Set Your Keyboard On Fire

Note that we’re not saying that you should genuinely set your keyboard on fire. That would be dangerous. While it may be very satisfying during a particularly arid writing session, we don’t think it will do anything for your productivity.

We’re talking about writing fast. Many authors churn out novel after novel, month after month. Many of them claim to write tens of thousands of words – or more – per week, and they’re talking about quality words.

Writing quickly is not the only trait of many successful authors, but it can help you along the road to success.

Follow these three tips and you’ll be off to a speedy start and a sprint finish.

Find a Solid Structure

Work out how your story is going to look before you start writing the first word. Know which viewpoint you will use and how you intend to structure the book.

Your plan can be flexible, but if you know where you’re going, you’re likely to:

  1. get there more quickly, and
  2. know when you’ve arrived.

You probably wouldn’t go on a cross-country hike without consulting a map. Why not? If you’re now envisioning yourself sitting with your back against a rock, gulping the last of your water reserves while buzzards circle overhead, know that the same thing can happen to you while writing. Plan ahead.

When it comes to creating your map, you don’t need to start with a blank page. You can create your unique stories with the help of familiar structures that have endured over many hundreds of years and that will resonate with audiences for hundreds of years more.

In Poetics, which is the earliest surviving work to focus on dramatic theory and literary theory, Aristotle digs down to the core of storytelling, discussing the recurring characteristics of genre and plot. Closer to home perhaps is the new book by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers – “The Bestseller Code”– in which the authors investigate the characteristics of a novel that give it bestseller potential.

“The Bestseller Code” says that bestsellers they studied followed the same basic seven story arcs that Christopher Booker identified in “The Seven Basic Plots.”

  • Comedy – eg. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
  • Tragedy – eg. “King Lear”
  • Rags to riches – eg. “Cinderella” and “Aladdin”
  • Rebirth – eg. “Silas Marner”
  • Voyage and return – eg. “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Forbidden Kingdom”
  • The quest – eg. “The Odyssey”
  • Overcoming the monster – eg. “The Epic of Gilgamesh”

Being aware of existing story structures can give you a framework on which to build your story. Construction is always quicker and more efficient when a sound foundation is in already place.

Nail Your Story Arc

Your story arc is the transformation that occurs – or fails to occur, if you choose – in your story. By being aware of this constant thread, you’ll be able to stay focused while writing. If you start to wonder why your tale is sagging, ask yourself if the scene you are writing is serving the story arc.

Each part of your arc will be like a stepping stone. Don’t wade blindly across the raging river of your story. Use the stepping stones and you’ll be across in no time without even getting wet.

Eliminate Indecision

When you have a plan you can be more spontaneous, not less. You’ll know where you were expecting to have twists or particular plot points. If you go off track, you’ll know. You can correct your course or you can follow a new direction from a position of strength.

Writers generally agree that creating the first draft of your story is not the time to be obsessing over details. Write quickly. Write as fluidly as possible. Go with what feels right. If you have prepared in advance, then you will have given yourself the freedom to explore. You’ll know when you are veering from your chosen path and how far.

Later, you can alter your overall plan, or edit your story so that things keep moving in the right direction. While you are writing your first draft, however, write!

Don’t let nagging doubts get you down. Set your keyboard on fire and you could produce a sizzling story for your readers in days instead of weeks.