Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Heat #4: Speed Scrivening

This is an easy one. Anyone can play. This is a judged event with prizes and bragging rights.

For those of you competing in the Drafting event, take a moment to imagine a scene you must write. No writing yet. Just daydreaming, but daydreaming with a focus. You want to give some thought to where they are, what must happen, what the dominant moods of the characters will be, and how they are thwarted in the context of the scene.

For those of you competing in Pre-Writing, choose whether to focus on character histories or plot summaries. Don't bother pre-thinking. You want all your words to get spooned up straight from the deepest part of the psychic soup bowl. No filtering or stirring allowed.

For those of in Submissions, this will be a chance to write a new synopsis. Don't review the old synopsis, if you've already written one. Just take a moment to think about your plot and refresh your memory about the order of events -- no peeking at the manuscript or outlines, though. You're aiming for only the key events, the parts you can remember most easily, the biggest moments in the plot. If you refresh your memory, you might get sucked into the quicksand of detail.

For those of you competing in Editing, pick a scene which is giving you trouble. Longish scenes with structural issues might be best suited for this exercise. (Too bogged down/not developed enough/action gets sidetracked/etc.) Read through the scene one time only. Then set it aside in some place where you cannot see it. This is important. You want to be working from a refreshed memory.

Next, everyone, go to the Write Or Die tool created by Dr. Wicked.

Set the time goal for 15 minutes.

Write as fast as you can until the time is done. Don't worry about word choices or spelling errors or other nits to pick. Your goal is to write fast and get a flow through the events. Don't let your hands stop moving!

Drafting -- write a new scene, as imagined.
Pre-writing -- get busy exploring your plot or characters.
Submissions -- write a new plot-based synopsis. No peeking at the old one!
Editing -- take another stab at that complex scene. No peeking at the old one!

After you're done, send your final word count to edittorrent at gmail dot you-know-what. Everyone who sends us their word count will be entered into the pool for prizes at the Closing Ceremony, and another prize will also be awarded once all entries are received. Get your entries in by midnight tonight, and we'll announce a winner tomorrow!

Ready, set, GO!


Jami Gold said...

It's amazing how much your forearms can hurt just from typing. :) Fifteen minutes of crazed fingers flying and I can feel it in my muscles. Apparently, they've gotten soft from editing so much lately.

Jami G.

Jami Gold said...

Geez, no wonder my arms hurt. I just did the math and I was drafting at 80% of my top typing speed (when I'm just copying something). I'm feeling mighty happy with my output right now. :) Yea!

Jami G.

Kathleen MacIver said...

I must have not pushed it quite as successfully as you did. I was only doing about 60% of my copying-typing speed.

It was good, though! I worked through a decision that I've been stalling over, and I think the solution I found will work. If it doesn't, I can always change it...but at least I now have something to work with and move on from!

Riley Murphy said...

60%? 80%?

Okay, I haven't done the exercise yet, but can I just warn all you guys. I got caught using correct-o-tape in typing class. Hey, no one said I couldn't - SORRY MISS SILVERBERG! Wait, no I'm not. Now that I'm older and looking back? There was a reason that woman was single. She used to use the end of her very sharp pencil and do bounce count on the page over all your mistakes, before she peered over her glasses and gave you a sneer. SHEESH! I was a nervous wreck - so, um, what was my point? Oh yeah, I wouldn't have a clue on how fast I typed - because I was quickly transferred from typing, to the machine shop class immediately following the correct-o-tape fiasco. Well, looking back on that time, now that I think about it, the reason for that might have had nothing to do with the tape. Hmm...I clearly remember explaining to her - just before I got transferred - that I didn't need to worry about how fast I could transcribe. Nope, no need, as I was sure my future secretary was going to be at the top of her typing graduation class or maybe even a retired typing teacher. (insert hand over mouth here) I was bad, wasn’t I? And she wasn’t the brightest bulb in the lamp. I mean, COME ON! Did she really think she was punishing me when she sent me to machine shop with all the cool guys and their tools? ;)

Murphy - who’s going to complete her exercise now.

Anonymous said...

Murphy - lol! Isn't "bad" a new form of honest, albeit brutal honesty?

I really liked this exercise. I managed to get a decent start on a totally new scene and, after the afternoon's child running around activities, I'm finishing a whole chapter tonight. oh yeah!

Jami and Kathleen - great going! I hadn't even thought to do the maths until you mentioned it :)

Edittorrent said...

It's a great way to get new words on paper. I'm curious to hear from those who used it for redrafting or revision. People tend to resist this technique for revision, and then cling to it after they've tried it. It can really break the chains from a bad first pass at a scene.


Kelly R. Morgan said...

Team Editing checking in.

Mine was a scene I need to get a lot across without dragging it out. I rewrote it in near full dialogue trying for snappy. I think I like the way it starts much better with this exercise. Even very rough, I will be using a lot of this dialogue.

Of course, I was scared to death of Write or Die (1st time using it). I was sure I had the settings at extreme word chomping if I fell below 100 wpm. :) Thankfully, that was only in my head.

Sylvia said...

Gah, this isn't appear on my feed reader until I was asleep, I hope you aren't on the East Coast!

*types quickly*

Jami Gold said...


Yes, I can see how this technique could force you to approach a problem scene from a different perspective. Unfortunately (in this case... It was very fortunately in college), I have a photographic memory, so I don't think it would work for me. Believe it or not, I have virtually every single sentence of my almost 120K word WIP memorized. It makes it very difficult to get that distance required for editing.

Jami G.

Jordan said...

@Jami—I hear you on that one, LOL. Total rewrites are tough for me. To approach a scene from a different perspective, I particularly like marking the most important information in a scene and seeing if there's a better, more logical flow for the scene (including different setting, different POV character, different place in the book), or if there's some way to redistribute that information in other scenes.

I'm in Editing, but I used the exercise to write a new scene I've been thinking about. I didn't think I'd like speed writing (I was afraid of the word eating, too!), but I may just be hooked. Although I ended up only using about half what I wrote (cutting for wordiness and getting a little bit off track/carried away—though the tangent did yield a couple fun lines I was able to use), it was a great way to get that creativity jump-started. I'm so doing it again today for a new scene I've been pondering, agonizing over and planning for a month.

I didn't think I was writing nearly as fast as I can type, but it was almost 80% of my typing speed (if I remember my typing speed correctly, LOL).

Edittorrent said...

When you use this for a scene overhaul, what can happen is that you'll only remember the major points in the earlier draft of the scene. You'll forget all the tangents and fillips that were weighting the scene down in the first place. Writing it fast helps you focus the scene energy on the key points.

It's great for clearing the clutter, iow.

And if you use it for drafting and toss half your words, really, you've only just erased five or ten minutes of writing time. That always feels like a smaller loss to me than cutting something we've agonized over for hours on end.


Jami Gold said...


That's a great point about how it's not just about retyping a scene in a different window. The speed-typing aspect forces your brain to think and react differently. You've convinced me to give it a try. :)

Jami G.

Dave Shaw said...


Pretend you're Murphy while you're doing it. I'm sure you'll get something different then. LOL

Seriously, I have played with rewriting scenes in a radically different style or point of view, and it can really be helpful.

Riley Murphy said...

@rachelcapps: Yep, new form of honest - I like it! :D

@Dave: JG pretend to me? Is she typing a horror story? Hmm...interesting. I hope that doesn't mean that I have to pretend to be her. Photographic memory? Me? Not so much. I have trouble trying to remember how to spell my MC's name correctly. *sigh* But I'm lucky enough to have a CP who asks in sidebar comments - are we spelling this with an e or an i? I'm sure it drives her nuts because, between you and me, (<-phatic phrase) she's kind of a tight ass...but I mean that in the best possible way! :D

Murphy - who really didn’t do all that badly in write or die. I got some great new phrases - fresh new words and a new perspective on a Synopsis layout.

Jami Gold said...


That's actually a neat idea. We could pick a writer that we know well, either just as a long-term reader or working with them as a critique partner, and imitate their style to get a different 'vibe' going in the scene.

Jami G.

Kathleen MacIver said...

"Eating" your words? That was my first attempt at write or die, so I guess there was a setting I didn't use, 'cause mine just timed and counted words.

I figured the math to see how much I really did stop and slow down. Knowing that I typed at 60% of my normal typing speed showed me just how much I still did pause.

About half-way through, I finally managed to turn my self-editor off. ie: I quit backspacing to correct spelling and punctuation. But obviously I still am not that good at just letting the words pour out! I'll have to aim at 80% for next time! (And maybe I'll figure out which setting eats your words.)

Jordan said...

@Dave & Jami—I've actually edited my whole book on paper once and put another author's name on it (a successful one, though not one I'd consider a great writer). Really changes the way I looked at it. (I think the idea came from Donald Maass? Sol Stein?)

@Kathleen—I didn't have it eat any words, either, but I think if you fall below a certain speed or typing frequency (if you stop), it does start erasing what you've written. If you make the grace period shorter and the consequences more grave (and slow down!), it should kick in.

But I had the same experience where I stopped proofing myself (very much) and left typos. Wasn't as hard as I'd thought it would be!

(I did do this exercise again yesterday, but only went 2/3 as fast, but kept more words in the end. Cool.)