Yet another reader, Katya Pavlopoulos, asked me this question: "How do you do that?! 4K in one day?! Explain this sorcery to me please." Let me describe to you my current routine, or ritual, or whatever you want to call it, and see if you can extract some useful information out of it for yourself. I've blogged before about my schedule before, and it hasn't changed much since then, except now I write for longer hours. I'm actually able to break around 2pm to go pick up my son from school, come back, and get back to writing, to work till about 4 or 5pm. So here is my typical day and a bunch of tricks, or odd things, or quirky things I do, to get myself to write 4,000+ words a day, up to 5,000 on some days.
The first thing I do is, I reread what I wrote the day before. After all the morning stuff is done, like dropping off my son to school, making coffee, drinking coffee, grabbing a snack (I don't really eat breakfast), I do a little social media thing, like, good morning stuff and whatever, then around 10am turn everything off, and I mean, EVERYTHING, my phone including, and leave on only Pandora to blast loud music that gets me in the mood. Here is the playlist for SIREN SUICIDES. For ROSEHEAD, I was listening to Philip Glass primarily, and for IRKADURA I'm listening, funny enough, to lots of scores to Batman movies, to Inception, stuff like that, maybe because I see it unfolding it in my head like a movie, and the soundtrack helps me believe it's real. Anyway, I start by rereading what I wrote the day before, the previous 4K words, and I speed-edit. Read this again, please. I speed-edit. Got it? No editing is permitted at this stage!!! We're talking about writing 1st draft here. I don't do anything major, only things that stood out to me from reading aloud the night before, places where I stumbled (I will get to this at the end of this post). Or little grammatical mistakes, stuff like that. I don't touch anything big. And so this rereading and speed-editing gets me into the flow of the story. It takes me about 2 hours to accomplish this.
I start writing and don't stop unless I produce 2,000 words. Around 12pm, by the time I am typically done speed-editing and am at the point where I left off the day before, I check the total number of words in the document, so I know when I will hit the 2,000 words mark, and take a little break, coming down into the kitchen and eating a kiwi or some fruit. Now, this is weird, but it helps me. Largely, I hate being interrupted while writing, but at this time nobody is home or sometimes my boyfriend works from home, but he wears headphones, poor thing has learned not to say anything when I come down. Nothing at all. At this stage I can't even speak, I'm thinking. So while I peel and eat a kiwi, I stare out the window, imagining the scene in my head, like a scene from the movie, and the very first thing that pops in my mind, I race upstairs and write it down. This is how I keep writing, just jotting down whatever my mind produces, without worrying about anything, story, characters, plot, nothing, I just try to catch the feeling, how my characters would feel and what would they do in this situation. This first burst usually lasts me about 1,000 words. Then I get stumped again. Guess what I do. Yeah, yeah, laugh. I go into the kitchen and eat another kiwi. For you it might be a walk outside. I sometimes stand on my head too, because I do yoga. The thing is, while doing it, DO NOT CHECK ANYTHING. Do not go on Twitter, do not check your phone messages, nothing, let your mind cook. Within several minutes, something else will pop into it. This is when I race upstairs and write more. Typically, after I break 2,000 words, I'm so much into my story, that I can't stop, and I don't. I just write and write and write without stopping. Usually, at some point, I'm surprised to find that I have written about 3,000 words. That gives me a boost. I think, oh hey, I can do another 1,000, piece of cake. So I do. Usually if I'm close to 5,000 words, I can feel fatigue. I start feeling lost. Kiwi eating breaks no longer help, and once I start spinning wheels, I know it's time to stop. Also, as a side note, I have changed my diet about 3 years ago to this cavemen thing, after reading this book, so I don't need eating or pooping breaks as often as other people do, also, I don't have sugar highs and lows, and that helps me keep my energy level, which I found, actually reflects on my writing stamina. I also don't experience these awfully painful hunger pangs, so maybe this has something to do with this ability to concentrate for a long time, I don't know.
Immediately after I'm done writing, I start reading. Reading is an integral part of writing. If you don't read fiction by others, you grow as a writer that much slower. So, I try to read for at least 2 hours a day, if not longer. I usually tell folks on Twitter, Facebook and the like that I'm reading, what I'm reading, and, again, turn everything off, because I need to get into reading to be able to really absorb it. Although I'm getting better and can now take breaks and get back into the story, it used to be worse. Anyway, while I read, my mind keeps working in the background, and, funny enough, many times I get ideas for new scenes for tomorrow while reading a book. I quickly jot them down on a sticky note, post it on my writing desk, and continue reading. Reading sort of fuels me, inspires me, it shows me how things can be done, it also sometimes plunges me into gloomy moods, because sometimes what I read is so good that I get depressed, thinking that I will never be able to write like that, but then I get mad and in a sense it spurs me on to writing more tomorrow, to try and learn and be better.
Every night, close to bedtime, I read aloud what I wrote earlier in the day. So, it used to be my boyfriend who read to me because I was so ashamed of my writing that I was scared to do it. Yes, I know, believe me, I was. Slowly, over the last 2 years, I've been coming out of my shell, doing my first public readings and gradually feeling better and better about myself and my stories. Finally, most recently, I read from ROSEHEAD draft at the Indie Book Fair in Seattle and it was the first time when I hardly felt nervous. I'm growing into my own element, I am. So, with IRKADURA, I started reading it to Royce, because it's littered with Russian words and he would stumble on them, but also for practice. I need to practice reading my own work myself and not be scared. The results have been astounding. I hear the story differently from when I see it on the screen. I can't stress this enough, you have to, have to, have to read your work aloud, especially dialogue, to hear how it sounds. You will discover things you haven't seen on the screen.
This is it. This is all I do. Also, I try to write the 1st draft fast within about 6 weeks, so that the story is fresh in my mind and doesn't stall. I typically don't go out while I write 1st draft and try to keep my interactions with people at a minimum, because they sap creative energy. I don't mean it in a bad way, it's good to come out and mingle with people, but it takes energy to do so, and it has to be reserved for your story. I typically go see people in between drafts, when I take a break, which is about a week. I know it sounds spartan, but, hey, writing is hard work, and you have to have an iron discipline to be able to produce a book in several months. And it's the only way for indie authors like me to survive, to take it by volume. I have to produce 4 books a year and make about 500 sales a month to make enough money to live on. I'm nowhere close to that goal, with only 3 novels (and that being a trilogy) self-published since I started writing in May of 2012, 1 more with my editor, 1 more I'm writing now. I need to write more and faster, because my savings are running out this spring. That is also a contributing factor to writing this many words a day. I want to be done and move on. There are about 8 more novels that I already sketched out, and they are starting to pound on my skull, asking to get out.