1. Dave Gregory
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    Dave Gregory Member

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    Does it matter that I write sooooo slooooowly?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Dave Gregory, Feb 17, 2013.

    Evening all - my first time here, hello!

    Now this is bothering me: I'm trying to write my first book - nothing clever or brilliant, I'm just a spare-time dabbler - but I've been at it 2 years and I'm only 66 pages in!

    Today, I had a good 9-hour run at it and I was pretty chuffed with what I'd got down, but looking back over it I've just realised it was t-w-o f-r-i-g-g-i-n' p-a-g-e-s.... For 9 hours' work!

    That's nothing compared to the year it's just taken me to write 4 pages, although admittedly that was a very tricky bit of alien bionic technology that I had to explain in convincing terms and through the eyes of a character, and it involved scrapping everything I'd written and starting over 3 times (I might post that bit in the forums soon and ask you to critique it to see if it works).

    But does all this mean I'm not a 'natural' writer? Should I try different approaches to make it all flow faster? Should I even consider knocking it on the head and taking up bagpipes instead?

    The thing that's bogging me down is the way I write. I feel like I ought to be getting the framework down quickly and fleshing it out later, but I can only write in a strictly linear fashion and can't move on until I've got the words down in the way I want - flowing off the tongue nicely, etc.

    The thing that's bad about this is that I like to write in a naturalistic style; I like it to read much like the way I speak, so surely I ought to be faster than this?

    How does everyone else feel on this? How do you all write, and does it take anyone else weeks to get three bloody lines written?
     
  2. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    Welcome to the forums!

    It sounds like you're a perfectionist, which will be a hindrance for any first draft. If I'd sat down for a 9-hour writing session (hah! That'll be the day), I'd probably have written upwards of 5,000 words, and I'm pretty slow. If you're trying to get every sentence absolutely perfect, you'll struggle. You probably should relax and try to just write one sentence, then another, then another. Then, after a couple of months, go back and edit what you've written. You'll find your productivity goes up an astonishing amount.

    Regarding the critique you mention, I'd advise you check out the rules of the site about when you may post for critique. It may seem like a pain in the arse, but believe me when I say you'll benefit from that approach. And if you have a critical eye, you'll probably find yourself well-suited to reviewing.
     
  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    If it works for you, where is the problem? If it doesn't work for you for whatever reason then try and change it.

    Really, the only one who can honestly answer that question is you.
     
  4. slamdunk
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    slamdunk Member

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    66 pages each 2 years means your averaging 33 pages a year, a 200 pages book would take you around 6 years in that speed (6 * 33 = 198 pages).

    Just to put this in perspective, imagine if JK rowling wrote her books in that speed? Here is a list I found of the number of pages in her books (then I divided that number with 33 to see how many years those books would take her to write at that speed):

    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - 223(pages) = at 33 pages a year this book would take her around 6,7 years
    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - 251 = 7,6 years
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - 317 = 9,6 years
    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - 636 = 19,2 years
    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - 766 = 23,2 years
    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - 607 = 18,4 years
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - 607 = 18,4 years

    To the question if it matters that you write slow or not. Its totally up to you, but if Rowling wrote at that speed we would still be waiting for most of her books to be produced (on the other hand spending more time perfecting maybe would have made the books even better).
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ow! Better than 500 words an hour is pretty darn fast! Even Stephen King only writes 1,000 to 2,000 words per day, and most people consider him very prolific. Hemingway used to write 500 - 700 words on a normal day.
     
  6. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    You're not slow, you're just getting bogged down in revision. Remember, revisions come LATER. You have to write it first.
     
  7. Hambone
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    Hambone Member

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    I agree with the advice given above, maybe you are being too picky for a first draft. You mentioned it took 2 years to write 66 pages, but you didn't mention how often you are working on that particular project. Once a week, once a month, once every 6 weeks? If you enjoy writing, then keep doing it. I notice the more frequent I work on a project, the faster it seems to flow. If I take a couple of weeks off, it takes me a bit to get going again.
     
  8. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    Makes me think at what speed does GRRM write as he already takes forever :D

    Read somewhere that Patrik Rothfuss sat down to write a short story he couldnt get out of his mind at the time, and after 10 hours he finished it and was a complete story with 1600 words

    And like everyone is saying sometimes you need to push yourself if you really want it and force it at the beginning to start later on it goes by itself ...
     
  9. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    I remember reading an article in the Glimmer Train bulletins, can't recall the author, but it was about losing sight of the whole picture, with the writer referring to himself as something like a (and this is my own interpretation) once upon a time sentence writer. By this he meant, he used to spend all his time focusing on single sentences, and for him, it made for horrible stories, because he lost sight of the big picture. So, he stopped focusing on individual sentences, and focused more on writing, revising later on, until he had the story clear and plot logical. After that, then, and only then, would he go through the individual sentences and strengthen them.

    But at that point, the piece is pretty much done. You're just adding water to flowers in bloom.
     
  10. Roxie
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    Roxie Active Member

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    My only advice to you is: write at your own speed, but write, put down the bones of the story. Later you can go back and add the flesh and meat and edit to your heart’s content. But for now just write and have fun doing it.
     
  11. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    If you're slow, then I am slower. I've been working on a story from an arc dating to 1979. Today I didn't even open up the story, I drank coffee, went to the gym, drank more coffee, napped, sharpened and now I'm drinking a latte' just to keep from falling into a rut...

    I believe writing is like lots of other zen things, from getting to know a woman, to polishing an edge or working on a recalcitrant muscle group. The 'success' is not found in the delineation of another's success, but only within your own.

    As an older guy, let me give you the magic bullet. Criticism really means little over the decades, it's just an indicator, not the welt of a branding iron. I make it a point to tell "no" to at least ten people per day. It's good practice, for both me and them.
     
  12. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I think much depends on what you want to achieve. If you only want to write one novel in your lifetime, then as long as you finish it before you pop your clogs you'll have achieved your aim. However, if you want to become a best-selling author, you're going to have to speed up 'just a tad'...

    As for me, I can write pretty fast when I'm 'in the zone', but all too often I fall out of said zone due to life throwing me curve-balls like recessions that are more like depressions leaving me with no work and therefore no money! When those happen I don't get anything done for years :(
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, it depends what you consider "matters". IMO, what matters is that you complete a work you are satisfied with, but if you are relying on writing to supplement your income, speed is clearly an issue. Jean Rhys produced just a couple of novellas and short stories in her youth, and then she was writing Wide Sargasso Sea for decades, pretty much all the rest of her adult life, and it wasn't published until she was about 75. It is a masterpiece.
     
  14. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    double post
     
  15. NellaFantasia
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    NellaFantasia Member

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    What do you mean by "pages"? Are you writing in a notebook? Typing on the computer? And how often do you write? If you write on a daily basis you're obviously going to experience faster results. It doesn't really matter that you write slow, so long as you get it done eventually, but if you're unhappy with your progress then you could consider trying different techniques. It's really up to you.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    NO!

    not at all... the only thing that matters, as mad notes so wisely, is that you eventually finish it... fyi, some of the most revered literary prize winners took years to complete their books... if they can write slowly and carefully, who's to say you can't?

    from transformational writers.com:
     
  17. mbm86
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    mbm86 New Member

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    I agree with much of what the previous posters have said - you have to write in a way that works for you, but the general consensus is that to write well, you need to a) write a lot, b) read a lot, and c) wait until you have a juicy draft before revision (in fact, if you find yourself re-writing 80% of it after revision, so be it!).

    Practise free writing. Perhaps dedicate 20 minutes a day to work with writing prompts (images, sentence starts, character descriptions, whatever). Write whatever spills from your brain for 20 minutes, and then go chill out and do something else!

    When it comes to projects you're working on, it's really up to you. Some writers take years and years to produce their work. Some writers churn it out like (*insert simile here*).

    What I do know, is that if you're seeking perfection straight up, you're going to torture yourself!

    Hope this helps,

    Meredith
     
  18. DayOwl
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    DayOwl New Member

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    I write slowly as well, mainly due to the fact that I never got a good grasp on typing skills, and I find it hard to leave something knowing it's not exactly right. My process has been teaching me to just forge forward and not look back until at least the whole scene of a chapter is complete. More often than not, something later on will reveal itself to me that will cause changes in what I've done anyways. As far as giving up and going for the bagpipes, only if you hate the time you spend writing. If you love your ideas and characters and write them into existence as you see them, someone else will love them too.

    As far as writing linear, that's how I started -and abandoned- my writing test run. If you use a computer, you may want to seek out a writing program online that helps you sort your scenes, chapters and characters. If your a pen and paper type, maybe you would benefit from an outline. Knowing my ideas are there and not going to run away has helped me ease into writing what's ready, and not what's next.
     
  19. Quetzalcoatl
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    Quetzalcoatl New Member

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    Procrastination and perfectionism seem to permeate the average writer's DNA, so you don't need to feel bogged down at all!

    I remember reading Neil Gaiman's blog once, and he wrote about how he had to force himself to type, because he was a natural procrastinator.

    It seems to me that the intellectual/creative individual is easily satisfied by developing a story in his head, and promising himself he will translate it to words another day. However, as a good friend of mine once told me, it is better to write something you feel is not good enough and modify it later, than to not write anything at all.

    I promise you, once you force yourself into the writing mood, things will flow by themselves. And like any other art, you need to invest time in a frequent manner.

    Hope I've been of help! :)
     
  20. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    On my first attempt at a novel, I suffered from perfectionism, and advanced oh - so - slowly because everything had to be perfect. I reworked things many, many times. After four-five months I'd only got 5000 words in three chapters. They were great chapters. Beautiful chapters. But I couldn't stop tinkering with them to move on.

    On my second, I forced myself to be disciplined about NOT caring too much about the quality. I just wanted to get the story down - THEN I could worry about the quality and make changes. I got the first draft of 74000 words done in a year. I did, however, spend about eight weeks developing characters, ideas and researching before I wrote a single word - so I guess that was really 74000 words in 14 months. (This, to put it in context, was fitted around a VERY full-time job (70-75 hours/week at the time) and family commitments).

    The second approach works better for me. It doesn't necessarily mean it will for you - just worth thinking about.
     
  21. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you worry that you are too slow, you are. Objectively, too, it's not a productive pace. I agree with everyone, perfectionism is bogging you down. I'm the same. The only thing that helps is 1. Minimum day word limit (no less than 300-500 words) and 2. Must write five days a week. That way, your minimum output is 300 x 5 = 1500 words per week. It's not much, but in a year you'll have over 70 000 words written, and that is something. 300 a day leaves you plenty of time to make sure it "flows" but the limits make you leave it sometimes even if it isn't perfect, and move on.
     
  22. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    This might provide some thought. "You" are a component to production. That might sound obvious, but follow me.

    People have mood swings and overall life goals. I kick myself when I'm reluctant to go to the gym and linger over coffee. The guys at the gym give this advice to gym-rats, "You lift to live, not live to lift."

    I just responded to a member in a PM about polishing. I admitted one thing, that I'm funneling down my 'insider' list of clients. I'll feel resentful when the summer gets here and I'm cooped up indoors working. Right now I have a half finished project, and it bothers me.

    So it's taking you longer to complete your writing project than you've projected. There might be a personal hidden agenda you don't want to admit to yourself. Like, did you meet someone you'd like to date? Did you have to pass on another project, trip or gathering with friends to "work" on your book? Is suffering for your art now mostly suffering and no art?

    Right now my legs hurt from a work-out yesterday, it's freezing outside and my book is sitting there like a recalcitrant ex-wife. I need to play. And I'm going to do. Give yourself a break, I think not writing is important to the quality of your story. And if you don't want us to know you had a second cookie, then don't tell us!

    Oh, and drop me a PM if you want me to kick your butt into gear! I know every guilt producing nag on the planet. I still hear my mother's voice! :D
     
  23. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    Oh, I will add that the best thing I ever heard from a more experienced writer was, "You have my permission to write badly. Does that help?" It did. I write HORRIBLY now, but my output quadrupled! I spend more time revising of course, but now I'm cutting stuff out instead of adding it. This is much easier.
     
  24. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Great advice! Let's give the guy our patented, 'expert' advice on penning anything--including his own signature.

    This forum gives you our whole-hearted permission to fail regularly, foolishly and continuously.
     
  25. niallohagan
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    9 hours for 2 pages? I thought I was bad. Seriously though, I dont think it matters at all
     

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