The Secret

How I write So Fast.

Yesterday at church someone asked me the secret to how I write so fast. (I’m drafting a 360 page novel every two months and am editing it and planning the next novel during the following month.)

I plan just enough before starting a novel to let me keep writing without getting stuck or having to make major plot decisions or design characters after I’ve started drafting. Here is what I do.

1. I use Apple products.

I’ve compared on Windows, Chrome, and Apple devices the most useful apps for writers and found the apps available on Apple far superior in what they can do and in ease of use. My opinion, certainly; your mileage may vary. But using my iMac in my home library, my MacBook Pro in the studio and on the road, and my iPad with a keyboard for daily writing at Starbucks or the Botanic Garden works quite smoothly for me.

2. I get to know my characters in the Persona app by Mariner Software.

The first aspect of the story, the crucial part, is the character arc of the protagonist. I give a lot of thought and planning to the internal conflicts and changes she experiences in the story. There are a lot of books about character development and several apps available. Persona lets me identify some of the basics about the characters without going into too many details. The app then produces a complete discussion of the kind of conflicts and interactions I should expect among the characters. The key to writing scenes is conflict, and Persona lays out those conflicts in advance.

3. I use the Contour app (Mariner Software) to sketch the crucial scenes.

There are about 45 crucial scenes found in successful screenplays. These are also found in the most successful novels. Contour helps me answer the most important questions raised in my story. Then Contour steps me through the necessary scenes. I re-organize these scenes, add about fifteen more, choose the best Point-of-View character for each, put the scenes into chapters, and I have all the outline I need to get started writing and to keep going. And, no, the finished story never exactly matches the outline. But it’s the path I follow so I don’t get lost as I am drafting.

4. I use Storyist for everything I write.

I’ve written three novels in Scrivener (more options than I would ever need), one in StoryMill by Mariner Software (a little too regimented for me, but a nice timeline feature), two in Ulysses, but finally settled on Storyist. It’s perfect. I wrote to Steve, the creator of the Storyist app, and told him it would be the app I would design if I could code. I now do all all my novels, all my research, all my character descriptions, everything, in Storyist. There are no external files, unless I want to link to one. And, I use it on my iMac at the desk, my laptop in my studio and on the road, and on my iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard for daily writing elsewhere. It’s even on my phone, and everything syncs instantly and automatically.

By using these tools, I’m consistently able to draft about a thousand words (four pages) per hour. Since I write for two hours every single day (it’s now a habit), all this works for me in producing a finished, edited book every three months.

How do I write for two hours every day? There is a secret to that, but it embarrasses me to tell you. I’m a full-time writer. If I just try to work at home, one thing leads to another until my writing time is limited. Walking or biking to Starbucks (I get a Misto in a ceramic cup for $2) is fine for writing, but sometimes I just don’t go. So, I had to find a way to consistently get myself out of the house and to include a little walking for my heart. This is embarrassing, but here is what I do whether I’m in Scottsdale or Rio Rancho:

I take the 8:00 bus to the botanic garden, sketching out the day’s scene/sequel along the way. I walk about a mile through the garden to get my blood flowing and reach my favorite table or bench. Then, I write. No email, no wi-fi, no surfing or research, no television, no refrigerator, no pets, no household projects calling to me, no pillow for a nap, and it gets me out of the house before 8 o’clock every morning. I do this every day, rain or shine, all four seasons. With round-trip travel and the walking, it’s a little more than four hours a day, usually about thirty hours a week which is full-time writing for me.

Except during National Novel Writing Month and Camps Nanowrimo when I double my daily writing efforts to complete a book in one month.