Learning to Speed Write

New Jersey Romance Writers just finished its February writing challenge,  JeRoWriMo, or Jersey Romance Writing Month. The challenge, to write thirty thousand words in the month of February.

I started a new project for JeRoWriMo this year, and I’m happy to say, I met the 30K goal, despite a few obstacles. Five day trip to Texas? No problem. Three out of four family members, including me, sick for over a week? Piece of cake!

Thumbnail for version as of 08:45, 21 April 2010

Actually, it was a real challenge, but I added a new tool to my arsenal in order to meet my goal this year.

I tend to be a pantser, meaning I don’t devise a detailed plot before beginning to write. I develop my characters, research the setting (fun!), and let the characters drive the story.  It usually begins as a linear process. As I go along, I think of other scenes I want to include, and suddenly, it’s mayhem.

In order to keep my momentum going, usually I just jot the scene ideas down. Then, I continue with the flow I was working on, trying to finish the scene before I get too sidetracked.

Of course, there are times when the scenes I am writing come to a screeching halt. A wall of writer’s block suddenly appears out of nowhere, and it plays such games on my psyche, that I get, well, psyched out. Frustrated. Stressed because I just know I’m not going to reach my goal.

File:Block wall.jpg

At times like these, I’ve learned to just walk away for awhile. Like that argument that you know you just aren’t going to win while you are so riled up, sometimes it’s good to drop it so you can get perspective. It’s like coming up with the perfect rejoinder…hours after the argument is done. Have you ever gone over a conversation in your mind and thought, “Oh, I wish I had said that! That was clever!”?

When I do get stuck, it helps to have that list of other scenes. I’ll just leave a half page blank, then write a new scene. This year, I decided to use a different color font to differentiate scenes that are potentially out of order. My manuscript from JeRo looks like a rainbow, each color a different scene that is likely out of place.

Usually about halfway through the manuscript, I stop and gather wool. At this point, I often realize I Have No Idea What I’m Doing! In an effort to meld my writing style with one that actually works, I’ve started making up scene cards, one file card for every scene. I’ve arranged them in the order that I think makes sense for the story.  Of course, some scenes might end up needing to be moved, or deleted. If a scene needs to be moved, I’ll rearrange the order of my file cards. If it needs to be deleted, I’ll turn that scene card over, but keep it in its original place. That way, if I decide I want to include the scene after all, I just have to turn the card back over.

Now that I’ve made cards for all of the scenes I’ve already written, they’ve helped me to determine what else needs to happen in order for the story arc to be fully developed. Now I can come up with the rest of the scenes for my book.

So it turns out, my newly devised process is working for me…so far. I’ve written more in sixteen days than I’ve ever written before.

What about you? Do you have a “trick” to help you get those words down? What is your process for plotting? Please share.



P.S. JeRoWriMo has flowed right into a new challenge, March Madness. My goal is to finish the rough draft of my story. It will be the perfect opportunity to see if this new process is one I will continue to use. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

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  1. Jenna Blue

     /  March 6, 2013

    Jaye, I started using index cards for this latest book, too, ala Blake Snyder’s advice in “Save the Cat.” Mine quickly got out of hand, but luckily I’d switched mid-project to Scrivener. This let’s me use either scene cards or outline (binder/subfolders/scenes) the same way but all in the electronic program…I can insert a new scene or idea anywhere, juggle things with a drag of the mouse…it’s been fab and a real timesaver, allowing me to just continue, rather than panic. Like you, I always seem to veer off the original plan, so enabling the fluidity has been incredibly helpful!
    Rooting for you to finish that ms! Can’t wait to read it!

    • Jenna, I’d be curious to take a look at Scrivener. The thing with me is that, if I try to take notes on the computer, I’m constantly having to leave my ms document in order to look at the notes. I like having the notes on cards because they are at my fingertips without split screening. I have used the binder method, too, but it is just so physically cumbersome to carry around.

      I hope to have something for you to read before our next GNO!


  2. Jaye, I have to congratulate you on hitting your goal for JeRoWriMo; I was really impressed with your determination. And now I know how you did it!

    I too tried something different for JeRoWriMo. I always find scene endings hard because I want the last line to be stellar. That often takes a lot of time and thought, and time is something I didn’t have in Feb. So I would type in a string of question marks at the end of the scene and go on to the next scene. When I came back the next day, I usually had a good line to replace the question marks.

    And you know why? Because I knew what those question marks needed to lead into since I’d written the scene that followed them. Makes sense,right? I don’t know why I didn’t try this method sooner! That’s why pushing yourself can be a great thing for a writer.

    30K Write Away!

    • Nancy, that’s a great tip!

      I find writing scenes with beginnings, middles and ends fairly easy, You’re right, though, about chapter endings. I, too, try to leave something hanging so that the reader doesn’t want to put the book down at the end of a chapter. It’s a great tool to keep the reader turning the pages.

      I’m going to keep those question marks in mind the next time I have trouble. Thanks for sharing it! And, thanks again for being such an awesome and tireless cheerleader for JeRo!


  3. Congratulations on reaching 30K, Jaye, in spite of all those obstacles! I’ve tried a couple different methods for plotting, but don’t use paper. Everything is on the computer. I’ll share more of my process with next week’s blog post.

    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  March 8, 2013

      Thanks Maria! I’m looking forward to reading about your process!


  4. Congrats, Jaye! Great job! I like the idea of cards for plotting. I use an Excel spreadsheet to plot my stories. I use a different color for each POV, so, like your manuscript, my spreadsheet looks like a rainbow. Recently, I purchased Scrivener and am looking forward to using it. Thanks so much for your post.

    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  March 8, 2013

      Thanks for stopping by, MaryAnn! I keep hearing more and more about Scrivener. Please keep us posted on how you like it. So far, Jenna is finding it very helpful.

    • Hi MaryAnn,

      Similar to you, I shade each POV in a different color. I find it helps me balance between H/H POV and to also balance out the scenes per chapter. Good luck with Scrivener. I haven’t tried it.


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