I have been doing something called Power Hour Writing for nearly a year now and thought I’d update my thoughts on this process. I started this last summer when I was about to start White Christmas (Historical Romance).
(Note: To read my original post on Power Writing, go to my Susan Edwards blog.)
Here’s what Power Writing is involves:
- The rules are simple: write for one hour.
- Write down your current word count (scene or chapter or document?
- No interruptions allowed
- No stopping to research allowed
- No going on the internet to check facts allowed
- No distractions period.
- No checking email, Facebook, twitter, or other social media allowed
- No phone calls allowed.
- Write. Write. Write. THIS IS SO SIMPLE
- Warn your family that you are taking an hour—JUST ONE HOUR—to write.
- If you write with other writers, at the start of the hour, conference in everyone and state your current word count for your chapter or document. Those in edit mode state page goals.
- NO CHATTER ALLOWED. CURRENT WORD COUNT OR PAGE COUNT GOALS.
First, a bit of history. A close friend invited me to join her writing group and give Power Writing a try. I jumped in with both feet. They did 4 writing sessions, each an hour-long. I decided the seven am time was far too early for this night owl so I opted to join in at ten. I was called and conferenced in to the others taking part in that writing hour and was asked for my current word count.
Well, I was staring at a blank page. I had not started this book which made it perfect for this experiment. Trouble was, I only had the basic premise of the story because it was part of my White Series. I knew who the heroine was as she was a child in a previous book. I knew she had a grandfather looking for her and I knew she didn’t like the man. There was a hero in there somewhere—maybe hired by grandfather—but he had no name, no face.
Normally, I spend some time plotting a book before typing that first word and plunging myself into the writing process. During this call, I almost said that I was going to be plotting for that first power hour of writing. But the purpose of this hour is to write. To produce. So I took a deep breath and told everyone my word count was zero! I jumped in with both feet and figured I would drown!
After I hung up, I stared at that horrible blank screen, not knowing where I was going to start or even which character to start with. But the clock was ticking so decided to start with the hero with grandfather in grandfather’s study. At the end of the hour, the phone rang. I was in the middle of a sentence but the rule is, you stop. No matter what. So I did. And a funny thing happened when I checked my word count for the report:
I had over 400 words! And the scene was solid. And even more amazing, just from that one scene, I knew a lot about the hero and his goals and conflicts. That first day I think I did 2 or 3 sessions with working on the plotting and characters in-between. What I came away with was a good, solid start to my book. I was jazzed, and wowed and impressed that I was able to break my “normal mold” of writing which includes lots of piddling around. What impressed me the most were the phone calls. Normally, you get 3-4 women on the phone and you have chatter that eats away at your time.
There was no chatter. No gabbing. No wasted time. We all reported our current work count—and how many words we wrote that hour.
The beauty is, you are held ACCOUNTABLE by people who are not going to sabotage your writing time. It’s not like you’ll be yelled at or publicly shamed, but you’ll know that everyone is expecting you to produce and no one wants to admit to others that they failed.
Also, with time a couple to a few hours in-between power writing sessions, there is plenty of time to do plotting, rewriting, as well as marketing and promotion and unfortunately, housework and other mundane chores. If you have kids, they can be given a timer and can look forward to some mom/dad time when the timer dings! (Spouses too!) Another plus is the fact that you can get up and move. Much healthier for our bodies than sitting for 4-6 hours or more.
I had tried something similar with one of my past critique groups. Problem was, we chatted too long before starting—you know, “how is everyone?” which always leads into long, drawn out conversations that often end in woe is me or bitch sessions or problem solving. Sometimes more than 30 minutes was spent on our greetings before we got to work. Although we wrote for much longer, two or three hours before reporting back in, we were often back on the phone for another hour or more. Some of that was discussing our writing sessions but more often, it was gabbing. And because it took so much time, it didn’t work.
I am happy to report that nearly a year later, this method has gotten even better. Power Writing works for me because:
I AM A PROCRASTINATOR
I WORK MY BEST UNDER DEADLINE
Okay, for the update. That first book last summer was written in under three months. In December, I started a new venture: ghostwriting (Next blog topic) novellas of approx. 27-31k words. I used this power writing method and when I recently took stock of my achievements I was shocked. As of today (May 25th), I have written 4 novellas (27-31k words each) for work for hire. I took some time out to write a novella (27k words) that I sold to Wild Rose Press (Cinderella & Her Dom) and have another novella that only needs another 10k words left to finish it (a work for hire not accepted). And I’m partway done with book two for Wild Rose Press (Red & Her Big, Bad, Wolf). That’s a total of 5 ¾ novellas in five months!
Now I wasn’t super impressed because these are all short stories, right? But, I realized something else when I totaled my word count for all those novellas. I had written a solid 170k words which doesn’t include the proposal for five additional books for Wild Rose.
That word count is equal to 2 full size novels of 80-90k words! To think that I could have written almost 2 full sized novels in 5 months is just incredible to me. Now, I do have to take into consideration that a full size novel has more plotting and usually much deeper characterization and many more characters (at least mine do). But still….
Power writing works for me because it focuses my mind and forces those creative juices to flow whether or not they want too. It takes some training but when the brain is told that it has an hour to produce, guess what? It doesn’t let you down. It pulls what it needs from somewhere and out it comes: brain to fingers. I love it.
That first book I did convinced me that we can retrain ourselves to be more productive and efficient. With previous books, it might have taken me 3-5 months to do the first 3-5 chapters, then the rest came much more quickly. The entire process would take me 6-8 months or more. But now I know I can write an entire, full length novel in 3-4 months.
In this business time is money. All that time spent writing is not earning advances or royalties. How great it is to become faster, and more efficient. Just like a regular business. And that is the key for me. Writing is a business. Not just a hobby or something to be played at. To that end, I keep track of how many hours I write a day and the word count.
I know what my average hourly word count is (4-600 words) and what my “wow” word count is (8-1100). This can tell me how a story is going for me or my own mindset. I also know approximately how many writing hours each novella takes which makes planning my writing schedule so much easier. And when I’m hitting my deadline crunch, I know I can easily (ha!) aim for 3-4k words a day.
After a huge setback in my career when Dorchester went out of business, its taken some time and work to get my self-confidence and self-esteem back. Step one of my makeover was improving how I wrote and thanks to Power Writing, I achieved that. Step two was reinventing myself and that meant being open to new things, like ghostwriting.
In my next blog post, I’ll talk about my experience with being a ghostwriter. For now I’ll say that without that challenge, I would never have broken into the erotica market or sold a new series to Wild Rose Press (Once Upon a Dom), which has breathed new life into this thing called a Writing Career. And without power writing, I might still be piddling around and not the proud owner of half a dozen finished works.
So I will continue to Power Write, set my goals and produce those thousands of lovely words that bring stories to life and put a new joy of writing in my heart.
So have you found ways to improve your writing process? Are you frustrated at your current process? I’d love to know a bit how you write and what, if anything you’d like to improve. Or any new discoveries for faster or more efficient writing.
Now, if anyone can figure out how to teach 5 cats and 3 dogs the concept of:
1 hour, leave me alone for just 1 hour
I’d love to hear it as well. Sigh.
I don’t have a door to my office as I took over the family room for my office/craft area and at least 3 if not 4 cats insist on sleeping on my desk while I write.
Right now, got the 3 ft, 25 lb monster cat hitting my keyboard as he rolls and thinks he’s being cute.