I’ve been on a book reading binge lately, as often happens when the weather gets cold in Ohio. Aside from dog walks, my time outside is limited and it allows me to do some reading. Upon the suggestion of Dan Andrews, I bought the $0.99, 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love.
I chose it because both my kids are now in school at the same time, and three hours, three days a week*, I get to work on some projects. The low cover price and high title promise made the purchase an easy one and I was not disappointed. I would read a book like this every week. It was the perfect scope and length for the issue of writing more.
The book is based on three tenets that Rachel Aaron found as the keys for writing more:
Aaron writes, “If you want to write faster, the first step is to know what you’re writing before you write it.” I slapped my forehead at this, not because of how obvious it is, but because how universally it can be applied – but I wasn’t applying it. I’m always living a better life when I’m planning meals out for the week instead of scrambling (eggs), I have better days when I know what to do, and when, and I have better meetings with my students when we have a structure to begin our conversations from. On pragmatic terms, I’ve recently switched to using WorkFlowy to manage what I do next and it’s worked beautifully. I’ve lost the meandering time I once had when wondering or deciding what to do next and just jump into my list. After realizing this Aaron now spends five minutes on laying out plans for what to write.
After this she stumbled upon her next realization, what time to do the work. She thought – like most creatives report – she worked best in the morning. After some analysis though, she found it was four hour stretches in the afternoon were her most productive times. She writes:
the first hour being the lowest, usually only about 500, reflecting the time it takes me to get settled into the writing mindset. After this, my words per hour generally go up with every hour spent writing, topping out at about 1500 when I’m in prime writing mode. This is the sweet spot, the place in writing where the story has you completely sucked in. I live for these hours.
If the time is right and she knows what to write, then the final thing is having the enthusiasm to write. Aaron writes that some scenes are a thrilling and some are bearish to write. Accidentally again, she realized that if some parts of her books were boring to write, then what were they like to read? Once thinking in terms of this she realized that these sections needed to be removed or adjusted so they weren’t so muddied.
Tim Ferriss did this same thing. In The 4-Hour Workweek, he writes about firing his bad customers to better focus on the good ones, which is where most of the his revenue was from anyway. In an interview, Tony Stubblebine co-founder of Lift, said that he tries to focus on the best parts Lift app. Aaron repeats both these things, saying that her best parts of the book are the ones she’s most excited to write.
Besides these three key point towards writing – or anything you do – I liked this little bit about how she organizes her writing.
Write out who knows what, when. This is usually just a quick list where I look over my plot and jot down the flow of important information to make sure I haven’t done something dumb like have the protagonists making a decision using information they wouldn’t actually know yet.
Before I started writing regular blog posts or essays about fatherhood, I always assumed writing was something only the divine could partake. I assumed Stephen King and Neil Gaiman crapped out bestsellers that only needed a dust jacket before being placed on the shelves. It turns out that the more I read about authors, the more I realize this isn’t the case. Writing well is hard to do, and the people who do it well have good systems that let them do it over and over again.
I thought this book was quite good, not just for people who like to read about writing, but for anyone who wants to think about working better.
*What is it with 3’s, like 27GoodThings.com, a place to find 3 good things to read, 3 good things to watch, 3 good things to use.