I’ve been thinking recently about my writing speed and what it means for 1) the quality of my writing and 2) my writing career as a whole. These have been sort of random thoughts shaking around on my head as I work through the first draft of my new novel, but a comment from William Powell on Facebook about daily writing quotas inspired me to sit down and work this all out in writing here.
The crux of William’s question was whether authors stick to their daily quota through the planning and editing phases as well as the drafting phase. For me, I don’t usually have a planning phase; I just tend to jump in and see what happens. So far it’s worked well enough for my current series and I’m not looking to change it, but for the next book I want to write there will be a more in-depth planning phase so we’ll see how it changes for that book.
But sticking to my current book and my previous books, my process has been some variation of jumping into the book with no planning and seeing what happens. I usually stick to my 1,000 words a day goal for a few weeks until I get stuck and my mind wanders and I overthink everything and then I tend to work very slowly for a while before panicking and then writing a bunch in a blinding heat that, for the most part, tends to be really good stuff. With Murder Boy and Riot Load both, the first half was writing slowly over an infuriating long period of time with the second half being written relatively quickly over a short period of time. I thought the ending of Murder Boy was great, and a recent comment from a friend about the twists in the second half and the ending of Riot Load and how good they were made me realize this is more than just my own observance.
The big question, of course, is what I can learn from this? I’ve always written better under pressure and under tight deadlines from my time in school to my brief journalism career. I always it was something as simple as just being forced into overcoming my natural bent toward extreme procrastination, but I think there might be more to it. When I’m writing slowly, I mention I tent to overthink things too much. Not just the plot, but my career and my legacy and how the current work plays into it. When I’m writing fast, that tendency gets squashed and I write more by instinct and with ample help from my subconscious. This is why I like to tell people my books are informed not just by other books but by every movie, TV show, art piece, conversation, memory, and visual cue I’ve been exposed to. These all form the base of my subconscious and when speed and time force me into relying on this pool of knowledge I benefit from the collective inspiration rather than picking and choosing what I’m inspired by during my slower writing phases.
So is the solution really that obvious? Do I just need to write faster and think less? For my current book, I think the answer is yes. The series and the characters will benefit most from this style. But what about the next book? If I’m writing something more layered and complex will this work as well? I think it will, but I think the key is to make sure that pool of knowledge is fully stocked. I need to read more widely and red more non-fiction. My own reading has been stagnant lately and I think this is reflected in my slower writing lately.