Writing Process: The Tortoise and the Hare (I'm both)
I had a good day writing yesterday. 2806 words by the time I shut the computer at 10 pm. It’s pretty common for me to have a good day on the first day of nanowrimo, before the long slog sets in, while i’m still excited and have the ideas fresh in my mind.
I’m writing my sequel for nanowrimo, but as a nano rebel, I’m actually also using this time to write the ending of the last novel (which I stalled on about three months ago) and allowing the momentum to carry me through into the next book. And I’ve spent 3 months not writing that story.
I was very frustrated coming to the end of that story, and couldn’t finish. But I’ve been thinking about it, ever since then. I’ve been mulling it over. I’ve been reading it over. I’ve been getting ideas for how to finish.
But even with the ideas, I did not write them. I waited. I let them percolate. Along with the idea on how to finish, I got the sudden inspiration to write the sequel for nano, just last month. I’d been planning to skip nano this year. So I wrote some outline notes (very sketchy) and continued to wait without writing. I call this the “hushing and holding” phase. Or “fallow period.”
It’s silent, but it’s growing.
Part of my writing process… perhaps THE writing process, I’m not sure if it’s necessary for everyone or just many of us… is NOT writing. I require times of silence and contemplation. Sometimes before I have a story. Sometimes when my story is going well and I just need to go deep. Sometimes when I am stuck and need to work out tangles that my conscious, actively writing mind can’t figure out.
I almost feel bad having such a good day for nanowrimo, because I know not everyone does, andI don’t want to make the slower paced writers feel like they are doing it wrong. Because they’re not.
There are many different writing processes, and going slow and steady is just as valid as writing binges where the word count is racked up. Writing fast and furious without the internal editor is just as valid as writing carefully and slowly and choosing the exact words as you go. Even with someone who DOES write fast, like me, I go through periods in my writing process where there is no writing. Or the words come slowly. Or I’m all about planning. Or I’m all about revision. Or I have to skip around from story to story. Or I’m writing non fiction. Or I’m drawing.
My three months of non-writing or slow writing are just as valuable as the times when I binge on 50k in a month. And to be honest, forcing myself to write TOO MUCH is not good for my long term writing process. I write better when I write a little bit more slowly. Nanowrimo pushes the outer edges of my comfortable writing pace (about 1200 words a day according to this past year which I am quite pleased about.) No matter how much of an adrenaline rush I might get from hitting 5k in a day, it is generally not sustainable and if I push for it, can lead to a full stop on my writing process. And no matter how disappointed I might feel on those days when my word count is only in the hundreds, that slower pace is still moving me forward.
So here’s the thing. Stop comparing yourself to other writers. Stop seeing what they did and looking at your process as wrong. If you wrote. You wrote. And those words add up. If you only had time to write in 15 minutes sessions, those bits add up. If you wrote 90 minutes in the morning and none at all after. That adds up. If you had to work and couldn’t hit your word count, recognize that your life might not look like other people’s lives, and you might have more time and focus on the weekends, where you get to catch up. If you write better with other people around. Go to a cafe. If you write better alone, hole up in your room with your computer under the cover. If you’re not doing nano at all because the pressure and competition doesn’t work for you… DON’T DO IT. Screw competing. Unless competing really gets your juices flowing THEN COMPETE. Try to beat someone’s word count. IDC. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.
Here’s the trick… you have to write in order to figure out what’s good for you, though. So do your writing. Do nano or don’t. Don’t feel bad about not being like other people, instead, look at the ways you’re not like other people and say, okay that doesn’t work for me BUT THIS DOES, so I’m going to do THIS like me, not THAT like you, because this is my process, not yours.