Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Guest post by Paul Carroll - Speed Writing

I'm delighted to host Paul Carroll today. He recently finished his "Writing Olympics", completing his novella, Balor Reborn, (see info at the end of his post.), in an amazing one week. How'd he do it? Read on.

Speed Writing

Writing at speed is not a new phenomenon. There are challenges that take place throughout the year that involve writing a comic, or songs, or scripts, or novels, all within a short space of time. What makes the Speed Writing event at my Writing Olympics so different was that I didn’t have an extended deadline on when the finished product could be revealed to the world. From day one, I was on camera, and by day seven the book had to be available to buy.

Event two of the Writing Olympics, then, put me under a lot of pressure to complete Balor Reborn. I followed my own advice: I went in with a plan. I knew that I wanted to start with the separation of Stephen and Fionn, with Fionn only being a child. From there, I wanted to slowly introduce Fionn into the world of magic that was coming back to Ireland, and throw Stephen in head-first with an encounter with Balor of the Evil Eye. This much was clear from my plan, and it only took a short space of time to get used to the camera before writing at speed became a simple endeavour.

The approximate figures came out as follows: 5,500 words on day one, 10,500 words on day two, and 5,000 words on day three. The latter ended the book, though I finished much earlier than planned. In theory, I could have written twice as much.

When you attempt something like this, you need to focus on doing one thing, and one thing only: writing. There can be no going back to edit, no restarting the book because you got a new idea, and no stalling to get the exact right word. So how do you do this?

Leave it for the editing. I ploughed through my book, with the plan, to ensure the first draft was written swiftly. Except on a couple of occasions at the end of a writing session, I didn’t go back to change anything. I built up a momentum, and I set myself word count targets for every half hour. Aiming for 850 words every 30 minutes meant that I was producing a lot of words. This also tired me out, so it’s worth noting that you need to take things at an appropriate pace. It may be a sprint, but you still have to reach the end.

As for new ideas... I was fortunate enough not to have to change the book to cater for them while writing. I got ideas that fit better into later books, so I didn’t have to concern myself with going against my plan. However, it’s inevitable that something will pop into your head while you write. Deal with this by keeping post-its or a notebook nearby, and when you find an idea coming to mind, jot it down and keep on writing.

That’s the vital thing: you can’t stop. Stopping ruins your momentum, breaks your train of thought, and puts you in a position of needing to start all over again. We all know what happens to runners when they have a series of false starts: they’re out of the race. It happened to Usain Bolt, it can happen to you. So keep focused, and when it comes to that exact word, remember that this isn’t the only event in the Writing Olympics.

Deal with your inner-perfectionist by highlighting the word or words you need to change, then move on. When you go back to edit, you’ll know where to pick up. Until then, finish your first draft. Yes, I mean it. Don’t edit until the whole draft is written. This isn’t a freestyle medley, and this isn’t a relay. You’re in a sprint, and you just have to keep on going.

There’ll be plenty of time to slow down once you have something written, as you’ll soon discover in the later events.


Paul Carroll is a writer from Dublin. He is studying to be a teacher of Religion and English at second level, while working in a bookshop at weekends. His 'free time' is divided among assignments, fiction, poetry, articles and blog posts, as well as college Drama and almost weekly trips to the local cinema.

He has been writing since the age of twelve, with a love of words going back further than he can remember. When he isn't reading or writing, he likes to make use of social media, bake, and talk to friends. Often, he'll watch a horror film alone in the dark for the sheer joy of it.

He can be found online at paulcarrollwriter.com.

About Balor Reborn

Old Ireland is returning, as an ancient evil arrives in Dublin. A single glance from his eye is all it takes to kill.

Stephen Fox is haunted by the memory of his wife, and suffers from guilt at abandoning his new-born son. The spirit of the tyrant Balor has come back to take his vengeance on the country. A hero must rise in the unwilling form of Fionn Murray, a university student with a mysterious past.. As a world of wonder unfolds around him, and with no one but his house mate Michael at his side, he’s left with the choice of running, or facing the evil that could consume the world.

Based on the old Irish myth of Balor of the Evil Eye, Balor Reborn is the first in a series that seeks to revive the magic of Ireland. It was written and published in one week.

It's available to buy on PDF, Epub and Mobi via his website, Amazon, and Amazon UK

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