How to write fast
No, I haven’t been able to retcon Elfblood so I can go on — life continues being life. For various reasons, I woke up at nine thirty today, (only half hour ago. I’m two hours behind most of you) so I’m going to do a post Laura M. requested. She asked if there was some way to write faster. There are some mental tricks. I’m going to give them below, with the caveat that sometimes nothing will work, though I’ve never before been stopped for a year and a half. In this case it’s a combination of illnesses/life events (Kris Rusch and Dean Smith call them Life Rolls) and a book that is in itself very difficult.
So, here, more or less in order are the mental tricks to write fast while writing well:
1: BELIEVE YOU CAN.
This is the absolutely most important one. And it is difficult because all of us have heard/internalized things about how slow writers are the best. How many times have you heard the equivalent of “So and so took ten years to write this book” said in a reverential tone? Right.
It is possible that once upon a time (no, really) there was some inverse relation between speed and quality. Not, I think in the writing process itself, but in the revision.
Look, a hundred years ago most writers still wrote by hand, with a few of them writing by typewriter. (I think. I know my grandfather’s circle wrote mostly by hand because he told me I’d never be published. No publisher could read my hand. One of his cronies, who was a well known name in Portuguese literature dictated to his wife for that reasons.) Certainly a hundred and fifty years ago, when our literary culture was being formed, writing took place by means of dipping pen and applying to paper.
For those of you who haven’t done that, ever, the process is inherently messy and difficult and sets its own pace, lest you drop a blot that obliterates most of a paragraph (did that often.)
In such circumstances — or even with typewriters, which are a slower and more messy process than people who haven’t used them imagine — it took much longer to write each sentence.
The problem with this is that, in normal narrative flow at normal brain speed, by the time you’re done writing a sentence with either quill, pen or manual typewriter, you forgot what the next one would be. So you have to bring it up again, then write it.
This both ensures a far choppier prose in the first draft, and training yourself to think in words very slowly.
Then there’s revision, which — trust me, having written stories both these ways — is far more needed in this method. Changed that character’s name because you realized it’s an unfortunate pun? You now have to fair-copy most of your manuscript, because each of those pages is now out of place. Btw, typewriting didn’t help with this.
Also when you were done with the whole thing, you needed a lot more distance from it. A LOT MORE DISTANCE — like ten years — because you were so sick and tired of re-copying it.
Look, that might look like a simple change in tools, but it’s actually a difference in how to tell a story, period. Compared to that, any fast typist now can be almost like a neural download, pouring out words as fast as you can think it. And if you can’t think faster than a quill or a manual typewriter, seek help.
Also, the first two revisions (for names and details like that) can be done on the computer and are much faster. (I find the kindle fire is better, though.) For the final revision, though, I advise printing the dang thing out.
So get rid of that “I must write slow to write well.” Unless you’re writing with a quill pen or — even — a manual typewriter.
2- This seems trivial, but is related to that change in instruments. If you’re a slow typist, become a fast one. Your story telling ability flies MUCH faster than 20 words per minute, or even 40. If you aren’t a touch typist, find a course with your community college and take it. If you are, there are games on line to increase your speed. Consider those. I haven’t clocked myself recently but I type almost as fast as my husband reads. In my case, I did it the old fashioned way — I couldn’t afford a typing course (newly married) and there were no games or net. So I got Dan’s old highschool typing manual and followed the exercises scrupulously for three months. When I was done I touch-typed 60 words per minute. Practice did the rest. If you can’t do this for whatever reason (eventually arthritis will stop me) try Dragon. It’s come on a lot and even understands my accent.
3- DO NOT revise while you write. In fact, make that something that happens in a separate part of the house, if you can. Also, when you leave off somewhere make yourself a note about where you are in the story and what comes next. DO NOT read back on the novel. Otherwise, if the novels is halfway through or more, you’ll only do that all day. Just go on. Takes a while to get used to, but can be done.
4- Remember it can all be changed in post. Yes, if you follow 3 there will be inconsistencies. That’s why three passes, to catch it all. Take a deep breath and just assume you’ll change it in revision. (The same is true for minor failures to foreshadow, etc.)
5- Shut up and write. Yes, this means turning off the internet on your writing computer. Yes, I’m working on taking my own medicine, by setting up the blogging and other social stuff on the treadmill “desk” (board affixed on the handles) downstairs. I’m way more productive without internet.
There might be more things you can do, but these are the most important ones. Now go write.