Speed Writing

I am not a speedy writer. Well, let me qualify. Ideas come quickly most of the time, but in transposing them from brain to paper, I bog myself down with questions: Can I word this better? Is this clear? What does this scene really look like? Would this character really say that? This tendency, I believe, originally stemmed from my previously-mentioned fear of revising. Now that I know not to fear revision, though, I see another cause: I feel that if I don’t nail a scene/character/conversation/etc. the first time around, I’ll be building everything that follows upon an unstable foundation. Makes sense, right?

The problem with this line of thinking, however, is twofold. First, while I allow myself to be preoccupied with minute details, the story languishes in the deep recesses of my mind. I home in on one little thing – how does this room look, for example – while ignoring the big picture – what’s happening in this room? Of course I eventually get to the ‘what,’ but sometimes I’ve waited so long that the creative spark has fizzled and then it feels more like pulling teeth than writing.

That brings up the second issue: the longer I toil on a particular scene, the more questions I start asking myself. Don’t get me wrong – questions (and their solutions) are good. But questioning too much breeds self-doubt, and that’s one of the most insidious and omnipresent dangers a writer faces. Second-guessing can drag you to a halt. I remember reading something (can’t remember where now) by an author (can’t remember who) that said (and I’m paraphrasing): “I write as fast as I can to outrun doubt.”

I really tried to spur myself along as I wrote Bent, but despite my best efforts, I still found myself rereading, tweaking, polishing as I went. This was gratifying in some ways, maddening in others. I wonder now how many brilliant ideas flitted right out of head while I was busy correcting a grammar mistake or eliminating a word I’d repeated in the same paragraph – fixes that easily could have been completed during the revision phase rather than the composition phase.

So now, I’m about 3,000 words into Time Lapse, and I really am trying to write differently this time, just to see what happens. It’s not easy to change the way I’ve always written and the method that witnessed the completion of my first book, but I want to give it a try. I want to see if I can outrun doubt and get my vision down on paper before I dress it up and send it out into the world. Maybe I’ll be surprised at the result. Maybe I’ll find that inspiration flows more readily when I don’t try to bottle it right away, but instead let it shoot right out of my brain like some mental fire hose.

Stay tuned.

ETH

About E.T. Hourihan

I am a science fiction author pursuing his dream of publication. View all posts by E.T. Hourihan

4 responses to “Speed Writing

  • siochembio

    Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? (http://www.nanowrimo.org/)The idea behind it is to turn off the inner editor by having a word count goal (50K) in one month (November). It's not really about quality, it's about just pooping the words onto the page. Go back and edit later – better just to write the dang thing rather than overanalyze as you write. I did it one year. It was crap, but heck, I actually wrote more than 50K words and got something down on the page.Anyhoodle, just in case you hadn't heard…~Siobhan

  • ETH

    Hi Siobhan,Thanks for the suggestion. Yes, I have head of NaNoWriMo, though I've not participated. In writing my first story, I only held myself to a quota of 350 words (about one page) per day. Some days I hit that in 20 minutes. Other days I did not come close to hitting it at all. I think I'm going to try to at least double that this time around. Like you said, the draft might be crap, but that's why drafts don't get published, right? =)Evan

  • Libby

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