Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why is Writing So Slow?

I'm lucky that writing isn't a race, because I'd come in dead last. I spend forever thinking about each little bit I write. What takes me so long is that I'm mentally living the moments with my main character and then deciding what I need to include to help my readers experience it too. (I'm also working on getting the words to sound right, but I'll leave my perfectionist tendencies out of this, I'm trying to ignore them.) 

It struck me yesterday that the perspective-taking I do as a writer isn't so different from what I do as a teacher, especially at the beginning of the year. I think about the school day from a student perspective and the details a student needs to know to succeed (from "Where is the bathroom?" to "What should I do after I finish my work?") Then I decide which ones I need to explain or show them first and which I can leave for later.

The difference is that as a teacher, I need to explain or show pretty much everything. As a writer, I have to be more picky. My explanations need to be more artful and less explicit. Once I'm inside the the perspective of a character, I need to extract the essential and the unique and somehow capture that on the page. That's what takes me a long time.

What slows you down about the writing process?

15 comments:

  1. Revising takes longer for me. But def. not enough coffee slows me down. :)

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  2. A cluttered desk!

    Seriously, too much of the editor on one shoulder, and not enough listening to the creative muse on the other...

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  3. I'm with Kenda. And like you, I'm very slow. I went to a novel writing workshop last month and we were given a five minute exercise. I was totally humbled. I barely managed a sentence, and a not very good one at that, while some people wrote these awesome paragraphs (plural!) I considered changing careers :)

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  4. this happens to me a lot right at the very beginning of a new project- I want everything to be just so. Eventually, though, the story just kind of falls out of me and things pick up. But editing afterwords is a slow and painful process after that:)

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  5. The slow part for me is the revision process. Since I'm not a plotter, I don't have clean first drafts and sometimes editing a manuscript can take for-frickin-ever. And I'm not a patient woman. I want it done, and I want it done now.

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  6. The beginning. Always the worst part for me. And for the record, you wouldn't be last in the race, you'd be second to last. *I'd* be behind you. :-)

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  7. What a well-explained thought! So that's why writing takes me so long. :)

    ~Debbie

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  8. Being a perfectionist slows me down as well, but I've gotten to the point where writing a first draft only comes with reckless abandon. That helps :)

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  9. I agree with you. You don't have to show everything, but as you're "living" the scene every detail comes to mind. So what? Write it down and take every "he stood" and "he went to the bathroom" out later. The scene may not need them, but I bet you'll write the scene better with all the details than if you didn't.

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  10. I'm the same way. But I don't mind taking things slow and enjoying the process. It's not a race (unless you're on a deadline). :D

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  11. Stina, I do think it's important to enjoy the process, since it takes up so much time!

    E.R., for me, it is important to think through the details, but I only include so many in my writing, kind of revising as I go.

    Kelley, that's impressive. I'm always struggling to let go of some of that perfectionism during early drafts.

    Ha! Car, if we were in a race, you'd be trying to pass me. And B.E., patience is one of the hard things about the whole writing process!

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  12. Kenda, for some reason I'm able to ignore the clutter on my desk (and in the rest of the house) to write. But I don't appreciate it later when I stop and realize what a disaster everything is!

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  13. Ha, it's actually sleep! I work long hours at my day job so during the week, my time is very limited.

    It's too bad that I need sleep to function. If I didn't, I'm sure I would be done with my novel by now. :)

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  14. I'm trying to slow it down. I used to write so fast and not slow down for revision but I'm learning- slowly!- how to revise.

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