Monday, July 17, 2017

Dear Slow Writers

On the IWSG Goodreads Book Club page, we had a poll asking our members what their biggest writing insecurity is. Here are the results:

I was surprised to see that so many writings are insecure about writing slow.

If this is your insecurity, this one is for you! :)

Dear Slow Writer,

There isn’t a rule that says we have to do the same things at the same times in the same amount of time.

Some writers can write a book in a year. Others can write a book in a matter of months. There are also writers who can write a book in 30 days. And then there are writers who could spend five years+ writing a book.

All of these time frames are correct.

Our circumstances, perseverance, and whether we know exactly what we need to write (plotter or pantser) all factor in on how long it takes us to write a book.

If a writer is prone to procrastination, it’ll take them longer to finish a book. If a writer has a career or children to nurture, most of their writing time is eaten up. What we have to do is embrace the time we have to write, and actually write during that time.


If you procrastinate, get your butt into gear!

Threaten yourself. “If I don’t write 3,000 words today, no binge-watching TV tonight.”

If you end up writing a lot (more than usual) but don’t reach your goal, show yourself some sympathy. Give yourself a pat on the back and watch an episode or two.


If you’re the kind of writer who is able to focus on writing more often but struggles to write a page in an hour (or a day!) then evaluate your performance to pinpoint the cause. Is it because you’re striving for perfection?

A first draft is not meant to be perfect.

Editing Every Sentence

Are you self-editing/revising after every sentence?

Save that for when you finish the first draft. Don’t even edit a chapter once you’re done with it. 

When I get stuck with my writing, I read over the previous page or paragraph and fix up some sentences, add a bit more details or emotion here and there, but the key is that I don't get carried away. What I'm really doing is tweaking, and using those tiny revisions to get my juices flowing again. Those edits, although I'm going backward a tiny bit, help me to keep going forward.

To keep yourself from getting carried away with editing as you go, limit yourself. Be strict. When you feel the need, only look at the last sentence or two you wrote. Two max! And you can’t do it after every couple of sentences either. That'll hold you back. Limit yourself to two sentences per page. Or twice a page if there's two long paragraphs.

Remember, two max!


Another reason why you could be spending an hour (or a day) to write a single page is because you aren’t prepared. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing by the seat of your pants, but going with the flow let’s in the potential for writer’s block, procrastination, and snail-like writing.

You can’t go with the flow if there is no flow.

You don’t need to draft a complete outline for your book, but figuring out the beginning, middle, and end will aid you in knowing which direction to head.

At the end of each writing session, map out what you’ll need to tackle in your next writing session to give yourself a head start. Every time you pick up or put down your pen, know where the story needs to go and what your character(s) need to do.

What else can you do to speed up your writing?

  •  Participate in NaNo. Write a novel in a month (or up to 50,000 words). Prepare by having an outline and just write. And you don’t have to wait for November, pick any month that works for you.
  • There are books that tell you how to write a book in 30 days. Why not see if one offers good ideas?
  • Practice free writing. Don’t think, just write.
  • Turn off your computer screen and write. You may create typos but don’t worry about that now. Writing with a blank screen in front of you will prevent you from editing as you go, or seeking perfection.
  • Use a typewriter. With a typewriter, you can't delete so easily, so you'll be forced to keep whatever you have typed. This is another good one for those of us who edit as we go.
  • Give yourself rewards. After you write one chapter, 1,000 words, or 10 pages, treat yourself to a piece of chocolate. Or a cold beer. Or movie night. Or a hot bubble bath. Whatever motivates you, use it for a bribe.
  • Sike yourself up. Say, “I love writing! It’s my passion. And right now, I’m going to write. These pages may not be 100%, but they don’t have to be. 1,000 words, here I come. WOO-HOO!”
  • Compete with someone. Set up a friendly challenge with a writing buddy to see who can each 50,000 words faster. Check in every single morning/evening through email/messenger/phone to stay accountable. And, if you want, you can have a reward at the end for both of you, such as promising to beta read or buying each other’s books (just one).

Slow writers are still writers.

Slow writers are just as good as fast writers.

Slow writers write just as well and have the same dreams.

Pace is unique and selective. Ignore the pace of other writers and embrace your pace!

      P.S. If part of your insecurity of writing slow has to do with feeling as though you’ll never finish (well, maybe in 10 years), convince yourself that that’s okay. Because it is. It damn well is! Babies start walking eventually, and eventually you’ll have a finished manuscript.

      A dream doesn’t have an expiration date. By the end of the 10 years, your story will be 10X richer and more precious.

      And if you think you’ll never, ever finish . . . Dude, you have to have more faith in yourself. ;) Believe it! Know you’ll finish your book the moment it’s meant to be done.

      Your book is worth waiting for. Trust me. Have faith, and keep writing!

 QUESTIONS: Do you write slow or fast? Do you have advice to contribute?


nashvillecats2 said...

This was most thought provoking Chrys, sometimes my brain is quicker than fingers the mistakes occur.

Happy week.


Natalie Aguirre said...

Yes, I confess my sin. I am a slow writer. Much of the reason is that work and my blog take up a lot of my writing time. We'll see if that changes now that my daughter is grown and in college and I work less. Thanks for the tips.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm a slow writer!
Those are all good tips. Sometimes we can speed up. Other times, we just have to write to our strengths knowing speed isn't one of them.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chyrs - well done .. interesting details and then ideas to get over the hassles of feeling we belong in one group or the other. The thing is to get to the end - i.e. get the book written ... and sometimes people don't start til they're in in their 70s, or older - so give it a go before the tender decades catch up. We each write as we go ... cheers Hilary

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I write faster now than I used to mostly because I've learned to plot better and because I stopped the editing as I go thing.

cleemckenzie said...

This is the insecurity I don't have. And thank heaven for that. I have enough others.

Sandee said...

Writing well is very hard work. I had no idea. I applaud those that put their heart and soul into writing.

I love that this is a place of help to those that love to write.

Have a fabulous day. ☺

Pat Hatt said...

I still edit as I go a bit. Thankfully slowness never lurks on it. We just have to do what we can though as slow or fast, writing is still writing as you say.

Chrys Fey said...

@Yvonne, I make many typos that way. :)

@Natalie, not having proper writing time can sure deter the creative process and make writing a book a longer process, too.

@Alex, great way to put it.

@Hilary, my mom started writing years ago, but now she;s over 70 and will be publishing. She all work at our own speeds. :)

@Susan, plotting can sure help.

@CLee, that's good!

@Sandee, thank you! :)

@Pat, I still edit a bit as I go, too. I can't help it.

Deborah Drucker said...

Thanks for the encouraging words. I just started writing a story and not sure if it will develop into anything longer. I may have to put it away for a while because I am not sure where it is going.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I write varying speeds. I've had 0 word days and 10,000 word days. Both are incredibly rare. I'm usually a 500-1,400 word a day writer - and yes, I consider that huge range "average."
I love all of your tips. I try to stretch myself to write faster with many of those ideas.
Recently, I was stuck on my WIP and after watching Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire and having a conversation about my book with one of my daughters, I realized I needed to go back and rewrite some parts - not a revision for perfection but for characterization and motivation. My character was letting bag things just roll over him and he wasn't even upset about it - that just felt wrong and once I rewrote those scenes, the rest of the story fell into place again.

deborah lyn said...

I'm all about efficiency and it's a bad day when I don't feel productive - yep writing slow is part of that. Writing badly is even worse. Courses on craft have helped a lot.
Thanks for the tips and encouragement Chrys! I am a newbee to the group and appreciate you all very much! I'm learning to plan bite size goals for writing daily--it's working. Also, outlining main sections works for me. best to you all! deborah

Denise Covey said...

I've found it helpful to study plotting and structure then outline scenes before I write. And having 2 awesome critique partners to toss ideas around with helps more than anything else. I'm hoping I won't be so slow after studying the craft more.

klahanie said...

Hey Chrys,

When I can be bothered to write, I write very fast. I will never put pressure on myself to write, however. To me, that just takes away the natural flow of my writing which is merely therapeutic.

The dog writes rather slowly. Not surprised because typing with paws, as she's told me, is like us humans typing with mittens on.

Thank you for an enlightening post. All the best with your YouTube channel, Chrys.

Penny's fictional human,


L. Diane Wolfe said...

If I wasn't spending so much time on everyone's DLP books, I would write faster! LOL

Fundy Blue said...

This is a great post, Chrys! I missed the poll on the IWSG Goodreads Book Club page, but I did manage to read "The Secret Garden." I would have voted for the slow writer category. My memoir is coming along slowly, but part of the problem for me was I had buried so many painful things from my past and it was difficult for me to dig into it. The process I have gone through mentally and emotionally has brought me to a much better place and has healed a lot of pain. I can see things more objectively now, and I've gained a brighter more joyful perspective. I've made peace with things not even connected to my memoir. So I'm hoping that my writing speed will increase. I've always struggled with perfection and a desire to edit, edit, edit. You have some excellent suggestions here, and I'm going to give them a go! Thank you!

Michelle Wallace said...

I'm guilty of editing as I go along. To a certain degree, you have to edit...I think.
I'm terrified that if I don't edit, then the words will really be a load of "you-know-what"... *sigh*

Michael Di Gesu said...

Interesting topic...

I am/was? a speedy writer. My first novel in four months the second in six weeks. BUT they took years to tweak and finalize.

I totally agree with GETTING IT DOWN and then going back. You can always flesh out scenes, characters, etc with your edits.

Since I haven't written a new novel in several years, I still write shorts very quickly and go back to edit. It works for me.

I think writing shorts/flash fiction may help a writer speed up if that is want they wish to do. Pick a prompt and write a flash....

Chrys Fey said...

@Deborah, putting a story away for a time can help you to solve problems. Good luck!

@Tyrean, fleshing out scenes and giving characters appropriate reactions, especially to bad things is a must. Glad you caught that and knew what to do. :)

@Deborah, welcome to the group! I'm glad you're finding the IWSG to be helpful and encouraging. :)

@Denise, I like to have detailed outlines, too.

@klahanie, typing with paws would be difficult.

@Diane, LOL! Same here with my editing. ;)

@Fundy, I'm glad you read The Secret Garden. The discussion is tomorrow. I hope to see you there. :D

@Michelle, I still edit as I go.

@Michael, writing flash fiction would be a big help!

Toi Thomas said...

I don't have a problem with editing while I'm writing. My issue is finding time to write and being in the mood to write when I've already worked a full day. It's not a unique issue, but it's the one I have. I like these tips though. I can use some of these to motivate myself.

Chemist Ken said...

I don't mind editing some while I write. It's something that I'll have to do eventually, so that doesn't bother me. My problem has to do with the difficulty I have converting what I see in my mind's eye into words on a page. I'm getting better, but I now realize why I never liked writing when I was growing up. :) Only the fun of telling the story keeps me going.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a slow writer per say, it's more life just butts in too much and my priorities shift from writing to whatever emergency going on and leaves me with no energy to write when I have a moment to do so. The end result is it takes me some time to get a story finished, but it happens eventually.

H.R. Bennett said...

I actually find this interesting. Anyone who knows my work knows that there are 'chunks' of time that will be missing, but generally I don't feel I'm a slow writer or ever worry about that. Normally, my periods of missing are related to just other shit in life (often medical) and I just don't really feel at fault at that. When I have time to sit and work, I pound it out without an issue.

My bigger issue is re-writing and reworking just because my mindset is always trying to move forward instead of doubling back in a given story.

Sharon Himsl said...

Wow, this is good. I'm slow committing to a project when the plot is still vague. I feel like I'm spinning circles in the dust. This is when I'm easily distracted away from the desk. This is when making a rule works for me, like setting the timer and letting the muse loose and writing whatever comes to me for one hour. I always end up with something I can keep.