Rachel McLean

– Thrillers That Make You Think

How I Wrote 25k Words in 2 Days

Yup, you’re not misreading that title. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, I managed to write just over 25,000 words of my third novel in just two days.

It happened because I should have been on a research trip to London, which unfortunately had to be cancelled. I’d freed up my diary for that trip, and my husband was looking after the kids, so I had two clear days to write.

On the first morning, before sitting down, I pondered on how many words I might manage over the two days. 10k would be pretty good. maybe I could bump it up to 12k. We’d see. Bear in mind that my daily word count target is about 2,500.

So, here are the methods I used to break through that 12k goal – no, to smash it – and to write more than twice that.

Setting Aside Uninterrupted Time

Having a solid block of time where I didn’t need to work on anything but the novel really helped. It meant that I didn’t have the inevitable ‘now, where was I in the story?’ moment when sitting down to write, and didn’t have to waste time reading through the last chapter.

It also helped me focus – no distractions!

Finding SomeWhere With No Distractions

I recently read 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron, a guide to maximising your writing productivity. She recommended tracking words per hour depending on when you write and where you write.

I’ve been doing that – and I discovered that I’m way more productive in the mornings. So I switched all my writing time to the mornings. I tend to write fiction before lunch, then switch to writing technical content for my day job.

But I also tracked where I was more productive, and it turns out that it’s outside the house, in coffee shops or even my local McDonald’s – as long as it’s quiet.

You may think there are way more distractions in a busy coffee shop, but the truth is it’s much easier to tune out the background noise of conversation than the nagging presence of distractions in the home. Unlike some, I don’t get distracted by chores or TV, but I do get distracted by the fact that home is where I do all my other work, and by the fact that it’s where my books are.

So for my two days, I moved between coffee shops. I tried a couple of hours in the Library of Birmingham, but the chairs there are incredibly uncomfortable, so that didn’t last.

Planning Chapters in Advance

This was the biggie. The one factor which I think has pushed up my productivity by about 30% since I started doing it.

My old habit was to sit down in front of the screen, ready to write a chapter, plan that chapter in my head (or in Scrivener) and then write it. When that was done, I’d stop.

My new habit is that when I finish writing a chapter I immediately plan the next one. Then I stop. That way, next time I sit down to write, I know exactly what I’m going to be doing.

I also added keywords in Scrivener (my preferred writing tool) to make my planning more structured. These include:

  • What happens in this chapter?
  • How does it move the story forward?
  • What’s the emotional trajectory?
  • How does it reinforce each main character’s arc?

Hopefully that not only makes me faster but also helps me two write better first drafts.

Reaching The 25k

When Scrivener told me I’d finally hit my 25k goal, I was in a branch of Caffe Nero (in New Street Station). I didn’t stop immediately – I had a chapter to finish, and another one to plan (that was hard). When stopped, my arms immediately started to hurt.

Which made me realise I need to set aside more time to practice touch typing!

All of this productivity means I’m very close to completing my third novel. In fact, I was going to finish the first draft today (10k word goal) but it’s a snow day here in Birmingham, so I think that will happen tomorrow!

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