Monday, 29 June 2009

Tortoise or Hare?

Do you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? You know, the one where they have a race? Well, a couple of weeks ago I was feeling like a hare in terms of how much and how quickly I was writing. Four new chapters and changes to a couple of others. I was on fire.

When I’m “on it'” I can write surprisingly fast. Everything flows and it feels really good. I’m not the world’s fastest typist by any means. My raw typing speed according to this testing site is around 40 words per minute. Now, when I’m ‘on it’ I can probably write somewhere around 1000-1500 words in an hour, which is about half my raw typing speed. Guess that makes sense when you consider that I’m making things up as I go and have to stop and think what comes next or will sometimes delete whole chunks of what I’ve written because I’m not satisfied with it.

Kissed by a Rose is 90000 words long, or thereabouts. According to the above, it should have taken me about 75-90 hours to write. At, say, two hours writing time a day that’s somewhere between 35 and 45 days to write. Or, to put it another way, two months, tops. So why did it take me nearly two years?

We can talk about first drafts and second drafts and we can mention that I was working on other short stories as well. But in the main it’s because I’m ‘on it’ a very small percentage of the time. Even when I’m writing well but not ‘on it’ my writing speed would drop to something like 500 – 750 words an hour. Already we can double that “two months tops figure” to four months.

Then there’s that arbitrary “two hours a day” writing time. I’d love to be able to write for two hours a day, every day, but it just don’t happen. Truth is, I might be able grab half an hour to an hour here and there, and sometimes I’ll be on a run and could write for ever, but most of the time I’m too damn tired. I’ll sit and open up my WIP with every intention of writing something stunning, but nothing’s doing and I wind up surfing the internet or watching something on TV.

I refuse to write rubbish for the sake of writing. I only want to write when I know what I’m writing is worth writing. At least, where my WIP is concerned. That’s why I blog. It’s a way to write for the sake of writing. If it’s rubbish, it doesn't matter quite as much, there’ll be another post along soon to replace it at the top of the page. But where the WIP is concerned, if I write shit, I’ll only have to re-write it so it’s not quite so shit later. In my mind (and you can tell me I’m wrong, cause I might be) it’s better not to write the shit in the first place.

So writing a novel, or even a short story, takes me a lot longer than it does some other people. Of course, I’d argue it was worth it. Read Kissed by a Rose and see if you agree.

But the point I’m trying to make is that although a couple of weeks ago I felt like a hare, this week I’ve felt like a tortoise. Slow and steady and I’ll get there in the end. I wrote very, very little this week. I’m putting it down to where I am in the story. You know how, in a lot of books, you get to a point near the end where it begins to race towards its conclusion and you find you have to keep reading even it means not eating/sleeping/working or whatever. It happened to me with Harry Potter 7 at something like half past eleven at night and I knew I couldn’t stop until I’d finished even though I was probably an hour or two from finishing (I’m a slow-ish reader. I read every damn word, not skim). It was after one in the morning on a work night when I finally went to bed that day.

Well, I’m at that point now in my WIP. I’m at the point where I know if I start writing it’s going to be very hard to stop until it’s finished. So I’m stalling. I’m stalling until I actually have the time and don’t end up sacrificing the other areas of my life. Be patient, I keep telling myself. It’ll be worth it in the end. No need to rush. Slow and steady. That’s the way. Be a tortoise, not a hare.

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