Monday, June 11, 2012

Getting Up To Speed

by Lucy Marsden

As a general rule, I write slowly.

This isn't entirely a bad thing; it tends to mean that what ends up on the page in terms of dialogue, action, and emotion pretty closely represents the eventual end-product, and that I can look forward to some actual fun during revisions.

If I ever bloody get there, that is.

So although I've accepted what is probably an innate tendency in my writing process, I am currently experimenting with approaches to increase the pace of my writing. I don't expect to become a speed-demon at the keyboard, but I do want to learn how to get my characters and my story on the page solidly in a first draft, and in a time-frame less reminiscent of a geological ice-age.

Here, in no particular order, is what I've discovered so far about pacing my writing:

1. I need to write every day, if I possibly can.

This isn't always do-able, but when it is, it helps hugely in maintaining the momentum of my writing. It takes a lot for me to finally get to the place where the outside world and my own internal flanneling fall away enough for me to really feel and hear my characters. It's at this point that I notice my writing begins to flow, and I know now that I'm able to re-establish that connection more quickly when I'm writing every day.

2. I need to allow myself to focus on dialogue first.

Dialogue is, apparently, how I lay down the bones of my characters and my story, and I know I'm lucky in that respect. But even if I gravitated to writing setting first, I've still learned that it would be in the best interests of my writing to honor this urge and start getting the story DOWN.

3. I need to trust that the other story elements CAN be addressed in the next draft. Really, they can.

This is a biggie. I'm a Craft wonk, and so I have an internal editor from Hell. She'd be an absolute peach if she'd just go hang out at a Starbucks somewhere with somebody else's book until I'm ready for revisions, but she worries about me so. Left to my own devices, she's pretty sure that I'm not going to be able to fully flesh out my scenes, and articulate every nuance of my characters if I don't do it RIGHT NOW. Frankly, I am still figuring out how to get enough on the page so that she's reassured, while keeping the story moving smartly forward. It helps that I've got a CP whose first drafts are also mostly dialogue, whose writing pace is healthy, and who I observe going back to add critical layers in later drafts. If other writers do this successfully, then I can trust myself to do it, too.

What have you folks found helpful in terms of pacing and productivity? How do you keep you internal editor at bay long enough to get your story delivered?

Lucy Marsden is a romance writer living in New England. When she’s not backstage at a magic show or crashing a physics picnic, she can be found knee-deep in the occult collection of some old library, or arguing hotly about Story.


E.B. Black said...

I take notes. I just need to sit down and write, so if I don't like what is coming out, I take notes on what I need to fix and why in my manuscript and trust myself to go over it later.

Lynn Proctor said...

i hate to write dialogue--i guess i am more of a story teller :)

Jean Oram said...

I have no problem getting the first draft down. Revisions however? Whole different story. I can hack and edit and add 'til the cows come home.


Cecilia M. said...

Great post, Jemi!

Keeping that internal editor at bay is next to impossible for me. I find myself hopping back a few pages and start editing. ugh. But on the productivity front, I have a wonderful editor I'm working with. I made a promise to deliver the pending chapters by 15th June to her. I made a deadline for myself to finish by 10th. It worked because when I tended to slack on my writing, guilt ripped at me. :D

Jemi Fraser said...

While I can get a draft down in pretty good time, I'm a true turtle with my revising! I'm getting better, but I need to let things mull around in my subconscious for a while before I do major changes to a draft.

Thanks for the compliment, Cecilia - but this great post is courtesy of Lucy! :)

Luce said...

Hi, Folks--

E.B.--I love the idea of taking notes; it's like making a detailed promise about how you intend to fix the scene. That way, you can relax and keep going.

Lynn--Isn't it interesting what each of us gravitates to and why? I bet you write killer synopses.

Jean--I seriously hate you. (OK, not really.) I know revision is akin to a death march for some writers; perhaps it's one of those "The grass is always greener" things?

Cecilia--Yes! Accountability to other people is hugely reinforcing, and deadlines work wonders for limiting procrastination. And I'll happily answer to Jemi's name if it means more compliments. :)

Jemi--Just sit down with Jean and stop radiating smugness, the pair of you. (Kidding!) (Note to self: must keep a better lid on the bitterness.) Honestly though, Jemi, I think that's really smart; letting things gel a little gives you a much better sense of what needs to change in that next draft.

Alleged Author said...

I try to write at least 1,000 words every day, but sometimes life happens. You just get back on that horse. :)