Today’s word count: 1,819 words
NANTUCKET total word count: 55,733 words
HARPER total word count: 5,435 words
I didn’t quite make my word count goal today, but it’s very late and I did finish two scenes. I also spent far longer than normal pulling these 1,819 words out of me, so I figured it was fine to stop since my daily one-hour goal was met.
Usually, it takes me about 40 minutes to write my 2000 words. I write very fast, and I don’t take any sort of special care with the words that spill out. I just type them out as I feel them in my mind, so no time is spent searching for the right words or the perfect turn of phrase. The words that tumble out tend to be utilitarian, fulfilling one basic need: getting the story down on paper.
I was glad, actually, to come across this post written by author Jay Lake for the Tor Books blog. I must admit, sometimes I think about how fast I write, and I worry a little about that, worry that it reflects badly on the quality of the words. But Jay Lake is also a fast writer, and he notes that “It’s just that I’m not writing fast, I’m drafting fast.” And that’s what I’m dong too. I’m drafting fast. I’m laying down a lot of words so I’ll have something to work with when I do all the shaping up that needs to be done during the revision stage.
I also caught this post today at Fran Caldwell’s Notebook, about writing speeds. It’s funny how things show up online when you’ve got something on your mind. Fran works differently than I do, in that she also revises as she goes, but just the same, while she’s drafting, it’s fast: “If my writing isn’t moving like a torrent, I become irritable. For me, revision can only come after those exuberant words have been poured out onto the pages en masse.”
I’ve decided the best thing to do when I start thinking about my writing speed is to keep in mind Anne Lamott’s words in Bird by Bird about shitty first drafts:
Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.
For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.
As to why today was a lot slower (it took me an hour and seven minutes today to get those 1,819 words out): I decided today that I absolutely had to go back and write some of the missing scenes. There was, in particular, one quite pivotal one involving a major discovery, and it just needed to be written. But like I discussed in this post about writing chronologically, I’m not as comfortable going back and writing scenes out of chronological sequence, and this discomfort slowed me down a bit.
Either way, whether I write fast, and doubt the value of the words because I’m writing so fast, or I write slower, and doubt the value of the words because of the discomfort of pulling each one out, I’m working on that shitty first draft.
I’m okay with that, I think.