I have a confession to make. I am a terribly slow writer. Unless of course you are a prospective agent reading my blog. Then I am quick, efficient and will not ever have any trouble meeting deadlines. But for the rest of you, on an average day, I write quite slowly.
I’m not certain why it is that I write the way I do. When I am typing at top speed I average between 60 and 70 words per minute, with sixty being errorless, and 70 having 98% accuracy. (Okay, I do speed typing tests in my spare time. I’m a writing nerd. I accept this.) This doesn’t give me the quickest fingers at the keyboard, but it is slightly above the average speed of 38-40 words per minute. (Again, writing nerd. It’s cool. Nerd’s are sexy.) I have the potential to type 3,600 words per hour.
So if it is not due to my typing speed, what is my problem?
As far as I can tell, I have two key issues which make my writing slow. The first, is my slight tendency to be a perfectionist. I have mentioned before, I hate typos, and I hate leaving the writing when it doesn’t sound right. This means occasionally, I will retype a sentence completely in order to change the spelling error at the beginning. I know I could mouse over the error, but usually by the time I remember I am creating needless work by deleting everything, I am halfway done. Don’t try to change me. It also means I may choose to rewrite a sentence, paragraph, page or even chapter repeatedly until I get it right. I like to think these quirks mean I end up with a high quality first draft, but I suppose that would depend on the reader. I can say with certainty, I tend to turn in first draft papers to school and receive 100% credit. (Fine, I will wear a large cardboard sign saying nerd for the rest of the post.) I still work to revise my novel continuously, but I don’t usually feel the need to do a complete overhaul. I may eat those words one day when an editor tears apart my manuscript.
My other issue tends to be distraction. I am distracted by all sorts of shiny objects; a good song, changing the laundry, taking the dog out, my phone beeping a new email or tweet, lunch time. Anything really can pull me away from the keyboard for a few minutes, no matter how well the writing is going that day. Even when everything is splendid, I am writing quickly and I know it is going well, I still get the need to get up and walk around. I’m just going to make a cup of coffee. And change the laundry. And maybe make a quick snack. And take Lucy out. But I am coming right back.
There is one distraction that does keep me away for a while. Inspiration.
I know what you are thinking. What? How can inspiration keep you from writing? That’s craziness.
Please, hear me out before you condemn me.
I always had a desire to be a writer, but I never had or took the time to focus on my writing as much as I have over the last year. When my focus shifted, placing my creative pursuits in the forefront of my daily life, inspiration seemed to flow regularly. I couldn’t seem to finish a project without ideas for many new ones spinning in my mind. For some things, such as quilting, it was easy to keep moving. I can finish a quilt within a couple of weeks when I truly wish to. In between, I could sketch and graph out the plans to make the next quilt.
When it comes to writing, I can be working on a first draft for six months or more. That is enough time to have ideas for many other novels. Ideas that I do not want to forget. They come from various places. Sometimes it’s a song, or maybe a conversation. Occasionally, it’s a crazy dream, with one part that might make a good scene in a story, even if the rest is the ravings of a madwoman. So, I write them down, no matter what I am doing.
At first these ideas were kept in a computer file. Some were just a quick tagline, others a slightly detailed plot. They spanned many different genres, romance, paranormal, fantasy, horror, though they would all one day live within the spectrum of midgrade, young adult and new adult books. Most of these were beginnings of an idea and no where near ready to consider writing. Others, might as well have been fully formed and playing on repeat in my mind. I couldn’t type fast enough to get these ideas out before a new one came along to join it.
I was beginning to worry I would forget the important details before I would have time to write them down completely. The only possible solution was to begin writing the story out immediately. It didn’t matter that the novel I was working on wasn’t done, or that a sequel was needed for another one. This new story was the only one that mattered. At least until I was halfway through and a new idea was begging to be written. With the steady flow of inspiration, I should have been writing consistent masterpieces. Instead I was beginning to acquire a pile of half finished novels, surrounded by half baked ideas. I needed to do something.
I stumbled upon Denise Jaden’s blog. Many writers participate in NaNoWrMo, using November to attempt to complete a novel and get themselves one step closer to achieving their goals. On her website, Denise Jaden had a outline to help writers organize their thoughts. Theoretically, this will then make it possible to churn out their novel with speedy ease. How hard can it be once you have the basic plot, the characters, the conflict, the setting, even important scenes drafted in one quick and easy spot?
So I started trying it for some of my slightly more developed ideas. Now I have three outlined novels, twelve half baked ideas, and three half finished novels.
I’m not certain if I have actually made progress. During the outline process, I did have a few brilliant insights into the potential of the story. Now, I am excited to write all three of these novels. Unfortunately I am also honor bound to fulfill my goal of completing the projects I have already begun. I want desperately to know if using this quick writing technique will be helpful in increasing my productivity. Normally, I take my idea and just start writing. I know where I am, and I know where I plan to be in the end, so I just take the journey. Recently I have been tempted to write out my half finished projects using this outline plan and see what happens.
I know this post is beginning to look like another of my half baked ideas. Maybe it is. It is possible I need to start using an outline model for my blog.
How do my fellow writers feel? How do you write, by the seat of your pants, or with a carefully constructed plan? Have you ever outlined a story you were halfway finished with?