Novel Anatomy part 1: How to be a ten page a day writer   3 comments



This is maybe what ten pages a day looks like after a while

No, you don’t need a Black Sabbath album, a vial of coke, a magical leprechaun muse and a mountain of skittles to write ten pages in a day each day. In fact, I’ve discovered there’s only one thing you really need: clarity.

I’ll illustrate.

More than once I’ve had ridiculous, high energy bursts of writing that resulted in me writing 10-35 pages in a day. Yes, I’ve written a max of 37 pages in a day (not that I can repeat such Herculean feats often). Whenever I’ve had these sorts of days, it wasn’t so much about being “in the zone”, it was more about being extremely clear about what I wanted to write, with a burning intensity to get it out.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know the process of writing takes some plotting and planning and chewing pens or pencils and wandering around wearing tweed (possibly plaid) trying to find inspiration in your environment. But if you are very clear about what you want to write, there is nothing really holding you back.

So, I noticed this in two instances.

One instance was when in 5 days I wrote 120 pages of a sci-fi manuscript that had been eating at me for a while. The story was so clear in my mind that I didn’t do any research, didn’t write down any plot or do any significant character development. I just sat and wrote. Idly, I said to myself “if I do 20 pages a day, I’ll have two hundred pages in ten days.” So logically I started the process (in them thar days I didn’t care much about such  things as “limits” and “burnout”)

But the story (which revolves around some super human kid with powers and such) was so clear in my head that I didn’t even need to take a break. Every scenario from the introduction and the first few chapters were already in my head. So I just wrote. I did twenty pages the first day, and then did an average of twenty-five the next few days. When I hit 120, I realized I ran out of plot! So I had to stop, and think.

Now, the point isn’t the fact that I stopped, it was that I used up all the clarity that had made me so speedy with the writing.

Another time, I wrote 105 page manuscript in 11 days. It was a sordid emotional affair:  me breaking up with a girl and releasing my angst in written prose. Again, I was super clear on what I wanted to write, and had a burning intensity to get it on paper which resulted in a novella.

So do you have to break up with a girl to write ten pages a day? Hellz no.

Recently, when doing the final legwork for my latest novel Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken  I had a few ten page days and a few two page days. The ten page days were always days when I knew

(a) exactly what I wanted to write in extreme detail

That’s it.

You can make it happen pretty easily too. Of course we don’t all have those burning ideas raging in our minds that make us lose sleep, but we can create the same result without the seemingly candy-fueled rage.

Say you want to write a few chapters. Each chapter is five pages. All you need to do is write a paragraph or two describing the sequence of events and then importantly, what people talk about, where they go, and how they react. This builds “environment” which you don’t want to think about when you are writing. Once this is done, what tends to happen is that as you write, you focus less on the plot and more on the visuals and the dialogue or whatever, and you get the chapters done and have time to review etc. All you need is a piece of paper and a marker. (i like markers because they squeak when I write). How much description you write is relative only to one thing; how clear the idea already is in your mind. Sometimes you are 70% there, sometimes you are only 15% there. The more info you give your brain, the easier it will be to flow come writing time. I have examples of both below.


That is  pretty simple description, but you’d be suprised how long I had been puzzling this beforehand. I “sort of” knew what I wanted to write, but it was killing me. After I wrote this, I was able to quickly write a draft of the chapter and then fiddle with it for a while till i had it where I wanted it. That piece of paper translated exactly into SIX written pages. But that was a chapter where I kind of had a relative idea of how I wanted to shape it. Let’s say you have a more complex idea. No worries! As the French would say, ce n’est pas problem ici mon ami!  Simply repeat the process with more details as shown below.


That page has material for two chapters. What I did was illustrate to myself how these two characters met, how they might hookup, little things they might talk about or what she might tease the character about (in this case the character is Tony). That translated into one 7 page chapter and  had the meat for another 6 page chapter. So two written pages with light description translated to 21 pages. So let’s say you just did enough for two chapters. Six plus seven equals… voila! Thirteen pages.

Now maybe you have a shorter chapter or a longer chapter or whatever, but this is the basic principle through crazy observation that i’ve learned. Once it is clear, or you make it much, much clearer, it is much, much easier to write. We all have different writing styles, but its much easier to write about the ” Man bleeding from his ears after the bomb went off in the deli he had been going to as a boy which happened to be the same place he met his girlfriend who went to join the army but loved talking about Norman Rockwell paintings after they made love” versus “some guy who got injured in a bomb blast”.

The first description gives you a lot more fuel for the proverbial fire because you can start making different connections and leverage your writing based on those things. The second leaves you in the chair, pen in hand staring at the bird taking a crap on a branch outside your window.

Which path will you choose?

3 responses to “Novel Anatomy part 1: How to be a ten page a day writer

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  1. Pingback: Writing ramble and the Kindle Gamble | Mind of Marcus

  2. Pingback: Five days Fifty pages, a novel in progress | Mind of Marcus

  3. Pingback: 18 days, 70,000 words | Mind of Marcus

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