Friday, November 7, 2008

Book in a Week...

This week I'd like to talk about the Book in a Week (BIAW) challenges I've been participating in on and off with other writers for over 10 years now. Before you get scared and think that romance authors can actually write a whole publishable book in one week, let me clarify what the Book in a Week challenge is for and why it can sometimes help a writer with output.

We all have different ways of writing. Some of us are heavy plotters, some are by the seat of their pants writers and some (like me) are puzzle writers. Regardless of what type of writer you are, revisions and changes are always necessary to make a manuscript a published book. However, sometimes writers get so bogged down in making a particular scene perfect, struggling to figure out what is wrong with it and spending hours and sometimes days trying to change it before they figure out the scene doesn't even belong in the story! It can be frustrating and thwart progress, especially when you're on a deadline.

The BIAW challenge is a way for writers to put aside their internal editor and just write the story. It's a marathon of words getting put on the page. While many writers participate in the BIAW challenge, you're not actually competing against anyone but yourself. The writer challenges him or herself to get as much of the story down as they can in 7 days.

Not everyone can commit a full 7 days to writing. Let's face it, life gets in the way. However, many writers with full time jobs and families still manage to commit 1-2 hours per day to a BIAW challenge and end up with more pages written at the end of the week than they would have had writing outside of the challenge.

Here's how it works. Regardless of what type of writer you are, you need to do a little prep work before the challenge begins. Plot out the basics of your story. If you're a heavy plotter, you can do more. If you're a by the seat of your pants writer, having a general idea of where you are going with your story and knowing a little about who your characters are will keep you from taking the story around the world and then having to cut it all out at the end of the week.

1.) Each day you commit to writing a certain number of hours each day. It doesn't matter if it's 1 hour or 12.
2.) Each day you post the number of pages you've written on your manuscript to the group. Don't get discouraged if someone can write 25 pages a day and you can only write 5. You're challenging yourself!
3.) While you're writing, don't allow yourself to go back and fix ANYTHING. Don't worry about the red squiggly line showing you a spelling error or the fact that you know some of your sentence structure is atrocious. Keep going forward with the story. There will be plenty of time to fix whatever mistakes you've made after BIAW is done.
4.) Use your notes as an outline to help you move the story forward. If you get stuck on a scene, skip it and go to the next scene that is fresh in your mind. (This is especially tough for linear writers.)
5.) If you think of something fabulous to add to an earlier part of your book, don't stop and add it during BIAW. Keep a white lined notepad next to you and jot down all the notes on things you want to change or need to add later. Then keep moving forward.

At the end of the week, you'll find that while you have a "rough" draft, the bones of your story are there and you are able to use what you have to expand and finish the story on your own. The most I've ever written during BIAW is a little over 100 pages. I do know others who've managed to get a first "rough" draft of a story out in one week. These days I alternate between typing and using Dragon Naturally Speaking so I don't feel crippled after one of these marathon writing weeks.

I don't do BIAW every month but I do participate about once per year. The key to a successful BIAW is preparation. The more prepared you are before you start, the fewer stuck moments you'll have as you're writing and the more pages you'll be able to write.

There are no hard and fast rules for BIAW. You can do a formal challenge, such as the monthly challenges on the website or you can get together with a few other authors and do your own challenge. Either way, it's a great way for writers to challenge him or herself and get their story written faster.

Many blessings, Lisa Mondello


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Lisa,
You're so right about the importance of pushing forward. I use an Alpha Smart to write my first draft. Once I have words on the page, I go back and rewrite many time until I'm happy with the story.

Thanks for explaining BIAW. I've never done it, but sounds like it might be fun! At least--as you said--for one week a year! :)

Anita Mae said...

I did BIAW the 3rd week of Jan this year with my writing group. I wrote the first 1/3 of 'Outlaw' which is the book I was flogging at the ACFW conf and which is now on its way to New York since Emily requested a partial.

It's like NaNoWriMo but not as intense.

I also did Book In A Weekend during the Labour Day Weekend on the eharl site. Some of the other writers had complained that they weren't able to get writing time at home, but their hubbies said they could have that one weekend.

I need these kinds of challenges or else I spend too much time surfing and blogging. :-)