Traditional wisdom is that it takes a lot of time and energy to write a book. That’s generally true. However, that counts the entire process. It takes a long time to revise, edit and hone a book until you feel you’re ready to let it go. That doesn’t mean you can’t write a first draft quickly. Some purists will protest that haste will decrease the quality of a writer’s work in favour of quantity. Sure. I have a different take on that objection. Assume your first draft is going to suck anyway. Since you’re best writing is rewriting, it’s best to have something to revise. For many writers, if they didn’t write the first draft in haste, they might not have anything to revise at all. You can’t edit a blank page.
So here’s my contrarian view on why fast writing can be a very good thing:
1. You maintain your enthusiasm for the project because you get the first draft done quickly. Marathon writing takes endurance. A sprint can be advantageous, especially if you haven’t completed a manuscript in the past and you’re developing those muscles.
2. When you write in haste, you can see the whole project’s development at once. You’re less likely to drop threads when you get the first draft done in a short time. If you’ve read Under the Dome by Stephen King—a huge and heavy book of great length which, in general, I enjoyed—maybe you noticed that he seemed to have a supernatural element on the protagonist’s side that is never explained and soon forgotten. It took him three years or so to write it. That might be why something’s amiss.
3. Increased productivity primes your art pump. If you produce a lot, you tend to produce more the rest of the time, too. It’s the literary equivalent of, if you want the job done, give it to a busy person. Artists need to get into the habit of production and treat their work as a business and a craft (instead of something that can only produced when the planets align and you have a handy vial of unicorn blood to consecrate your art-making ceremony.)
4. Increased production equals more money in the long run. That’s not mercenary. That’s math. If you can produce four books (and sell them) in the time it takes someone else to write one, you’re ahead (unless the other guy is William Styron, but he’d be ahead in any case…and he’s dead.)
5. You may not sell everything you write. In fact, if you’ve got an agent, an editor and a publisher between you and the market, there’s an excellent chance someone will stand up at some point and say, this isn’t ready for your customers. (They may or may not be right about that. When Robert Munsch‘s publisher told him the world wasn’t ready for Love You Forever, he took that controversial children’s book elsewhere. And had a hit.)
My point is, if you spend ten years writing a book and it does not sell, you will be sad. If you have other books to sell, the one disappointment won’t sting so much. You know how every second Star Trek movie was great and the others suck? It evens out when you have more out there.
If I sound like I’m blaming, shaming and pointing fingers, I apologize. I have been guilty of acting like a dilettante about my fiction. I’ve had to gather unicorn blood before I could summon the muse. That’s changed recently as I’ve reevaluated. I’m motivated now to go into heavy production and get to work on the revisions for my books and, as Seth Godin puts it, “Ship!” (Also, see the post below on Lessons Received from An Evening with Kevin Smith for the whys and wherefores. )
My book production won’t happen overnight. But it will happen faster than it was happening. Boo-ya!
- Seek Library Write-In Support: NaNoWriMo Tip #6 (mediabistro.com)
- Simplifying NaNoWriMo (and Other Writing) (simpleproductivityblog.com)
- “Sunday Salon: Writers, readers, and NaNoWriMo” and related posts (3rsblog.com)
- Use a Name Generator: NaNoWriMo Tip #5 (mediabistro.com)
- NaNoWriMo Tip #7: Consult Role Playing Game Plots (mediabistro.com)
- Better yet, DON’T write that novel (salon.com)
- Bio Break salutes NaNoWriMo writers! (biobreak.wordpress.com)