I’m not a fast writer.
Not that I can’t put down words on the page at a high rate of speed. But that entire process, from the first glimmer of an idea to the moment I can sit back with the knowledge that… Ahh, it’s done.
No, that part takes forever.
Well, not “forever” obviously, or I would never have finished any story I’d ever started. But being a writer (author, storyteller, someone with a complex who enjoys creating worlds and characters and telling them what to do) means that I’m surrounded by other writers (authors, storytellers, etc.) who work at a pace that might not match my own. This is not always good, because then chances for comparison begin.
Some people can write quickly, can finish a first draft, revise it, proofread it, send it off to editors who get it back to them just as quickly, and then boast about how they have a finished novel/short story/work of literary genius on their hands in only a few months. For the record, I am irritated by those people. I’m sorry, that’s probably not the reaction I’m supposed to have. I should most likely feel congratulatory and so pleased that someone else can work at such a fast pace and blah blah blah well aren’t you so special why don’t you go buy yourself a cake or something.
I can’t write like that. I’ve tried, and I can’t. Now, keep in mind that this is not me boasting about how my work is SO SPECIAL that it takes YEARS for the complexity of my ideas to find a proper way to be conveyed outside the VORTEX OF AWESOMENESS that is my brain. No, that’s not it at all. I just suck at writing long stories at a steady pace, at not tossing them into a drawer when I hit a roadblock, and not letting them completely fall apart round and about Chapter Fourteen, only be shoved back into that drawer and dragged out again eight months later.
Last year, I finished two novels. The first one I started working on about seven or eight years ago (possibly longer if the birth of my children hasn’t completely wrecked my ability to recognize time as a concept). Again, this is not a boast. What it means is that I had no idea how to get this story down on the page, that when I did, I wasn’t happy with it, and that I also rewrote the ending several times until all the bits and pieces finally clicked into place.
Also, that seven or eight years? Yeah, I don’t even want to think about how much of that time was spent with this particular novel sitting on my computer for weeks or months at a time, waiting for me to open up the file and give it a fraction of attention.
The other novel I finished last year goes down in the books (See, “books”? Get it? “Books” because we’re talking about… *ahem*… anyway…) as the fastest-written story I’ve ever produced. I started it in November, 2013. It took me thirteen months to finish it, and it was only 52,000 words long.
Oh, and it’s still going through the whole “editing and proofreading” phase now, so if you want to get technical, then… no, it’s not really finished at all.
Of course, here’s the problem: With self and indie publishing growing at such a rapid pace, the ideas of slush piles and querying for agents are no longer the only options writers have to consider. This change has also produced a push for writers to put out as much work as they can, as fast as they can, in order to build an audience and start making money. And don’t forget all of the advice and motivational pep talks that come with that, so a budding author can soon become inundated with all of the cat posters and cherry-picked quotes swirling around their head (most of them with messages like, “WRITE! WRITE FAST! WRITE A SERIES! WHY AREN’T YOU WRITING? DON’T YOU KNOW A UNICORN KICKS A KITTEN EVERY TIME YOU DON’T WRITE???”)
This makes it easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you’re failure if you’re not producing content super-duper quickly. I fell into this trap. I might still be in there, actually, contemplating whether or not I can escape from it by hacking at my captured leg with a dull spoon. But as I write (almost every day, you know, so the kittens are safe… for now) I have to remind myself that I cannot rush. I can’t. Sure, other people can. And bully for them. But my mind doesn’t work that way. It never has, not even before I was juggling work and children and homeschooling and marriage, and most definitely not now.
So to all of you authors I know who can produce story after story and have them completed and ready to be thrust out into the world in a short amount of time, I tip my hat to you.
I may also want to beat you over the head with said hat, but that’s my own issue. Just ignore me, while I plod slowly along, one word after the other.