10 Tips to Improve Your Writing Method

10 Tips to Improve Your Writing Method

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I’ve proposed many different kinds of writing plans, and will propose many more. If you have no idea what you want to write, writing plans are a good lead. They give you something to work on for writing practice until you know what you want to do.

On the other hand, the writing plans that will work best for you are ones you create yourself. As you write, you will develop your own methods. Some will slow you down and others will speed you along. You need to use what gets the job done. Along the way, it doesn’t hurt to learn what else is available.

What writing plans have I proposed so far?

Eight Article Writing Methods gives a short overview of many methods of writing articles.

Fourteen Ways to Create Multiple Articles on a Topic is another plan for article writing.

Prolific Pulp Fiction the Ryoki Inoue Way is about using pulp fiction writing methods to write more. It’s great for first drafts. You can move from pulp to quality in the second draft.

Prolific Writing Using Caidin Methods makes a guess at the writing methods of another prolific writer.

Prolific Revision – An Alternate Caidin Method is another article about Caidin’s writing method and a new trick I started using.

Write Systematically and Become More Productive is about creating a system for your writing.

Cultivating the Writing Habit is about the importance of making writing a regular habit.

The Journey of 1000 Pages Starts with One Paragraph explains how to get a big writing job done by breaking it into small steps.

What Makes a Novel Into a Page-Turner? presents a collection of ideas to make your chapters zip along and keep the tension high as readers hurry from chapter to chapter.

Stages of the Writing Process is my most important article about manuscript writing. It details the writing plan used by writers for decades. Unless you’re a seat-of-your-pants writer, this gives an overview of what you should be doing for a book length manuscript.

I had ignored some of the steps in “Stages of the Writing Process” in the belief I would get my novels written faster. Practice proved me wrong. Without a synopsis, my first novel was too short. Without an outline, my second got lost along the way. It pays to follow every stage of the plan.

I know I’ve written more than these few articles with tips about writing methods, but those seem to be the most important ones. I’m sure I will be writing more of that kind as I continue writing novels. And I will be writing those novels using my preferred methods. Reading and writing about methods used by others influences how I write and how fast I write. I’m sure it’s the same for you.

Keep refining your own personal writing method and you can only get better and faster as you put it into practice.

Article by Ivan Izo.

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Nora Roberts’ Prolific Writing Method

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Nora Roberts has written over 200 romance novels, averaging over six books a year. Her novels have spent more than 800 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, including over 150 weeks at number one. She’s prolific and a hit.

Talent

We want to know how she got be prolific, but some insight into her talent would also be nice. Being a hit depends on what you write. A lot of that depends on reading lots of books to know what sells. Roberts has been a life-long reader and comes from a family of readers, so she knows what a good book looks like. But, she didn’t start in childhood like some of the other prolific writers I’ve profiled. (See Isaac Asimov’s Prolific Writing Method and John Creasey’s Prolific Writing Method.)

She didn’t start writing novels until a blizzard snowed her in with her two sons. There was nothing else to do, so she began working on the idea for a novel and found that she loved the writing process. She’d spent lots of time making up stories before, but this was the start of turning her stories into novels.

Productivity

Prolific and proficient writing seemed to come together for Roberts. The blizzard was in 1979 and she got her first novel acceptance in 1981. That’s a fast start. Her open secret is that she writes for eight hours a day, every day. One source claimed she wrote six manuscripts before getting her first acceptance. That would get her past the million word count that’s been estimated as the milestone for proficiency – if she uses multiple drafts. She does.

The usual multiple draft process is to write an outline, work it into a long enough story for a novel, and then write the novel in three drafts. Roberts skips the outline, writes a short first draft with everything she wants in the story, then adds details and characterization in the second draft to make it a full novel. She uses the final draft to polish.

Lessons Learned

What have we learned here? I think there are a few good pointers.

Read a lot to get good examples of how to write.

Write a lot so that you improve fast.

Put lots of time into your writing. Eight hours a day might not be possible if you have a full time job, but how about four hours a day? Keep it up long enough and you may not need the day job.

These seem to be recurring pointers in the “Prolific Writing Method” articles. The only one missing this time is starting to write when you’re young. Nora Roberts has shown that’s not necessary when you’re a reading addict. This is good news for most of us.

Article by Ivan Izo.

Ursula Bloom’s Prolific Writing Method

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Ursula Bloom wrote 560 books, the first when she was seven years old. We can see already that she had one of the traits of many prolific authors – starting early.

A family friend, who was a well-known author, encouraged her to write more.

For someone who made the Guinness book of world records for her writing output, there’s not a lot of information about her writing method. Maybe that’s because her romantic novels were based on her own life and we can read about her there.

We would not be reading autobiographical material. Instead, we would discover the life she wished she was living. She was disappointed with her social status and fantasized about a more interesting life in a higher station. At least, her novels are about a more interesting life in a higher station. And that seems to be one of the “secrets” to her prolific writing – her imagination. She enjoyed writing about an imaginary life and when you enjoy what you are doing it goes much easier.

Many authors write about an imaginary life that has more excitement than their real world. It’s much safer to write about the life of a detective, street racer, bank robber, or lion hunter than to actually do it. You don’t need to be rich to write about jetting around the world or creating businesses. The space program doesn’t need to take off for you to take off to distant worlds. You don’t need to wait for the future before writing about it. You don’t need to time travel into the past to write historical fantasy. Vampires and Gods don’t need to exist for you to make up stories about them.

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Prolific Writing Starts with Prolific Idea Generation

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I’ve always assumed the only thing standing in the way of most writers becoming prolific was getting their butt into the chair and writing. I was wrong. Many writers have trouble generating ideas. I can think of only one reason not to have new ideas for articles; a belief that you must write about ideas that have never been written about before.

You can spend hours working through different ideas in your head until you find something you don’t believe you’ve seen before, write it up, and publish. This is the long way to write an article. Ideas that come as inspiration will go much faster. But, either method will have the same result. Now that you’ve written the idea, you’ll notice it appear in someone else’s writing. That’s why people sometimes think their idea was plagiarized, sue, and find out the defendant wrote their article, book, or story first. There is nothing new beyond scientific discovery.

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Speedy Writing Using Your Writing Amuse

Speedy Writing Using Your Writing Amuse

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If your muse is the spirit that gives you a perfect story to write, what is it that let’s you crank out a rough first draft quickly?

Is it a pulp fiction muse? No. Pulp fiction stops at the first draft. The rest of us turn our fast, unedited, mixed-quality first drafts into good material by revising.

Your amuse? Maybe.

Asocial is a lack of interest in being social.

Atheist is a lack of interest in theism. (Or at least it should be.)

Amuse is a lack of interest in your muse.

Are you trying to write and your muse isn’t helping? Better get help from your amuse. Your amuse doesn’t care about a perfect story. If it doesn’t know what happens next, it might write “something magical happens” and move on. When your amuse sees too many directions for the story, it may write a paragraph on several of those directions and then keep writing the story that follows. Your amuse doesn’t care how much mess is left behind for the second draft.

The amuse finds it funny to make a mess of things. It would rather make a mess than not move forward. The amuse is amusing.

Of course, the amuse is nothing new. I’m just putting a name on writing with your editor turned off. I once heard a story about a high school English teacher who rarely had a student that was able to finish writing a novel as their term paper. Forgive me if you’ve heard the original and I’ve changed it. It was a long time ago. What I remember well about the story was her experiment to get those term papers done. She changed the assignment. They no longer needed to write a novel. They needed to write a bad novel. The competition was to write the worst novel ever written.

Every student wrote a novel that year. They probably were some of the worst novels ever written, but they gotten written.
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Lester Dent’s Prolific Writing Method

Lester Dent's Prolific Writing Method

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Lester Dent wrote hundreds of books and short stories. He is best known for the 159 Doc Savage books he wrote under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. While we have to guess the methods of many prolific writers, Lester Dent told us his secret.

Lester Dent’s Formula

Dent used a Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot which he claimed was good for any story of 6000 words. The link I had to the full text now gets flagged as a risky site by Firefox, so I’ll summarize it.

Start with a different murder method, a different goal for the villain, a different location, and always have a threat hanging over the hero. You need at least one of those differences to start your story. Get the hero in trouble immediately and have him take action. Within the action, introduce all the other characters as soon as possible. Keep the story moving with more action, complications, and plot advancement. Have a surprise plot twist at each 25% mark in the story. In each quarter, pile on the trouble, the complications, and keep moving the plot ahead by having the hero figure out more and more of what’s going on. The plot needs to be written in a way that causes the action to be continuous. In the third quarter, the hero needs to have a serious defeat and appear to have failed. The final surprise plot twist leads into the final quarter of action, complications, and everything is coming to a head. Bury the hero in trouble and have him escape using his skills. Wind up the story with one more twist as all questions are answered and the hero defeats the villain in a final great conflict. Be sure the story leaves the reader with a good feeling.

While researching Dent, I’ve found his plan adapted for screenwriting and video game design. I’m sure it’s been used for full length novels as well. There’s enough going on in his plot to fill a novel.

Barbara Cartland, author of over 700 romance novels, used the same basic outline for all of her novels. Not Dent’s. Her own. I wonder how many of the other authors who produced 100s of books used formulas.

I also wonder if we can dump the pulp element.

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Kyokutei Bakin’s Prolific Writing Method

Kyokutei Bakin's Prolific Writing Method

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Kyokutei Bakin wrote over 470 books, including a 106 book novel. The 106 volume novel took 28 years to complete. That’s about 4 books per year. His other books included 30 long novels. Possibly there are a couple of hundred novellas in there as well. Even if it were only 470 novellas he wrote, we’d still like to know the secret to his writing output. What do we know about him?

Bakin was born in 1767 Japan, so the qualifications for publication were a little different than today. It’s seems like before 1900, if you could write a novel it would get published. That doesn’t change his accomplishment. 470 books is a lot of writing. If he wasn’t good at the start, he would have been eventually. And he was. His novel Nans? Satomi hakkenden (“Satomi and the Eight Dogs”) is considered a classic.

There’s not a lot of information about Bakin, but among the biographical information there is a clue as to how he was able to write so much.

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Kill Writer’s Block Today

Kill Writer's Block Today

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Belief in writer’s block is like belief in failure. If you believe you will fail, you will fail. If you believe in writer’s block, you will be blocked. There is never a good reason you can’t write. There may be a reason you can’t write well. The story isn’t coming alive for you or you don’t have a good explanation for the next section. Don’t let that stop you. You’ll catch it in the revision.

You Can Always Write Something

If you don’t know the material you’re writing about, you’re writing the wrong thing. If you are stuck on what to write next, don’t do something else. Stay right there until you find something to write. You never need to stop a valid writing project because of some imaginary block. Write about being stuck and then write the details of the problem. Propose theories, even impossible ones, and keep working over the problem. As long as you keep writing, you will get to the solution eventually.

I’ve written before about having more than one project as a way to beat writer’s block. If you really can’t move ahead on a project, switching to another project may be the solution.

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Isaac Asimov’s Prolific Writing Method

Isaac Asimov's Prolific Writing Method

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Isaac Asimov wrote over 400 books. He wrote non-fiction because that’s what he liked to write the most. He wrote science fiction and other genres of novels because that’s what his fans liked most and it paid better.

If you’ve never heard of Asimov, welcome to Earth. But seriously, maybe you don’t read science fiction. His best work was the Foundation series, but if you’d like a stand alone book, my recommendation would be Nemesis. His writing was very down to earth and easy to relate to considering how many of the stories happened on other planets. In interviews, he said that he always wrote what he knew. Thus, there are very few aliens in his stories and the cultures are similar to America, especially New York.

We’ve got the first tip from him right there. He wrote what he knew. It’s another planet, 500 years in the future, with robot servants, and the culture is the same as his own. That would sure make the writing go faster.

What else might have made Asimov so prolific?

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How I Learned to Write 45 Times Faster

How I Learned to Write 45 Times Faster

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When I made my first attempt at writing a novel many years ago, I had read nothing about how to write. I had read thousands of novels. I was reading as many as three books a day and was sure I could write one. I gave myself a challenge. Could I write a book in a week?

The answer was “no”. I didn’t have the writing skills. It took me five years of writing and re-writing to finish and the result was a short story, Grun on the Run.

I can now write a short story in a day. That’s how fast I wrote Oliver Troubles. That’s 1825 times faster.

But, Grun on the Run was 8000 words while Oliver Troubles was only 4000, so that’s only 912 times faster.

But, the Grun on the Run writing was off and on while I worked and did other things. Let’s say only a tenth of those days were spent writing. That drops the difference to only 91 times faster.

But, I did spend some time editing and proofreading Oliver Troubles the next day before posting it. That makes it a two day effort, so that’s only 45 times faster.

Only 45 times faster. That’s some difference. Why did my writing speed improve so much?

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