Episode # 40 – How to Write (a lot) More with Matt Ahlschlager

In Communities, fast drafting, Full time writing by Julius S36 Comments

MattCoverRSP

Matt wrote 50,000 words in a single day on the 1st November 2013, completing NaNoWriMo in one day. He has a passion for fast drafting and we talk about the mechanics how to write fast in this episode. In the show notes for this episode, you’ll be able to download the first draft of this book, as well as grab a PDF he has put together

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Links:

Website

Mentions:

The Game small

The unedited first draft of Matt’s NaNo project “The Game (right click save as to download a zip file with PDF, mobi and epup versions) 

Fast Drafting Guide – Written by Matt for a workshop he gave on how to write fast (right click “Save as” to save to your computer)

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month, write 50,000 words in the month of November.

The KBoards thread – where Matt kept people updated on the day.

Dragon Naturally Speaking – Dictation program. Matt didn’t use this as he is a fast typist, but these can be useful if you are willing to spend the time ‘training’ the software.

Typeracer.com – Speed typing website where you can race other people. Matt has an average of 106 words a minute on the site. If you want to learn how to write fast, start by learning how to type fast (or you Dragon Dictate 😉 ).

Scrivener – Enough has been said about this fantastic writing software.

Write or Die – Forces you to write hard, it either gives you rewards or penalties.

Show notes:

Matt came across the idea of writing 50k in one day after a friend of his pointed out that people try to do NaNo in one day. He decided he liked the challenge and it’s in his personality to take on that sort of challenge!

Matt is not unique in this and several people take the challenge each year. There are even people who write a million words in the whole of November.

The result has not been edited yet and he doesn’t have it on the calendar for this year, he is planning a lot of other novels elsewhere and this doesn’t fit into his plan.

Pen Names

My research was somewhat hampered as Matt writes under a series of pen names, he has one book under his own name, and he sold 3 copies of that last month. The pen name was because he was afraid of falling on his face and if things went sideways he could just start another pen name.

What he actually found was that several of the pen names took off and so he was working under numerous pen names under the same name. One pen name is his main breadwinner, but there is another which also brings some money in.

Matt recommends writing under a psydonym, whatever your level, protection yourself is a good idea – “there are some crazies out there.”

For each pen name Matt has a different website and Facebook account. He maintains each of these with quite a bit of time each day – he sees being on these Facebook accounts as part of his work day. This does take up a bunch of time, but it’s part of his marketing plan and is important to his success.

Fast Drafting

Implementing the right tools, Matt uses Scrivener and WriteOrDie.com to get his work done. These two tools were essential in learning how to write fast, and complete the challenge in a day.

Planning and outlining was also essential, he plans everything in detail before getting started. Everything that he is passionate goes into the plan first. Next goes the end of the book so that he has a destination to reach – without that things slow down and he can get stuck. In his plan there are several milestones that have to have happen, and the rest is just filling in the gaps.

Matt says that if you want to learn how to write fast, make a plan but be prepared to deviate from it. Having some sort of plan is going to make it easier either way.

The plan starts with the big scenes, and then works down from there, getting all the nitty gritty sorted.

Editing/Revisions

Matt uses the editing phase to “turn everything up to 11.” It’s important not to focus on perfection when learning how to write fast.

He knows that having a very detailed plan can make things seem a bit stilted, and he uses the editing phase to get rid of some of this. Matt also does his research at this point. During the draft he will write it with his gut feeling about what is right, and then correct it during the revision to get the facts right. He gave the example of EMTs responding to a crash, he didn’t know what they did when they arrive, so he guessed and then found out and added it in later.

Breakdown

20% plotting, 30% drafting, 50% making it ready for market.

Matt finds the plotting most enjoyable, but the polishing the most rewarding. He believes that you can separate yourself from the rest by delivering a really high quality end product to the customer.

Doing the Work

If you treat writing like a job and even just put in a regular 8 hour day you are going to achieve an awful lot. If you treat it like a business and work hard then you are far more likely to have success.

Matt quit his job before he was making money from his writing, but he wanted the full time hours in writing to make it happen. “While he is young” was his attitude. He is not tied down by any debt and doesn’t have a family, so he felt that if he was going to take a risk on being a writer, now was the time.

QUOTES:

On pen names: “There are some crazies out there!”

“Spend a few days, maybe a week, working on your outline”

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Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Julius SEpisode # 40 – How to Write (a lot) More with Matt Ahlschlager
  • Alexis Ayres

    Oh my God! I saw this on kboards as he was doing it. Can’t wait to listen.

    • SimonRSP

      Haha, it was a crazy challenge! I hope you enjoy the episode 🙂

  • An awe-inspiring interview. Off to delve into the downloads. Thanks Simon for another great show.

    • SimonRSP

      You’re most welcome Helen, thank you for listening 🙂

    • Mat Morris

      Glad you found this useful! 🙂

  • Mat Morris

    Thanks for giving me this opportunity, Simon. I’ve added download links to the manuscript on my site, too. 🙂 Now I’m off to listen to the interview and cringe at the sound of my own voice 🙂

    • Michael Coorlim

      Great interview, Mat. I’m always interested in productivity tweaks that I can use to streamline optimize my workflow.

      • Mat Morris

        Loved your interview also Michael. Got quite a bit out of it.

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks, ah! Mat with a single ‘t’! Didn’t realize (despite it being on your site, on your username here, on your manuscript, on your book cover…).

      Anyway, it was great to have you on the show, and thanks for sharing the fast drafting PDF and your manuscript :).

      • Mat Morris

        You spelled it right :). The pseudonym is with a single ‘t’, my actual name isn’t. I try to make things as confusing as possible. 🙂

        • SimonRSP

          You have a tendency to ;). Cheers.

  • Mgon ♥

    Great stuff – informative and entertaining. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Thanks for sharing! 😀

    • SimonRSP

      Absolutely, glad you enjoyed the interview.

  • Harry A. Manners

    What a challenge!
    Can’t say I’d recommend punching out that many words in a single day, but props for managing it, nonetheless.
    Thanks for the podcast, Simon. Always worth tuning in.

    • SimonRSP

      Sure thing! As you say a great challenge, but not something for everyone, and certainly not regularly! 😉

  • Philip Harris

    Wow. Can’t wait to listen to this one. 🙂

    • SimonRSP

      Hope you enjoyed it Philip 🙂

      • Philip Harris

        Another great interview. I listened to it today on my long run – really helped with the hill climbs 🙂

        • SimonRSP

          Rock on!

  • Hedonist Six

    This was an amazing interview, I think I’ll be coming back to it again and again to try and learn as much as I can to get faster. BTW, I didn’t need to know about typeracer, it immediately spoke to my competitive streak and I started wasting work time doing races 😛 The thing I struggle with the most while writing is trying to get into the right headspace for certain, shall we say intimate, scenes. I try to get emotion into the writing there more than anything and am convinced if I wrote it mindlessly, it would just be cold, mechanical and boring (perhaps I’m kidding myself). Almost every single manuscript goes like this: buildup of the story/relationship fully written, important plot points written, ending finished, with the obligatory or dotted around the document for whenever “inspiration” does strike. But there’s plenty of scope to try and speed up the rest of the scenes at least. 😀

    • SimonRSP

      Yep… I might have also wasted a good half hour on typeracer while editing this episode ;).

      While not based on writing experience, I have found that my production of anything when I feel “not in the zone” is not nearly as crappy as I think (although sometimes it really is). 😉

      I like your tags used for coming back to bits to write later – rather than just waiting for inspiration to strike to write anything more :).

  • disqus_IEdgLGcTVF

    That was sure inspiring! Being in the flow and not stopping. I have found the more you write the faster you get because you know what you’re doing—it seems to look realistic to have at least three long novels out in a year. I did that in 14 months—-Hey! I just realized that.
    Four books a year starts to look feasible! That’s one every three months or at least having that many in rotation.
    Fabulous as always Simon!
    I wonder what works of fiction you have hiding away in a drawer….
    Alyne de Winetr

    • SimonRSP

      I loved what Matt said about when you sit down to put full time hours into writing and treating it the same way as you would a nine-to-five, you can get an insane amount written. Similar to what Michael Coorlim said a couple of weeks back, another writer who is putting full time hours (and beyond) into writing. From 40+ interviews now I’d be happy to state that there is a serious correlation between success and time spent in front of the keyboard – whether you do 2 hours a day for 10 years, or 10 hours a day for 2. Very interesting indeed, and a bit related to the 10,000 hours idea (http://amzn.to/1hl8LPs)

  • R.M. Prioleau

    This was an absolutely amazing interview. I’m amazed at Mat’s diligence and ability to write so many words in a day. I definitely want to do something like that one of these days, if I ever get that much free time in a day to do it! 🙂

    I never did like using Write or Die, but I can see where it does have its merits. It’s just really hard for me to concentrate when I’m being pressured like that into writing (I know there are different settings you can use in that program). I just like to let my mind go its own pace. I think what works best for me is to set a certain wordcount goal per hour, or doing Word Sprints like they do during NaNoWriMo.

    Good luck in your writing endeavors, Mat!

    • SimonRSP

      Hey RM. Interesting point on “Write or Die,” I think everyone works in different ways and what works for one person won’t work for someone else. I myself most often come across this with more general “productivity hacks” – I’ll read a blog post, or talk to a friend, who’ll be telling me all about this amazing tool that allowed him to finish project XYZ or get X number of words done in a single day. Great for him, but that doesn’t mean it’ll mesh with my way of doing things.

      Whether it’s Write or Die, word sprints, or hourly targets, everyone has their own way of getting the words out. I enjoy experimenting with the different options and then settling on my favorites 🙂

  • I just finished listening to this interview. Wow … so cool.

    One of the things I found most helpful was Mat’s way of outlining. I love his bird’s-eye view to the details approach. Recently, I spent a week outlining a novel (now 30K into it!) and one of the lessons I learned doing so was that I couldn’t outline scenes until I had a goal in mind. When I finally realized I needed the big picture before I could pencil in the details, the outlining process went a lot better.

    So it was nice to hear Mat’s thoughts on it, since they pretty much match my experience, which of course will help me (hopefully) outline the next novel.

    • SimonRSP

      Excellent Jeff, glad to hear that it has been helpful 🙂

  • I was recently introduced to your podcast by a friend. Your podcast is now one of my favorites.

    This interview has been very useful. It was absolutely inspiring to hear that it is humanly possible to write 50,000 words in a day. I’m going to give this a go in either July or November.

    Also, Write or Die has now become the primary application that I write in. It makes it feel like a game and allows me to shut off that inner critic who questions every single word I put on the page.

    Thank you Simon and thank you Matt.

    • SimonRSP

      Thank you! Really glad that you are enjoying the show :). I just read your comment on Elle Casey’s episode about writing a book in a month, I’m really glad that these “insane production” episodes are proving inspiring.

      The idea of games and gamification as a way to increase productivity is fascinating to me. I’ve just been trawling my podcast archive to try and find an episode of another show talking about this whole issue, and how powerful it is in increasing motivation. Setting little goals with little rewards, making it just challenging enough for us to want to work on the next thing without being totally overwhelmed. A super interesting concept. I just wish I could find the damn episode!

    • Mat Morris

      Erik, are you planning on doing 50K/day for July’s Camp Nano? If you are, I’d love to hear about it beforehand so I can cheer you on!

      Above everything else, Write or Die is the single tool that made this whole thing possible for me. Sometimes I hesitate to turn it on because I don’t quite know enough about a scene, or I don’t know where to begin it, don’t see it clearly laid out in my head, etc. Invariably I find that once I press the “Write” button and my fingers start moving, all of those issues and hesitations melt away. I start pounding out some serious word counts provided I keep it going. Like many things in life, the hardest part is getting started. Once you do, it’s all about keeping the momentum and not letting things distract you (“SQUIRREL!”).

      Best of luck, can’t wait to hear about your progress. Let me know if you have any questions or anything of that nature.

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  • mac20q

    I use DragonDictate every day and it is brilliant. I reckon I can type about 3 times faster with dictation. The words have to be edited anyway if I was typing and I have fewer mistakes when I dictate. Well worth taking the time learning to use it and training the DragonDicatate vocabulary.

    • SimonRSP

      I’ve used Dragon as well in the past, nice piece of software, been meaning to get back into it. The only drag was that I love working from coffee shops, and they might frown on that sort of thing. “Listen to me!” 😉 Perhaps I’ll just have to switch to Dvorak.

      • I started at the beginning of your podcast only a month ago. I am about half way to being caught up. It will be terrible when I have to wait a week for the next episode.

        Dictation is a public place doesn’t work out too well.

        I’d be tempted by the Dvorak too.

        I’ve seen a keyboard called Textblade to use with my iPhone and iPad. It can be set to use Dvorak too.

        • SimonRSP

          Ha, glad you are enjoying the podcast Wizardgold! While Dvorak is clearly a superior layout, the time commitment of learning to type again is super off-putting….