Writing: Fast and Furious

I can’t write fast.  I know some people do, and they’re good at it.  Not me.  The reason I’m thinking about this is because some of my friends are gearing up for Nano writing in November–50,000 words in 30 days.  It’s so tempting!  Live, eat, and breathe word count.  But I’ve tried it before, and it wasn’t pretty.

When I put my first novel, Fallen Angels, online, I wanted to have a follow-up, in case readers liked it and wanted a series.  I typed my little fingers thin for two months until I had a second novel.  And then I gave it to my true, blue friends and beta readers, and the consensus was pretty much the same.  What the heck did you do?

What?  In my mind, the second novel was brilliant.  It had everything–battles, romance, drama, and angst.  Thankfully, for me, my friends are brutally honest.  “We don’t care.  We got tired of the battles.  The romance didn’t grab us, and your writing wasn’t its best.”  I went back and rewrote, pitched some things, polished others.  It was better, but nothing to brag about.  By now, even I could see that.  When you first give birth to your masterpiece, all you feel is the afterglow.  Give it a minute, and it spits up with cholic and keeps you awake at night.  Then reality sets in.  This novel might be too flawed to fix.

And that’s my problem with speed writing.  I tend be the tortoise, not the hare.  My brain doesn’t work fast.  I’ll never win a debate.  I think of the perfect answer a few days after the discussion.  So for me, the plodding method works better.  I write a scene.  The next day, I rewrite that scene and write the next one.  The day after that, I rewrite the new scene and pound out another one.  I rewrite as I go.  And hopefully, after a few tries, I have all the right ingredients.   The first draft is always the plot, getting what happens right.  The next time, I might add description, some internal dialogue, more characterization.  I’m not capable of getting it all in there at one time.  I’m a bare bone writer, and it takes rewrites to flesh scenes out.

Believe me when I tell you that I know the  plot points for every novel I write.  But even when I know what I’m aiming for–the twist at the end of the first fourth, the new twist at the middle, and the final tweak at the three-fourths mark, I still write from one point to the next, and any subtleties come later.  I used to wish I could get it all right the first time.  Now, I’m grateful if the thing just comes together.  But it doesn’t for me if I rush it.  My brain gets tired.  I settle for ideas that aren’t as strong as I’d like.  I get bogged down and I don’t add the details I usually would.

I’m not trying to talk anyone out of pounding out pages.  But be aware of how you work best.  And adjust for that.  I can tell when an author I love has to rush to meet a deadline.  The writing isn’t as good.  Sometimes slow and steady does win the race.  If you pump out pages, give yourself extra time to do rewrites.  Ideas need to incubate.  So do novels.  Pop their corks and let them breathe before you taste them.  And go from there.

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11 thoughts on “Writing: Fast and Furious

  1. This was very interesting. I’m a slow writer myself, but not the productive kind like you. For one, I don’t type with all my fingers which slows me down in general, but I also edit while I work. My inner-editor (a snobby British fellow with a grammar book and a walrus mustache) runs on a 24-hour shift.

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  2. That seems almost surreal…50 000 words in a month…I find it faulty indeed, it cannot be but a lost cause…and wasted time and effort. I was curious what your pace was…how long does it take you to write 50 000 words…with no pressure at all?

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    1. Short stuff takes me longer to write, per page, than long stuff, so the novellas I’m working on are slower progress than novels. Short is harder. Each word and paragraph has to work really hard. For novels, I usually write 5 to 10 pages a day, according to how tricky the scene is. I don’t write on weekends, so I’d get about 30 pages done a week, but I lose days here and there, so I’d say 2 months for a first draft. But that’s just a first draft. Then I give it to readers, get their bloody pages back, and start on rewrites. All in all, it usually takes about 4 months to get something decent.And then my agent tells me what she wants fixed.And I rewrite more.

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  3. Too funny that I just read an exact opposite post by a fellow blogger! Loved seeing the two sides of this nano-thing (I still don’t know how to pronounce it). I find both sides compelling – one, to let the creative spirit soar, tuck away the inner-editor and just write for the shear joy of writing, and yours, to honor your style, let the words flow without compressing it into a month or limiting by word count. I guess it just depends on what works for you and even what space you find yourself in…

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  4. Nanowriting works for my friends. It just doesn’t work for me. Every writer has to find their own way, what’s right for them. One of my good writing friends is a seat of the pants writer. I have to have some plot points or I don’t hit all of the small stuff I want to. It’s all personal.

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