Should You Write Faster?

The more time you spend laboring over each sentence in your novel, the better it will be, right? I always thought so. But recently, I’ve been taking a look at the facts, not my instinct, and what I’ve found is a little surprising.

First of all, let me explain what I mean by writing faster. I’m talking words per minute. Personally, my typing speed is around 120 words per minute, but my writing speed has probably been anywhere from 20 to 80 words per minute, depending on whether I’m writing dialogue, prose, action, inner dialogue, etc.

So with that out of the way. Here is what I have found. If I write faster, not only can I write for longer, but my prose comes out cleaner and my dialogue reads better. The two caveats are that A) everybody is different and B) how my dialogue “reads” is subjective. Either way, I have some ideas on why this may be working so well, and even if you think you’re better off writing slowly, I may just convince you otherwise.

Why You Should Write Faster

I was talking with my brother recently and he said something that really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something along the lines of, “you’ve spent so much time writing that it should be like muscle memory by now.” When I thought about it, I realized  he was completely right to think of writing as a skill that used muscle memory.

Think about anything you’re really good at. Or even pretty good. Now imagine trying think really hard about it and analyze every movement as you do it. Granted, if you were thinking about your job as a slow-motion re-inactor or something, what I’m about to say won’t qualify. Otherwise, you probably would not be able to do it as well in slow motion.

I thought about tennis. Athletes can move through the motions of a swing or a motion slowly to warm up, but there’s a difference. I’m a little bit of a nerd about tennis and I have recorded myself in slow motion to analyze various strokes like my serve. One thing I’ve noticed is that when I’m swinging at a ball in regular speed, my legs, hips, core, shoulders, arm, and wrist all connect in a “kinetic chain” like they are supposed to. When I try to move through the motion of a serve slowly to work through kinks, the kinetic chain falls apart. My legs release too soon and my hips un-coil too late.

What’s the point?

If you’ve practiced writing, it is no different. Slowing down too much breaks apart the natural “kinetic chain” of your writing.

Try It!

My brother was the one convincing me to try writing faster, and a tool he recommended was Write or Die. It is a free website that gives you various options to keep yourself from slowing down when you write. You can set time goals and word count goals. I really don’t recommend “Kamikaze Mode” by the way. I just clicked it when I first tried the site, and then left the 2000 words I had typed in the box to copy over to my story later. When I came back, every-single-vowel had been removed from my work. I ended up just re-writing the section. You could also just hit pause when you’re finished, but really, who wants their vowels deleted. That’s too masochistic for me.

I’d suggest just trying the site a couple times to show yourself that you really can write quickly. You’ll realize pretty fast that what is actually slowing you down are likely those “speed bump” mental moments. Maybe you hit a sentence that you just can’t find the right words for. Blaze right through it! You can always come back later to fix it.

Why It’s Worth Trying To Write Faster

Benefits to the quality of your writing aside, let me dazzle you with some incentives to write faster.

1.) If you have 1 hour a day to write and you write 1000 words an hour, that’s 100 days or 14 weeks or roughly 3 1/2 months to finish a 100,000 word draft. 

OR

You could write 2000 words an hour and finish that same draft in 50 days or 7 weeks or roughly 1 3/4 months.

OR

You could write 3000 words in an hour (it can be done with practice) and, well, you get the idea.

2.) I know authors aren’t supposed to care about money, but let’s talk money. Let’s be pessimistic and say you’re going to profit $4000 for each book you self-publish.

If it takes you 3 1/2 months to self publish, that’s roughly $12,000 a year from writing. Not bad for an hour a day, but still not enough to quit your day job.

BUT if you double your writing speed, that’s $24,000 a year. And if you’re able to write more than one hour a day or squeeze in extra hours on weekends, the possibilities go on.

3.) If your book flops (I know it’s not fun to think about) you can have another book hitting shelves around the same time you realize your first book failed. And you can console yourself by knowing you only put in a few weeks instead of the better part of a year.

Final Thoughts

The numbers above are just to help you realize that if for no other reason, it’s worth thinking about writing faster to get more books published. Maybe it’s time to stop laboring over your little project and start churning and burning!

I believe it was Mr. Miyagi who said, “If you love your book, let it go fast.” Wise words. . .

 

 

mr-miyagi-smiling

Writing – Does It Have To Be Art?

A guilty pleasure is usually a term reserved for something bad that you cant can’t help enjoying: junk food, reality T.V., B horror movies, Youtube unboxings (maybe that one is just me), or books like Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Harry Potter. Before you stab me with the business end of a broomstick for including Harry Potter with books like those, just hear me out. For the sake of brevity, I’m just going to tackle why you should stop looking at books as guilty pleasures in this post.

Even if you never plan to write a single word of fiction in your entire life, “guilty pleasure” is a label worth taking a closer look at. Calling a book a guilty pleasure is tantamount to saying that something is so bad that it makes you feel guilty to be seen enjoying, yet it’s so captivating that you’re willing to risk social ridicule. So let me get this straight. . . It’s so bad that it is embarrassing. But it’s so good that you can’t stay away from it?

What’s So Bad About Guilty Pleasures?

Most of you are probably thinking, “Well it’s not that it’s bad. It’s just so low-brow that it’s embarrassing to be entertained by it.” And this is the real central nugget. It’s not that a guilty pleasure is poorly done (though if you inspect Twilight, it apparently has glaring errors even on the first page) but that it doesn’t make us feel intellectual enough. At first, this seems like a valid concern. But upon closer inspection, it falls apart.

Entertainment Versus Art

The problem comes from the idea of entertainment versus art. And this is where authors really need to pay attention. I should preface this with a warning: my view on this is pretty controversial and most people who consider themselves writers will probably disagree with me. Go ahead. Anyway, I think the classics are dated and should be removed from the pedestals they are placed on.

When tennis was in its youth, players were taught to point their racquets directly away from the ball on the backswing, and straight toward their opponent at the end of the follow-through. As the sport evolved and the equipment improved, players began finding success with more dynamic swings. Today, players are taught instead to do what’s called a unit turn, where the body essentially coils and uncoils. The swing went from an entirely linear process to a circular process.

What’s my point? When the game of tennis evolved, there was less and less to learn from watching the old players. And if a new player wants to learn how to swing, he or she will model their swing from the current pros. But when it comes to writing, we have the idea that the “original greats” had it right and that we can never hope to match their mastery of the English language.

Frankly, that’s a bunch of bull.

Classic Literature Is Overrated

Fiction mirrors life, and our life and language now are vastly different from the life and language of classic authors. Of course our language should differ. Of course we should simplify our ideas. Of course we should write about emerging technology and social issues. The idea that there was a “golden age” of writing is perpetuated by school systems that tout classics as if they are infallible. Are they still good books? Sure. But should we discount any recent literature as valuable just because it’s not dusty enough?

Though I don’t mention it often in my posts, I teach English honors to high school seniors. And I know first hand how much teacher’s hands are tied when it comes to selecting textbooks. At my school, for example, I have a set list of books that I am allowed to choose from, all of which are at least 100 years old. This results in several problems:

  1. Students think their essays should be as wordy and inefficient as the books we put on pedestals. And why shouldn’t think they so? But there is absolutely no place in the workforce or even the literary world for wordy writing that mirrors the classics.
  2. Young people have it beaten into their subconscious early that books are dated, hard to understand, and a lot of work to read.
  3. The vast majority of young people will never read a classic again. Instead, if they eventually discover a love for reading, they will think of anything that’s not a classic as a “guilty pleasure”.

Aha! Maybe you were wondering where I was going with my tangent. But I feel it’s an important one. Our classification of anything that is compelling and easy to “digest” as a guilty pleasure all points back to the unjustified worship of classic literature.

So when you are working on your fiction, ask yourself if your goal is really to create something that is compelling and easy to digest (which will be labeled a guilty pleasure by society) or something that is thick, goes down hard, and is possibly rewarding, but only with a lot of work (which will not be appreciated by society until long after you’re dead).

And if you disagree with me about the false value placed on classics, tell me why in the comments! I’d be interested to hear other opinions.

 

Motivating Yourself To Write: A Helpful Tip

If you ever find yourself dreading the idea of sitting down to write or struggling to keep working even though it has only been thirty seconds, you’re not alone. For many writers, the struggle to write is a source of guilt. After all, how can you call yourself a writer if you have to force yourself to do it kicking and screaming? The good news is that you’re not alone in the struggle. Even the people who will say writing is pure joy and takes no effort at all have had days when it was not easy, even if they won’t admit it.

Why Are You Writing?

Before I get into a tip to help with your motivation, I think it’s prudent to first ask you to do a little self-evaluation. Ask yourself why you want to write. I’ll differ from some of the big names here because they will tell you the only acceptable answer is because you must or something equally all-or-nothing. But that’s bogus. Writing is a form of entertainment. People like to call it an art, but that is misleading. After all, the crayoned catastrophes churned out by three-year-olds every day are art. And so is this (which sold for millions).modern_art_sold_for_bank_18

The point is that your goals for writing can be small or large. And it’s okay to say you want to make a living from it, because money is just another form of validation—a way for us to know we are doing something worthwhile.

Writing is difficult. It’s often not rewarding. So if you have ever tried it and then decided to try again, you can call yourself a writer.

Making It Easier

Do you do all your writing in one location? Is your story saved as a little word document on a single desktop computer in a cluttered corner of your house? Even if you use a laptop and sometimes write on the couch or at the table or in the pantry, you’re missing out. There are two reasons you need to try writing outside your house.

One is that writing is a creative process, and you would be amazed at how a fresh environment and atmosphere can charge your work. It can be extremely helpful when writing dialogue to just listen in to a few random conversations and measure real speech to your version. If you’re writing a new character and struggling with a description, you can just pick a random person if you’re writing in a public place.

Some of my suggestions for outside-the-house writing spots depend on your personality. A great deal of adults have a degree of un-diagnosed attention deficit disorder (ADD). And the counter-intuitive thing about ADD is that it’s often harder for people with ADD to focus in stimulation-free environments. The key is to create a sort of stimulation “white noise”. Just the right amount of chaos is the perfect atmosphere for someone with ADD to focus. And for someone who has no attention problems, it’s still a great jump-start for creativity. It’s also similar to going to a brick and mortar gym versus working out at home. Something about putting pants on and leaving the house gears your mind up for a commitment of work.

Two is that you may not realize just how detrimental distractions are to your writing. If your house is like mine, ten minutes rarely go by without an animal, baby, or a wife demanding even a few seconds of attention. And if your mind works like mine, being broken out of the “trance” for even a second can spell the end of a writing session. So another type of place that’s great to sneak away to is somewhere outside or somewhere quiet. You could go to a public library and use one of their computers (just save your story to a google document so you can access it anywhere) or you could take a laptop or tablet out to a park if the weather is decent and try that.

For me, the best method is a combination of writing at home, writing in public, chaotic places, and writing in quiet, distraction-free places.