One of the insights that NaNoWriMo has imparted to the writing community is that it’s possible to write fast. I mean, if you’d have told me a few years ago that I could write a novel — even “just” a first draft — in a month, I would have clutched tight to my wallet.
But having been through the November ringer three times now, I know it’s possible. So do thousands of other authors, who either have completed their own NaNoWriMo journeys or who take inspiration from those who do.
“Slow Writing” for Better Results?
Recently, I have noticed a backlash of sorts against this kind of speedy writing, though. Folks who participate in this “slow writing” movement generally drop their arguments into two buckets: you can’t write good stuff quickly OR you’ll kill yourself trying to write fast.
To the first of these, I say, “Bullocks!”.
To a great degree, you can either write well, or you can’t. Slowing down may make you think about your structure or your plot or your word choice, but you should have most of that figured out before you ever lay a fingertip on your keyboard. On the other hand, moving very slowly is a proven method for producing stilted prose and locking you into a writer’s prison of self-doubt and second-guessing. It’s like an invitation to writer’s block.
I’ll never be a great literary genius, but my words flow nice and easy when I keep my pace at 1000-words-per hour or higher. If I drop below 500, I start to agonize over every word, and I get slower … and agonize more … and get slower still.
For me, slower writing usually means worse writing.
Compete with Yourself
To the second objection to fast writing — that you’ll run yourself ragged trying to “keep up” — I say it’s all relative to you, not to anyone else.
Gauge your speed against what you have done in the past, not against what I do or what NaNoWriMo tells you should be doing.
The bottom line is that you’re going to be dead soon. That’s a pretty dark thought, but here’s something even darker … whatever stories you have in your head and don’t write down before you bite the big one will die right along with you.
You only have so much time to get your art out into the world. You need to make the most of that time, and that means writing as fast as you can while maintaining the quality you want to project. This becomes more imperative and frustrating as you age because the more life experience you have, the more story ideas you generate.
And yet … the less time you have.
If you want to be as productive a writer as you can be, you need to gear your whole approach for speed. Every day, cut a bit more fat from your prose, improve your typing, streamline your planning. Improve, improve, improve!
You’re going to fall short of the author legacy you envision for yourself, but you the way to move as close as possible to your full potential is to leave everything on the playing field of your manuscripts.
Fill them with as many of your stories as you can. When you’ve reached your limit of production, push a little harder. Never let up.
Write faster. Get your stories out there. Dying with an empty brain is the goal.