderful it was for her.

Here’s what Power Writing is (at least the way she and her friends work it)

The rules are simple: write for one hour.

No interruptions

No stopping to research

No going on the internet to check facts

No distractions period.

No checking email, facebook, twitter, etc.

No phone calls.

Write. Write. Write. THIS IS SO SIMPLE

Warn your family that you are taking an hour—JUST ONE HOUR—to write.

My friend’s group scheduled 3 separate writing sessions during the day—early morning, afternoon, and evening.

At the start of the hour, everyone gives their word count for their chapter or document. Those in edit mode stated their goals. One person had taken charge of figuring out word and page count using a spreadsheet.

At the end of the hour, everyone reports their word count and is told how they did. After, figure out who is joining in the next session and who is in charge of calling.

The beauty is, you are held ACCOUNTABLE by people who are not going to sabatoge your writing time. It’s not like you’ll be yelled at or publically shamed, but you’ll know that everyone is expecting you to produce and no one wants to admit to others that they failed. A procrastinator like me needs to be held accountable!

Also, with a couple to a few hours in-between power writing sessions, there is plenty of time to do plotting, rewriting, as well as marketing and promotion and unfortunately, housework and other mundane chores. If you have kids, they can be given a timer and can look forward to some mom/dad time when the timer dings! Another plus is the fact that you can get up and move. Much healthier for our bodies than sitting for 4-6 hours or more.

I had tried something similair with my critique group. Problem was, we chatted too long before starting—you know, “how is everyone?” which always leads into long, drawn out conversations that often end in woe is me or bitch sessions or problem solving. Sometimes more than 30 minutes was spent on our greetings before we got to work.  Although we wrote for much longer, two or three hours before reporting back in, we were often back on the phone for another hour or more. Some of that was discussing our writing sessions but more often, it was gabbing. And because it took so much time, it didn’t work.

So back to my story. My friend invited me to join her group and try it. I jumped at the chance, and was hoping she’d ask!  On my first day, I was called and conferenced in to the others taking part in that writing hour. I was asked for my current word count. After, everyone hung up and the writing began. When the hour was over, one person called and we reported our progress. I was impressed with “the call” because:

There was no chatter.     No gabbing.     No wasted time

We were all told how we did—how many words we wrote that hour. Another great thing—each writer pretty much writes about the same number of words from one session to another and once you know what your average is, you can tell whether you had a good session or a not so good hour of writing.

That is what Power Writing is and how it works. Now I’ll take it a bit deeper for me—for this journal.

Day One I got “the call”. I was asked where I was. Well, I was staring at a blank page. I had not started this book which made it perfect for this experiment. Trouble was, I only had the basic premise of the story. I knew who the heroine was as she was a child in a previous book. I knew she had a grandfather looking for her and I knew she didn’t like the man. Being a romance, there was a hero in there somewhere—maybe hired by grandfather—but he had no name, no face.

Normally, I spend some time plotting a book before typing that first word and plunging myself into the writing process.  During this call, I almost said that I was going to be plotting for that first power hour of writing.  But the purpose of this hour is to write. To produce. So I took a deep breath and told everyone my word count was zero! I jumped in with both feet and figured I would drown!

After I hung up, I stared at the horrible blank page, not knowing where I was going to start or even which character to start with. But the clock was ticking so decided to start with the hero with grandfather in grandfather’s study.

I started writing. I pulled a name out of the air for the hero and just applied butt to chair and fingers to keyboard. I resisted all urges to do plotting, look up names, or research what city this first scene takes place in. I kept my focus and just wrote.

At the end of the hour, the phone rang. I was in the middle of a sentence but the rule is, you stop. No matter what. So I did. And a funny thing happened when I checked my word count for the report:

I had over 400 words!

The scene was solid.  And I already knew a lot about the hero and his goals and conflicts just from being forced to put words to that blank screen.  That first day I think I did 2 or 3 sessions with working on the plotting and characters in-between. And of course, in order to finish this book, I’ll add more Power Hours into my day.  What I came away with was a good, solid start to my book. I was jazzed, and wowed and impressed that I was able to break my “normal mold” of writing.

I didn’t start this journal from the beginning so don’t have a day by day to accounting, so to start, I’ll sum up the first 2 weeks of doing this.

Week 1, I ended with over 6000 words.  Unheard of for me. 

Week 2, I ended with 8584 words. I think I did around sixteen-eighteen sessions total for the two weeks and have an estimated page count of 50. This is 2.5 scenes, almost three complete chapters!

I am so happy with this progress. In the first scene in chapter three, the hero told the heroine something I didn’t know! It just came out and appeared on my monitor. I love it when that happens because it means I’ve breathed life into the character, or maybe it means he’s taking over—whatever—it’s a pretty heady feeling. My first sessions netted me 4-500 words. In week two, I was writing 6-950 words!! Whoo hoo!!!

June 18 The last three session were less as I am going back into each scene I wrote and doing some rewriting. So much was revealed that for me to continue, I have to get those early scenes set to reflect what is happening now. I liken my writing to pulling taffy.

I write until the “taffy/words” start to thin and become so stringy that it breaks. By going back and fixing and strengthening, I can then zip forward. I have a feeling that this method of focused writing will mean less having to go back and shore up my story, that I’ll be able to produce a more polished draft of at least the story/plot/character elements. I do write in layers, and part of revising, is adding layer upon layer, like a painter applies paint to the canvas, until there is a finished “picture”.

I will get one session in tonight and start off at 8772 total word count.

I will be adding my progress, thoughts etc. for this book, as much as for my own growth as for your look into the mind of a writer (I know, scary!) and even for your entertainment as I have at least 3 cats who do  not understand the concept of 1 hour, leave me alone.  Sigh.  I don’t have a door to my office as my office is the family room…

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elia Winters (@EliaWinters)
    Jun 22, 2013 @ 07:47:20

    I’ve been a NaNoWriMo participant for the last 12 years, and I’ve found “sprints” to be absolutely essential. I don’t usually do a full hour at a go, often 30-45 minutes, but my production during those times is ridiculously high. It definitely changes your perception of what is possible. Plus, it gives you practice in shutting off the Inner Editor, which I find is key in first drafts.

    Reply

  2. Nicole Luiken
    Jun 22, 2013 @ 14:11:27

    My office is in the family room too. Glad your Power Writing is working for you, it sounds cool. I’m forever tinkering with the way that I write books, looking to improve and streamline the process.

    Reply

  3. janarichards
    Jun 24, 2013 @ 09:40:43

    Hi Susan,
    Your writing process is very similar to mine. Even if I sketch out a plot, complete character sketches, and try to figure out key scenes in advance of writing, I still find that I learn about my characters, plot and theme as I write. And like you, if I don’t get the first few chapters correct, I can’t move forward. I’m also very motivated by a deadline. Do you think your method would work even if I don’t have a writing group like yours to work with?

    Reply

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