Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How do you write? Fast or slow?

I finished another 2200 words over the past two days, bringing me very close (I keep saying that!) to my cut-off point for the World War II memoir-within-the-novel, prior to concentrating only on present day events.

Bonnie commented that she can't write so quickly, but needs to analyze each and every word. We all have our own methods. I can't work slowly, or interrupt my flow, as I mentioned in another blog. If my writing isn't moving like a torrent, I become irritable. For me, revision can only come after those exuberant words have been poured out onto the pages en masse.

There is an excitement during this period and I barely take a break, needing to get back to it. I revise after about an hour's work, it seems, although I certainly don't time myself. This is a quick revision for obvious errors and to get a clear feel for the structure, but I don't spend too much time at it, because I don't want to spoil that zone I'm in. I then get back to the actual writing, and then revise, and so on, again and again, including the earlier sections I've already dealt with during this session.

After about four hours of this, usually by the end of a chapter, I'll do a more thorough, more or less final revision. Then I start pecking around like a chicken, finding a better word, refining a phrase or a sentence, and correcting typoes. This is slow work, as all of you know, but it's the only time I am slow.

After that, I send the whole thing to my Yola site, suitably re-fonted for readability online. At this point, it gets edited again, because errors pop out with the larger font I use there. It's then ready for those of you who are reading it online to catch up with Strachan's adventures.

Once this manuscript is complete, I'll then revise, revise, revise, for the almost final version, print it off, and edit the hard copy completely. That stage could take weeks, or months. I've been doing so well with this particular book (it wasn't so easy with Hafan Deg, for some reason) that I'm making an assumption that the revision work will not take too long at the end, because I'm very satisfied with what's complete now. I may well add more segments on the War, because I keep coming up with new anecdotes that would just add that extra something, but, at the same time, I need to keep an eye on my word count. The last thing I need at the conclusion of the work, is to have to go back and chop major sections out because I've written too much.

Were I well-published, selling, receiving some critical interest, I could easily produce 150,000 words, but lacking that stature means I must stick close to 95,000 if I want an agent to consider me. They don't like flogging new work to publishers if the work is too long. (Something to do with their costing/revenue projections, I think.)

On days when I have few other household, art blog, or online reading demands, I write at my computer from early morning and, if the buzz is in me, will work right through until dinner time, when my cats start bugging me for food. I more or less work office hours, and this suits me. I am still writing in my head long after I've switched off the computer, of course, which makes for little piles of notes on the coffee table, scribbled out when I'm meant to be following the news, or a movie. It's really hard not to go back to the computer sometimes, and I have to be very firm with myself. I guess some of you might think this is a bit obsessive, this work routine, but it's a huge joy for me, having the time to devote to it.

I've freelanced for years, working from home for other people, and I made the decision when I came to Brighton, this quiet, not too exciting (but cheap!) town, that I'd do MY stuff, be it painting or writing. Of course, the writing is the clear winner at this point.

We want to be published, need it for some vain proof that our work has substance, that it could somehow move people who read it. But that's not the reason we write. Ultimately, this need that we have, this drive, goes beyond public recognition. It's simply necessary for ourselves. We are, in fact, in love with it.

 

3 comments:

Melissa Marsh said...

Your last few sentences say it all. Even if I am never published, I will still write - just because I can't help it!

I tend to not revise much until the entire novel is done.

Belle said...

I write fast, too. For me the main objective is to catch the flow of the story onto paper, catch all the words as they tumble. I don't give any thought to style or anything like that - I figure I will tighten that up during revision. So I just type everything that pops into my head, and I think that's why I write so fast.

Now that I'm FINALLY sitting myself down to write daily, I see that what drives me is this necessity to get the story out of my head and onto paper. And I always used to think, back when I wasn't writing, that I would answer "probably not" to the question "but would you write if you were never published?", because I thought that was what I wanted most, to be published. And I do want that, it's one of my biggest desires, but setting down the stories in my head, that's ultimately why I do it.

Fran said...

In ignoring that need to publish, we're free to simply write the best that's in us - no pressure about what's hot in the market, no impatience that could lead us to a vanity press. And good work will win in the end, whether we write fast or slow.