This is a contribution from writer Cindy Dees, an award-winning author of romantic suspense and epic fantasy novels.
Decades ago, authors were thought to be hacks if they turned out more th…an one novel a year. That was also before the advent of computers and the Internet which greatly streamlined the writing process. Also, that was a time when the income from one novel a year might have been a living wage.
Oh, how times have changed. Speed matters if you’re going to be a commercially successful author. Readers want books as fast as their favorite writers can churn them out–one a month is not unheard of. And yes, I’m talking full length, fully developed novels. That pace even gives me pause, for what it’s worth.
The thing is to learn to write fast AND write well–but not necessarily at the same time.
I’ve learned over the years of watching my students write that the hardest part for most authors is getting a draft down on paper that they can then edit later into perfect shape. Rather than focus on perfection the first time around, most commercial authors vomit a (relatively for them) terrible first draft quickly, then go back and edit it into its final, professional, clean state. For many authors, that turns out to be a faster mode of producing quality books.
The act of demanding high quality from oneself the first time around seems to slow many writers down…if not freeze them in their tracks. Screeching to a halt is what I’m trying to avoid when I focus on speed over quality in my first draft.
I agree absolutely that, at the end of the writing process, a book has to be as high quality as I’m capable of making it. However, aiming for that lofty goal in the first draft kills my productivity. Totally. As in dead, I’d rather do anything else on earth but write, dead.
I’m in no way suggesting that quality be sacrificed for speed in the final manuscript. It often takes me longer to revise and edit a book than it does to draft it. But I am suggesting that seeking quality not be allowed to slow you down in the drafting process.
Or, as I’m fond of telling my students, give yourself permission to write crap. Crap can be fixed. A blank page cannot.
The corollary to that is…write your crap fast. Then, take your time editing it properly.