I Know Nothing: Getting to 2000 WPH

A little while ago I started talking about going from pantser to plotter, or at least leaning in that direction. Now that I’ve had time to hammer out more of the method, or at least my method, I’m thinking I’m not a true plotter, because I really do need to pants.

It’s just now I do directed pantsing, which is what led to the increase in word rate. I usually type at a cool 500 words per half-hour, and usually couldn’t really reach the end of the hour to achieve 1000 words. I’d need breaks, a little while to work out what was going on.

So what changed?

First of all, there’s the outline. Since last we spoke, I not only hammered out a full first-cut outline of everything that happens in the novella, but I started to do an extended outline—blocking in a lot of details without breaking into narrative or dialogue—of each scene. This extended outline currently exists through the first act; the second act and third act remain uncharted.

I kept the outline as a separate document/group of sub-documents. I could have chosen to start incorporating each card into the first real draft, but eh. It’s nice to have a road map that isn’t being torn apart while you write.

But what I found out was that the extended outline didn’t help me speed up my writing. The extended outline for all my scenes so far are about 1/3rd of the final word count, which is a lot to load into memory. I still plodded along, maybe even slower than before.

That was when I realized that the abbreviated outline was useful after all. So for each scene that I was working on, I did the following:

  1. Duplicate the scene card in the outline, and move the copy to the Manuscript folder.

  2. Open the copied scene, and write down in the document notes an abbreviated version of the extended outline of the scene. Just several sentences, nailing down key beats. This front-loads the details into my head, but gives me a reference I can skim over.

  3. Clear out the extended outline from the scene. (That’s why you make a copy of the card, to preserve the original outline text.)

  4. Get into compose mode, note in the document notes the start time, and then pants. Throw myself on the page, pour myself there. No hobbling along with an extended outline, and the barest of glimpses to the scant document notes to keep myself on course.

  5. End up with a first draft that actually feels like a pants’d version, instead of something stuck-up to an outline. And end up with it quickly.

It’s like having my cake and eating it too! I both know where I’m going and I’ve dropped enough baggage to actually sprint. This meant the words came out as fast as I could type them, about 35 wpm, or optimistically 2100 wph. My first two scenes written in this way were both roughly 1500 words each, and both done in less than 50 minutes.

With less fear and nervousness, I could have probably done well over 2000 wph. As it is, in less than 2 hours I’ve done 3000 words, when my current aim is 1000 words per day, so it’s a win. It’s a NaNoWriMo-level win. And it wasn’t torture to get the words out.

I’ll note that while I was writing, more ideas came into my head, which I quickly incorporated, since I now had a structure into which such new ideas could be plugged into. You really never do write the same draft twice.

Outlining! I think it’s great. But take that with a grain of salt, because I know nothing, and there are 33 more scenes to go. So far, though, I highly recommend reading Outlining Your Novel, by K.M. Weiland, if you’re looking to get into the head of an outliner and see that it’s not all spreadsheets and charts. (Far from it, in fact.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a whole rest of a day to do… sigh, chores, and probably more outlining.

2 thoughts on “I Know Nothing: Getting to 2000 WPH

    • I am interested, but first I need to get a draft out. :) And have it beta-read, and stuff. Although maybe it’s more like an IOU and can be cashed in at any time later on….

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