My Personal Struggle With Slow Writing and Useful Suggestions to Improve Word-Productivity
My name is “Dave Anthony” and I’m a slow writer.
How slow you ask? Well, by the time I’ve finished writing this piece, most writers would have completed their novel, and probably a sequel to their novel. And, I’m talking about people who started writing the exact same time I started. Even George R.R. Martin would have completed at least two new books in his fantasy “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, by the time I’m done with this piece.
Yes, I’m the slowest of slow writers. I’ve watched, listened to, and read many tutorials on writing, and they all say to be prolific. Write and write a lot. Recently I watched a YouTube video on how to write a novel in two months. It’s all about planning, routine, consistency, and writing 2,000 to 3,000 words at each sit down. Full disclosure; I am working on the first three categories of that sage advice, and if I were a teacher, I’d give myself a B-minus on “planning”, “routine” and “consistency”. But the “two to three thousand words”? Probably an F is generous.
I’m just not a 2,000 to 3,000 a pop, writer. Not even in the ball park. In fact, I’m so woefully below that production, that I’m embarrassed to even say. So lean forward, I’ll whisper it into your ear. Don’t judge me. It’s close to 350. If I have a great day, I reach 750 words, and champagne corks are popped in a confetti-filled room.
Here’s the problem. Words do not come easily to me. They dance around in my head, floating in circles, like the beautiful unique animals in a carousel. I find myself reaching for a particular word, and I’d almost get it, but I won’t. I’ll miss the word entirely, and I’d have to wait for the next rotation of the carousel until I have another opportunity to grasp at perfection. And perfection is what I aspire for, which sometimes is an unattainable goal. But even when I do capture the exact word that I want, that word may disagree or not jibe with other words that I’ve already meticulously captured. So I’m forced to start the process over and over and over again. Eventually, the words come together, but it is a painstaking process.
So when I sit for a couple hours writing my novel, how do I go from 350 to 750 words to at least 1,000- 1,500 words? What is the solution? How do I speed up this process? Well here are my thoughts, and I am by no means an expert on “speed-writing”, but I am indeed and expert of “thoughts”.
Be Even More Organized and Detailed with Your Novel Outline
I hate organizing and planning my writing. I love the idea of free flow, free thought, and an uninhibited process. That’s me at my core. No plans, just do it, like Nike. But the “no plan” plan does not work. When I started writing my first novel over 25 years ago, I just wrote, and wrote, and wrote. It was a beautiful meandering tale of … …I’m not quite sure. I started on a head full of steam, and petered out because I had no plan.
So now, 25 years later I’m working on my new, first novel, and I’ve researched, planned, and outlined. The outline has helped tremendously. It helped me organize my storyline, my characters, their individual traits, their personalities, and physical characteristics. And it gives me more direction when I write, which speeds up my writing process. But because I am so resistant to plans, I suspect that my outline is too bare, the points on my story’s timeline are too spaced apart, so maybe I need to go back and put some more meat on those outline bones.
Skip Skip Skip and Return Later
Often when writing, I encounter impasses at which I have difficulty expressing a particular thought. The difficulty is not about the thought or the emotion that I want to convey, but more so about how it is expressed. Earlier in this piece, I mentioned that words dance around in my head. Well this is a classic “dance around” moment, in which I’m infatuated with specificity of expression, and I see all these words or stings of words, but they do not line up properly, or they don’t tell my story my way.
When these deliberations last too long, skip, skip, skip, and return later. Notice I used the word “skip” three times? This was not by accident, and not for poetic effect, but because I am so stubborn and single-minded in my wont to complete perfection, that it takes seismic forces to move me against my natural inclination. So a single push is not enough. But back to my point of skipping ahead and returning later, I’ve found that later on, the words fall into place. It may not be at the end of that specific writing session, or in a subsequent writing session, but eventually, the words fall into place. Be patient, and have faith in your brilliance as a writer. It will come together.
Find A Place and Time Most Conducive To Writing
It is also important to find a place and time that feeds your creativity. Early mornings and late nights work for me. Probably because my teens and pre-teen are resting at those hours, laying in wait, to resume their noisy and discordant existences with renewed levels of vigor. So I write when they sleep.
Every now and then, I also like a change of scenery. A new environment may trigger new and fresh creative thoughts. For a change, I go to the local college library on weekend afternoons. It’s busy, yet quiet there, and I feed off the energy of the college kids, frantically working on their deadlines. Some people like coffee shops. I don’t. I love coffee, but I don’t particularly care for coffee shop people. They dress funny and they talk funny. (I’m kidding.) But yes, find somewhere where you can be creative and where you can focus.
Embrace Your Slowness
By following these suggestions, you can improve your writing speed, and your productivity will increase. But what if even at increased speeds, you’re still slow. Then what? I honestly believe that I am a slow writer. But so what? I embrace my slowness. I embrace the process of writing. I enjoy and love writing, and I it gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to see my thoughts converted into verbal paintings. Thoughts that were in my head are converted into words, pictures and stories in the minds and consciousness of readers. That’s the end goal. That is gold. It’s not a race. And even if it were a race, I’m the only participant in my race to tell my story. So long as I cross the finish line, I win. Yes, I win, slow writer or not.