Velocity: Writing at the Speed of You

I've given a lot of thought of late to speed, the kind that translates into the completion of manuscripts. Though I'm a fairly-productive writer -- by some standards quite prolific -- when I look around the genre world, I see example after example of authors who are three and four times faster. These authors have the option of writing for two or more publishing houses, sometimes under different names and in different genres or subgenres. They can afford to experiment while still writing their bread-and-butter stories, and they can hedge their bets against failure in one area.

It's tempting (both creatively and, to be honest, financially) but I haven't found a way to reliably speed up my process. When I use techniques that work for others, I get lost in my convoluted plots and my characters lack the depth I want. I end up rewriting more than writing because I haven't thought things through.

For me, writing a draft is an experience of fits and starts, one often interrupted to look up facts (which often prompt my best ideas), go back and double-check my synopsis, or reread prior chunks of the manuscript to slip into its flow. Because I do so much tweaking and researching as I go along, I don't spend a ton of time on revisions, but the first-draft stage progresses at a much slower pace.

Your results may (and probably do) vary. The trick is, find your own process and your own pace. Speed it up as much as you can without sacrificing quality, health, and/or family. (Remember, with any luck you're going to live a large portion of your life on deadline. If it's always a miserable, desperate, adrenalin-soaked belly-slide across the finish line, you'll tend to burn out quickly. Unless you're one of those who genuinely loves living on the edge.) And then quit worrying about what everyone else is doing. If your editor's happy, your agent's happy, your readers are happy, and you're happy, there's no need to roar around the track in a Ferrari.

A slightly-dented (insert-the-small-economy-car-of-your-choice) will get you to your destination just the same. As long as you plant your rear behind its wheel and keep on driving.


Suzan Harden said…
Oh Colleen! You make miss my trusty red Saturn.

Isn't the real trick "Butt in chair" time?

Someone was once amazed that I could write a manuscript while practicing law full time and raising a pre-schooler? My BIC time was incredibly productive because it was my precious "me" time.
BIC doesn't count for me because all too often I spend that time surfing the net, messing with e-mail, or playing word games. I'm most productive with a deadline... or the looming threat of long-term unemployment. Call it fear as motivation. ;)

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