I once thought I was a fast writer. That is until I met Jen Hayley and Shana Silver and about half a dozen other authors who put my daily wordcount to shame. Maybe I actually was a faster writer at one point. I think that’s a distinct possibility. Actually, I’ve been contemplating this some and I believe that once I learned how much faster some of these other authors churned out words I started to think of myself as a slow writer. Maybe it was self-actualization or a self-fulfilling prophesy–whatever self-help books are calling it these days–but I think my writing speed did, in fact, slow down. And by that I mean it straight up congealed.
Now, I know a lot of really awesome “slow” authors, too. There are a lot of positive adjectives that you could place on writers who produce at a more…ummm…measured pace. Meticulous. Painstaking. Careful. Fussy? And I have no doubt that many of these apply. I mean, I’ve seen some of these people’s prose and it is..well…meticulous and carefully wrought. So yeah, often I’m tempted to follow in the Orson Scott Card train of thought: slow down, get it right in the first draft.
But, with writing slowly comes the sometimes all-too-frequent desire to bash one’s head through a wall–or a desk– whichever is more convenient. Slow doesn’t feel like progress. Slow is not knowing where I’m going or not being happy with what’s on the page. Slow is often more procrastinating, less writing. More concern over the final product than focus on the present scene at hand. So what I’m trying to say is that there is certainly a place for fast.
Especially when deadlines start to roll around and real life demands a greater portion of your time than writing life. Slow just sometimes isn’t a great option for writers who hope to actually make a living. That’s what I’ve been working on. Figuring out some ways to produce more and write more efficiently with my time. Here is a very incomplete list of methods I’ve been toying around with:
1. Writing without word count. Lately I’ve been writing a bit in google docs where it doesn’t automatically count the words on the bottom of the screen. I can get really hung up on word count and it can take me out of the story, thus making me less productive. It’s been kind of freeing. You can still check your word count through the tools, but you aren’t watching the words tick up or down. Sort of nice.
2. Talking through it. It might be just me, but I find dialogue both easy and fun to write. Especially with my MC who is a pistol. So, for me that’s been an easy way to get a scene going. I write the entire scene in dialogue. I’ll do this through a few scenes. I get a lot done this way, but the real benefit is that in my next writing session I’ll fill in those scenes. So, I’m not stalling at the beginning of my writing session. I’ve had some time to let my sub-conscious mull over the action that should accompany. I’ve already pictured the whole thing once in my head and I have the dialogue as underpinnings. Add the actions, the scene setting, the reactions, the inner monologue and voila–words!
3. Writing out of order. I have mixed feelings about this one because I’ve gotten really mixed up by doing this in the past. But there are times when I feel it’s a pretty good idea. I mean why sit there and stare at a blank screen when you could get a chapter done in which you know what happens. Also, the sheer act of writing can often unclog your brain enough to get the ideas freely flowing once again. Plus, always good practice. I don’t know; jury is still out on this.
4. Outline. Although it pains me to say it I would guess that authors that outline *generally* get through drafts more quickly than authors that don’t. Of couse, there is some tradeoff given the fact that it took time to outline, but still. I absolutely do not have this one down, but whe I’m stuck or don’t feel like writing, I realize it is probably a good use of my “writing time” to jot down a few thoughts for next writing session. This sometimes kills my soul.
5. Write or Die. I know a bunch of fellow writers that love this program. You basically tell the website how many words you want to write in how long. Then you say how long it’s okay for you to “rest.” The program proceeds to yell at you if you fail. This stresses me out and given my stomach is already eating itself from the inside out I typically pass. But whatever works for you.
6. I do however try to use WriteChain some. It’s an iPhone app of the more mellow variety. You have to write a certain amount of words a day. You put it into your log. You say how many days you can skip (usually zero) without breaking the chain, then it will keep track of how many links you have. Very good if you are trying to Stephen-King-it. Simple, but I like it.
7. Write words that are bad. Maybe even really, really bad. It’s amazing the magic that can happen between first writing and a later reading. But even if, for some reason, your words don’t magically sound better the second time around, at least you have something on the page. At least you made progress and you can fix it. I promise.
Okay, so what about y’all? Any idea on how to write faster?