How to Enhance Your Writing in Ten Minutes

Write as Much as You Can as Fast as You Can

You've got a novel inside you burning a hole in you, trying to work its way out, but you're unsure if you can actually complete it? Don't worry about it. It's easy (says Rob Parnell, of Easy Way to Write Fame). All you have to do is step back and let your subconscious do it for you.

At the end of November 2011, Rob Parnell announced that he was going to be shutting down his website by the end of the year. But he offered 31 special deals to his email subscribers every day during the month of December. One of these deals was The Easy Way to Write a Novel ebook for "only" $11. It was a deal I couldn't pass up.

I've always been a sucker for easy novel-writing techniques. I've only ever written one novel, and I used Chris Baty's techniques from No Plot? No Problem! for that one. It turns out that Parnell's advice isn't all that different from Baty's (after all, how many ways could there possibly be to get a novel written in 30 days?), although he did concentrate more on connecting with the subconscious mind.

He also mentioned a fascinating technique he read about in Joe Vitale's Hypnotic Writing. Turn off your computer's screen before you start writing, and you won't be able to go back and edit while you write. You see, that is apparently what kills the momentum for any writer. If you're going to write quickly, you MUST be able to turn off that inner editor. And turning off your computer screen, I suppose, is one very good (very scary, if you ask me) way to do that.

Rob Parnell offers another way. Just come up with an idea and sit down and start typing.

Don't have an idea? That's okay. Parnell takes care of that in his little book. Here's the exercise he offers his readers, along with some (slight) changes that I made.

The Original Trigger Words

  • Accident
  • Car
  • Girlfriend
  • Rain
  • Tree

The Exercise

The situation: You're in a hospital bed and have just woken up. A police officer is standing over you, and he wants you to tell him how you got there.

[Note: You could also pick another situation for this same exercise - anything you can think of. Just try not to think about it too much. The goal, after all, is to actually start writing]

Your job now is to come up with five trigger words, but you don't even really have to do that. Parnell's already done it for you: accident, car, tree, girlfriend, rain.

Now, go! Write for 10 minutes solid. Don't stop to reread what you've written. Don't stop to go to the bathroom or get something to drink. Block out all distractions for those 10 minutes and keep writing - even if it doesn't make sense. Just write whatever comes to your mind. You might be surprised by just how good it turns out.

Your 10-Minute Word Goal

Ideally, at the end of ten minutes, you want to have between 200-500 words in front of you. If you're able to do this, Parnell says, you've definitely got what it takes to write fast enough to complete a whole novel in 30 days!

Here's What I Came Up With in Ten Minutes

“Tell me about the accident,” the uniformed officer ordered as I blinked up at him in surprise.

“The what?” I asked

I tried to move my arms to push myself up into a seated position, but they were connected to long, plastic IV tubes that I was just now starting to notice. I was in a hospital and had no idea how, or when, I had gotten there.

“You wrapped your car around a tree,” the officer told me. “What happened? You weren’t drinking, were you? The tox screen came up negative.”

I shook my head, partly as a negative response to his question, partly to wake myself up a bit more.

“No. I wasn’t drinking. I don’t drink.” Not since that New Year’s Eve party in 1999, anyway, I thought. I hoped I didn’t say the comment out loud, although I had to wonder, the way the cop was looking at me.

He didn’t say anything then—just looked at me expectantly. I knew he was expecting me to come up with some response. I just didn’t have any idea what that response was going to be. I closed my eyes for a moment to try to concentrate on the events that had apparently so recently taken place. I could still feel the cop’s eyes on me, though, and suddenly that became all I could think about. Until …

“The girl!” I exclaimed as I sat up straight in bed, pushing one of the IV tubes out of my way.

“What girl?” the officer asked, obviously surprised by my outburst. “The paramedics said you were alone when they picked you up.

“No. Of course I was alone. The girl was in the middle of the road.”

The officer stared at me blankly. I knew he was thinking I must be delusional. I raised my hand to my head and felt a bandage wrapped around the circumference of my skull. Of course I sustained a head injury; therefore, I must be delusional. At least, I was sure that was what he was thinking.

But I could see that little girl’s face so clearly in my mind. Her tiny pink lips pushed out in a pout. Those piercing blue eyes. Here blonde hair falling down in strings around her face, pelted down by the rain and hail.

My (Slightly Different) Five Little Words

  • Accident
  • Car
  • Girl
  • Rain
  • Tree


The Problem I Had With This Exercise

So, in just about ten minutes (give or take a few seconds), I wrote just under 380 words. If you do the math, you figure that this means I can write a whopping 2280 words per hour if I turn off my inner editor.

The only problem? My inner editor won't let me shut it off! At least, it wouldn't let me shut it off when I was trying out this exercise. I reread and revised several times throughout the ten minutes. I tried to only skim and not look too hard for things to change (and I left the two "expect" words right next to each other in the final product, just to prove to myself that I could let a bit of my own bad writing go for the sake of getting it done). This, however, did rankle my inner editor, and I think the argument we had with each other cost some major writing time, as well.

In the beginning stages, my inner editor changed Rob Parnell's original word suggestions because it thought something else might work better for me. I changed "girlfriend" to "girl" just because I thought it might make the story more interesting. Not that this really made much of a difference in completing the exercise itself. If anything, it made it a bit easier for me, and there wasn't anything in the ebook that said you absolutely had to use the words he gave you. They were just examples.

Still, it just goes to show how difficult it is for some writers (or maybe just me?) to turn off their inner editors. Perhaps this is a skill that can be acquired with time. I've only ever completed one whole novel (although I do hope to complete many more in my lifetime. Time will tell...), and I don't think I was entirely successful in turning off my inner editor for that whole crazy NaNoWriMo extravaganza.

If you're the kind of writer who doesn't have a problem with saying no to your inner editor, then exercises like this should be a breeze, and they probably will help you churn out more full-length novels faster. Now, they may not be the best novels ever written, but at least they'll be complete, and there's always room for editing, anyway.

The idea, as Parnell says, is to just get the novel written. Finish it and satisfy your ego. Then you will know that you are able to get the job done and will be more likely to do it again in the future. And this, as any writer knows, is the key to success. You'll never gain (and keep) an audience if you don't continue to produce.

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Comments 8 comments

Jeri Sheppard 4 years ago

I find it's nearly impossible to completely "ditch" my inner editor, but it's amazing what writing as quickly as possible for brief spurts can do. (That's all that got me through NaNoWriMo, I think.) However, that said, I've also discovered that promising my inner editor all the editing freedom later can help me out. If I tell myself that it's okay to "make a mess" with the first draft, I find it's much easier to get it down on paper, mistakes and all. So long as I feel like there will, eventually, be a time to edit, I can write and do so in a horridly haphazard fashion.

Of course, I was not always able to do this... It was only halfway through NaNoWriMo that I learned to sort of trick myself like that. Exercises like this one can encourage the same kind of mania on a much smaller scale, though. You write as much and as quickly as possible for a given amount of time in hopes of generating content, no matter how bad that content is going to be. I always try to refrain from editing, telling myself that I can edit as soon as my fingers hit that last period and the timer has just finished buzzing.

Still, as many tricks as I play on myself, I can't really get rid of my inner editor. I think exercises like these just help keep it a little quieter for the most part.

[And as a quick tip for writers with laptops or computers with screens that, for one reason or another, cannot or should not be turned off: white background, white text. (I use WriteMonkey and customise the theme appropriately, but any proper word processor should be able to do this.) This technique forces you to write without being able to see what you're writing, and the colour scheme can be changed back to something readable when you're done.]


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Neat exercise and result. Like your change to "girl" very much. Thanks for sharing the info.


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 4 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Jeri: Thanks for that thoughtful response and for the tips. I wondered how I could turn the screen off on my laptop, then found I couldn't. That white screen and white font idea is an interesting one, though. I might gave that a try - IF I ever get brave enough. LOL. That would also keep my husband from reading over my shoulder while I'm writing. Hmmm... extra incentive! ;-)

Thank you, R. I haven't quite decided what - if anything - I'm going to do with it, but it certainly would make for an interesting start to a story. :-)


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois

Turning off the inner critic is the hardest part. If you can get past that (which I can't always) then that's half the battle. I'm trying something new this year and that is to use a kitchen timer to force myself to write faster. Hopefully that will keep the inner editor at bay for a bit while I write.


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 4 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Hi, Danette. I'm still trying to practice turning off the inner editor. They say "practice makes perfect," right? We'll see.

Good luck with the kitchen timer thing. I guess it's something similar to this, right? You give yourself a set period of time, tell your inner editor to take a little nap, and crank out all the words you can in short bursts. Sounds good to me.

I'm currently trying the white text/white background thing, and it is driving me nuts! I highlighted all the words in black so that I could still see them, which pretty much defeats the whole purpose ... I'm hopeless!


ElleBee 4 years ago

I've done this exercise several times and it is definitely helpful! I often will use writing prompts from online (I like creativewritingprompts.com - partly b/c I can access it from my phone when I'm writing longhand). and then time myself to see how far I get in 10 minutes.


workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 4 years ago from Kentucky, USA Author

Hi, ElleBee. Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you found the exercise helpful! :-)


DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

DrBill-WmL-Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

Useful reminders, thanks! I completed four novels, working on my fifth and sixth. You words tell the story. Now I'm trying short stories. Thanks, again, for the great advice! ;-)

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