Last week I blogged about Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ technique of setting a timer for three hours at the beginning of her writing day and letting it run only when she is actively writing, not doing research or email or Facebook. When the timer runs out, she’s done for the day.
I’ve started doing this myself. And WOW, you guys. WOW.
I had NO IDEA that (a) I was this productive, and (b) I spend so much writing time not actually writing.
After a week of trying out this technique, I have yet to succeed in running out the three-hour timer. Yesterday, I gave up and started setting it for two hours.
The good news is I’m way more productive than I realized. Today I didn’t succeed in running out my two-hour timer, but I did finish an hour and fifty-six minutes. In that time, I did 50 pages of edits on Prince’s Fire, revised 6000 words of the new novella, and wrote 1900 new words on the novella. Now that I’ve timed myself, I know exactly how long it takes me to write a thousand words: thirty minutes. That’s a thousand words of rough draft, mind, which will need probably half a dozen rounds of editing, but still. If I could sustain the rate for three hours a day, I could write the entire first draft of a novel in a little over two weeks. That would be amazing.
The reality is it doesn’t exactly work that way. The reason putting in two solid hours of writing takes all day for me is that it appears I need to switch away from writing periodically. For example, what I commonly did when working on Prince’s Fire edits was to read a query from my editor, think about it a little bit and debate possible solutions in my head. Then I would switch over to Facebook and watch a cat video or something (turning off the timer for the duration). When I switched back to the manuscript, I’d know how to handle the query.
The reality is that for every hour of writing time, I need probably two to three hours of thinking time. Some of it is taken in large chunks, like when I mentally plot a novel while showering or taking a walk around the neighborhood. And some of it comes in little bits, as I switch away from the novel to let my subconscious bat around ideas to solve smaller problems.
All that said, I’m encouraged to see that I can write quickly when I make a point of doing so. I’m going to continue to use the timer, set for two hours a day, because I do seem to be more productive when I use it.