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