Slow As Molasses

My sister loves the movie Romancing the Stone. In the beginning, the villain asks if the girl he’s followed wants to die fast or slow as molasses. That line’s always stuck with me. Maybe for a reason. My writing seems to be “slow as molasses.”

When I say that, people disagree. “You’re already up to the last fourth of your book,” they say. Yes, I am. But it takes FOREVER to get there. And I only make the progress I do because I’m retired and try to write every weekday. I start with doing rewrites of the previous day’s work. And sometimes, that takes me right up until it’s time to stop for lunch. Why? Because I try to ADD details to the scene I wrote yesterday AND I work to polish it. I can spend a couple of hours reworking a scene, adding something, then tightening it, then changing word choices. I fuss over the pages until I’m sick of them and move on.

Usually, after lunch, I start working on NEW words. And I’m slow at that, too. I know people who come up with huge word counts in one day. I’m not one of them. If I finish 7 new pages a day, I’m happy with myself. That’s a little over 1600 words a day. For a manuscript, I aim for 70,000. If everything goes well, that’s 44 days of writing. Except that I don’t write on weekends. And I don’t write on Writers’ Club Day, and who knows how many other things that interfere? IF I was lucky, and my brain didn’t freeze up, I could finish a rough draft–in theory–in 2 months. But it never happens. Life isn’t that cooperative. And when I finish a manuscript, then I give it to my critique partners and wait for them to read it. Then I have to fix what they find. So, if everything works out PERFECTLY, I might have a book done in three months. But does your life ever run perfectly? Mine doesn’t. So, if I’m LUCKY, I can finish a book in four months. That’s my best scenario. And I’m hoping for that with The (Steaks) Stakes Are High.

Who knows? My horoscope says my planets are starting to look less grouchy. I hope so. I’m ready for some happy vibes for a while. But I learned long ago, you get what you get and try to make the best of it. I’m crossing my fingers and hitting the keys. (I know. A little tricky). And I hope to make serious progress this month. Hope you can, too!

Happy writing!

A Chapter a Day Keeps Panic Away

I’ve started writing THE BODY IN THE TRENCH, my seventh Jazzi and Ansel cozy. I had plot points–one for every chapter–so I knew how the story flowed in my head. So what did I do? I moved things around as soon as I reached chapter 2. I thought it would make the pace faster. Moving plot points and changing my mind doesn’t bother me at all. It’s like cooking. If I have all of the ingredients and a recipe I trust, I can tinker with it all I want, as long as I write a chapter a day most week days.

A chapter a day–most days–gives me enough progress to keep me motivated. Some take longer than others. There are those nice, happy scenes where the words flow and the ideas stream onto the page. On those days, I can quit early or sneak in another chapter. Then there are scenes that fight me every other sentence. The dialogue feels stilted. The descriptions make me yawn. If I squint, I see word repetitions sprinkled in every other paragraph. Doesn’t matter. I pound out the chapter anyway. When I go back to it the next day, I can make it better.

Some scenes are just plain tricky to deal with. Too many characters doing too many different things and yapping at each other. Or two or three scenes in the same chapter. I sit at my computer longer on days like that. Even the rewrites take more time. But good and bad days even out eventually, and if I just keep pounding keys, the book keeps growing.

I’m slow and methodical, but that works for me. I’m more of a perspiration than inspiration type writer. I like having deadlines, but I don’t like having to worry if I’ll meet them. I don’t write as well when I’m stressed. I’m like the tortoise, not built for speed. When I feel scrunched, I’m stressed. Arrgh! I have to force myself not to write shorter chapters to move the book along. Sure, I’d get to the end faster, but my word count would be pitiful.

What about you? Do you like deadlines? Do you write better under pressure? I know some people do. Or does pressure mess with you? Are you a marathon writer or a sprinter?

However you work best, I hope the words flow. And happy writing!