Showing posts with label 000 words a day. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 000 words a day. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 6

How Michael Moorcock Wrote A Novel In Three Days

How Michael Moorcock Wrote A Novel In Three Days

Today I'd like to talk about science fiction and fantasy author Michael Moorcock and his guidelines for writing a 45,000 to 60,000 word novel in three days. 

This feels like a confession--and I suppose it is!--but I wasn't familiar with Moorcock's work until a couple of years ago. He's one of only a few genre writers who have also published successful literary novels. Also--and this is straight from Michael Moorcock's Wikipedia page--The Times named Moorcock in their list of The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.

I think I discovered Moorcock around the same time as Lester Dent. It seems that, when Moorcock first started out, he was a pulpiteer of sorts:

"Most of Moorcock's earlier work consisted of short stories and relatively brief novels: he has mentioned that 'I could write 15,000 words a day and gave myself three days a volume. That's how, for instance, the Hawkmoon books were written.'" (Michael Moorcock, Wikipedia)

Michael Moorcock's Formula

In "How to Write a Book in Three Days," Eric Rosenfield writes:

"In the early days of Michael Moorcock's 50-plus-years career, when he was living paycheck-to-paycheck, he wrote a whole slew of action-adventure sword-and-sorcery novels very, very quickly, including his most famous books about the tortured anti-hero Elric. In 1992, he published a collection of interviews conducted by Colin Greenland called Michael Moorcock: Death is No Obstacle, in which he discusses his writing method. In the first chapter, "Six Days to Save the World", he says those early novels were written in about "three to ten days" each, and outlines exactly how one accomplishes such fast writing."

That's what I'd like to talk about today: How Michael Moorcock did it, how he wrote a book in only a few days. 

All the quotations in what follows (except where otherwise indicated) are from Michael Moorcock: Death is No Obstacle via Rosenfield's article. I would love to read Death Is No Obstacle, and to provide an expanded overview of Moorcock's writing techniques, but I refuse to pay the $150 it's selling for on Amazon! I hope that, one day, the book will become available as an ebook.

1. Be Prepared. 

MM: "If you're going to do a piece of work in three days, you have to have everything properly prepared."

Good advice. Great advice! But what, exactly, would this preparation consist of? 

Michael Moorcock talks about how to prepare to write a book quickly at various points later in the interview, and we'll look at that, but here I'd like to talk about some of the things Lester Dent did to prepare to write a story in a short amount of time. 

You might wonder why I've chosen Lester Dent. It's because Moorcock mentions Dent and his formula in both Death is No Obstacle and in his list of 10 rules for writers:

"7. For a good melodrama study the famous "Lester Dent master plot formula" which you can find online. It was written to show how to write a short story for the pulps, but can be adapted successfully for most stories of any length or genre." (Michael Moorcock's Rules For Writers, The Guardian)

Also, anytime a person sits down to write a massive amount in a short span of time, one needs to prepare and, even though a 45,000 word book is a lot longer than a 6,000 word story, still, many of the things we need to set up are the same--or at least similar.

Lester Dent on what must be in place to write a story quickly:

Lester Dent writes that you need to think about four things before sitting down to write a story:


I think that by "different" Dent meant a thing that was unusual, something mysterious; something that would catch a readers attention (I'll talk about this in more detail in point 5, perhaps I'll get to that on Friday).

You don't need to come up with something unique and mysterious for each of (1), (2) and (3), above. As Dent writes:

"One of these DIFFERENT things would be nice, two better, three swell. It may help if they are fully in mind before tackling the rest."[2]

In other words, come up with ideas for all three, but only one of them needs to be different and mysterious. 

By now we should have:

a. A murder method.
b. The villain's goal.
c. The setting.

One of a, b or c must be different; interesting, attention grabbing, mysterious. If all of them are, great! But we only need one.

d. A menace which hangs over the hero.

Here's how I think about the menace. Imagine a man in a rowboat being chased by a shark. The man is paddling toward land as fast as he can, but the shark is slowly gaining.

A hero/protagonist is driven by two forces: the situation he is trying to escape (the shark) and whatever it is he hopes to achieve; his goal (the land). Generally these two things are related (being chased by the shark explains the man's emphatic desire to reach land) and yet are distinct.

Using this analogy, the menace that hangs over the hero is his fear of the shark, anticipating being made into a nice light, very bloody, snack.  (In a sense, too, the shark, the menace, provides the ticking clock, but we'll look more at that later in this series.)


1. The Wet Asphalt articles on Michael Moorcock:

2. Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot, by Lester Dent hosted over at

Photo credit: "News from the Pottery Market" by *Light Painting* under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, November 2

How To Write 10,000 Words A Day

How To Write 10,000 Words A Day

Yes, that's right, 10,000 words a day. It's not a typo.

Google+ is terrific! For the past few weeks I've been busy meeting a gaggle of fellow flagellants writers planning on going through NaNoWriMo this year.

One of these wonderful people, Joanie Raisovich, posted a link to Rachel Aaron's article How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day. Of course I had to go look!

How To Write 10,000 Words A Day

I was skeptical. 10,000 words a day. Really? But I read Rachel's article and her method made sense.

I don't want to spell Rachel's method out in great and gory detail--she does that in her wonderful article--but I don't think she would mind if I touched on two things I believe are at the heart of it's success: creating a detailed outline (I call it a 'micro outline') & turning the scientific method loose on yourself.

1. The Secret To Writing 10,000 Words A Day: Create A Micro Outline

In the following when I talk about an outline I don't mean the traditional kind of outline (Mary Robinette Kowal and The Mysteries of Outlining). By all means, have that too, but don't stop there.

Let me give you an example. In one of the first scenes of my NaNoWriMo story a little girl climbs into the tiger enclosure at a game preserve. My heroine, Robyn the park administrator, not only needs to save the little girl from the normally placid tiger (Shadow), but needs to save Shadow--the game preserve's most popular attraction--from being killed.

An ordinary outline of the scene might read like this:
- Robyn enters park
- Food missing
- Girl in enclosure
- No tranquilizer gun
- Hank going to shoot tiger
- Robyn steps into tiger cage
That's the first chapter. The incident is resolved in the next chapter.

Here's what I'm calling a Micro Outline. We take the ordinary outline and break it down further.
- Robyn (heroine) arrives at her office in the game reserve. Setup character.

- Jane, head trainer, tells Robyn all the food for the animals has been stolen. Describe how dangerous this will make the large cats. Start to develop the character of Shadow, the golden tiger. There's something different about this tiger. He seems almost ... human.

- Robyn sees a crowd gather around Shadow's enclosure and knows something is wrong. Receives call from Jane. Robyn runs to enclosure.

- Robyn told young girl is in cage with Shadow and that the tranquilizer gun is missing.

- Child's parents are hysterical, police have been called.

- Hank, a park worker who was a sniper in the military, is set up with a rifle and told to kill Shadow if it looks like he's going to attack the child.

- Jane tells Rod to bring over the tranquilizer gun from the elephant enclosure but it'll be at least 5 minutes before it arrives.

- Robyn doesn't want Shadow killed. She doesn't believe Shadow would ever hurt a child but she can't take chances with her life.

- Shadow moves and Robyn sees Hank make the decision to kill Shadow.

- Robyn enters the tiger's cage and places her body between Shadow and the little girl as well as between Shadow and Hank's bullet.
I suppose I could just have called the above a detailed outline, but generally I don't write even detailed outlines with this depth of description.

The Point: Writing A Micro Outline Eliminates Surprises

When I read the two outlines, the traditional outline and the micro outline, I get much more of a sense of the scene from the micro outline. It also lets me work out timing problems and helps me decide where I need to insert tidbits of backstory.

For instance, when Jane and Robyn are discussing the stolen food I can include something about the most famous occupant of the preserve, Shadow the rare golden tiger, and how if the game preserve ever lost him they'd have to close their doors. The reader also needs to sympathize with Shadow, they need to know he's not an ordinary tiger and that this factors in Robyn's decision to risk her life for his.

Anyway! Getting back to the point of this post. (grin) You see what I mean about a micro outline. You're basically stepping through the scene talking in some detail about what is going to happen, but you haven't done any of the writing yet. When you DO get down to writing, it's all there, on paper and (much more importantly!) in your mind. You know what you want to write.

Once again: I think the key to success here is that in mapping out your story at this level of detail you now hold pretty much the completed scene in your mind so, when you sit down to write, the guessing, and the writer's block, is gone. You know what happens in the scene, all you have to do is write the darn thing! :)

2. Know Thyself: Use The Scientific Method To Make You A More Productive Writer

The second great thing Rachel Aaron discussed, and like all Great Things when I mention this to you you'll roll your eyes and say, "Well, that's just common sense!" But, honestly, have you ever done it? I haven't!

Here's what I'm talking about: Rachel thought she worked best in the morning, then she started keeping track of: 
a) the time she started writing,
b) the time she stopped writing,
c) her word count,
d) where she was writing.
Rachel collected this information for a while and discovered, among other things, that she wrote most in the afternoon. Huh! This allowed Rachel to hire a sitter for the afternoons--the time she knew she was most productive--and go write in the place she knew she was the most productive--a coffee shop with no wifi. She also found that she wrote more words per hour when she wrote for over 5 hours (and less than 7) than when she just wrote for an hour or two.

Good to know! Of course Rachel stresses that what works for her may not work for anyone else. Her point is that we each need to find what works for us.

It really is incredible how often great innovation is driven by great need. I think Rachel's system is brilliant and am, today, going to begin keeping track of my writing sessions.

Once again, Rachel Aaron's article is called How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day. She has also written a book, 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, currently available in the Kindle Store for 99 cents.

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What is the most you've written in one day? I think my top word count is around 6,000 words. Of course I was slightly batty by the end of it and didn't continue at that rate. I think Rachel's article came at just the right time for all of us! :-)

Other articles you might like:
- World Building & Story Creation: Use What You Know
- Does Amazon KDP Select Drive Away True Fans?
- NaNoWriMo: A Survival Guide
- SEO Tips & Tricks: How To Make Google Love Your Blog

Photo credit: "Atlas, it's time for your bath" by woodleywonderworks under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.