Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Tortoise and the Hare

I’m a slow writer. I admit it. If I turn out a book, or even a novella, in a year’s time, I consider that prolific. Civilizations crumble before I get 5000 words written. I average a page an hour on a good day. The other six days a week I might write a paragraph. You get the idea.

Part of my problem is a major aversion to work. Let’s face it, writing is hard. Sweating blood in front of a notebook or computer screen for hours on end is no picnic. There are so many other things I could be doing – grocery shopping, housework, laundry, mowing the lawn. Then there’s cable TV, God’s gift to lazy writers. Wow, I’ve only seen this movie 20 times. Better watch it again.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the fast writers, the ones who can seemingly toss out a full-length novel in an afternoon with no apparent hardship. I look at you in envy, especially those of you with full-time jobs. How do you do it? Where do you find the discipline? Who’s doing your laundry?

Frankly, I don’t believe there’s a difference in quality between a book that burst onto the page like lava out of Vesuvius and a book that had to be excavated like a T. Rex fossil from stone. The real book emerges in the draft-and-polish stage anyway. Lots of times I’ve had better ideas hit while I was screwing off and allowing the pages to sit, making me glad I took my time. On the other hand, I do wish I had the discipline to sit myself down and dig out that T. Rex for more than two hours a day. One book a year is fine for the big names at the print publishers, but today’s e-world favors the speedy.

I’d like to hear from you hares out there. How long does it take you, on average, to finish a book? Do you outline first? Do you have your story figured out before you start writing, or do you just go for it? (That may be part of my problem. As a pantser, half the time I have no idea where the story’s headed. That tends to slow you down.) Do you take your time in the editing stage, or is the first draft close to the finished version? In short, I’m looking for some tips to speed me up. Slow and steady may win the race, but it doesn’t get too many books written.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pat. In Steven King's The Stand, a man-made virus called the shifting-antigen flu decimates the human population worldwide by changing its nature each time the body comes close to beating it. I do shifting antigen writing. Each time my interest wanes or temporarily dries up, I go to the 5 other books simmering concurrently in my head and pick another one to work on. Any given day might see me crafting a scene in one or more books at once. Eventually, the thread for one will come back and I'll narrow my focus and churn it out like no body's business.

Serena Shay said...

Ah Pat, my fine fellow tortoise...I'd love to hear from all the hares out there as well! There must be a secret that we've missed out on hearing. LOL

I hope there is anyway, or the many, many characters pleading with me for escape may have a very long wait! ~wink~

Savanna Kougar said...

Pat, I keep telling myself to have bionic fingers. Even though, I do sweat blood while writing at times... at other times I fly, still, I'm still too slow for today's market.

I'm trying out a new strategy, similar to what Calliope is saying. Although, her strategy was my prior strategy, but I ended up not getting one mss done fast enough, and there's a point where I have to bear down and concentrate only on that one story. Yeah, my stories are complex, and the world building has to be consistent.

Crafting, fine-tuning is admittedly slowing me down a lot.

Being a pantser can slow you down because you end up writing yourself into a corner, and the heroines and heroes aren't always talking... or I, their author, is not listening well enough. Or the plot disappears down the blackhole.

However, if my current strategy is more successful, I'll let you know.

Plus, I think short stories and novellas are in demand. Of course, deciding where to put your writing energies can be a huge problem.

Bottom line: ARGHHHHH!

Pat C. said...

So that's the secret, eh? Work on several projects at once. Then half a dozen wrap up at the same time and you look like you're a speedster. That'd work for me if my brain didn't insist I finish one before I commit to another. This is yet another bad habit I'm trying to break so I can speed up my output. That and all the fine, time-eating shows on cable.

Dang, now I want to read THE STAND again. Or IT. IT rocked the house.