Hello, Writer, and welcome back to my life. Second Writer Wednesday today! (Catching up on a backlog).
Today’s question comes to us from patron @SamReevesArt, who asks:
“At what point did you realize that writing quickly could produce good stories, and what triggered that trust?”
Warning up front: this answer is inevitably a bit of a ramble. I’ve been thinking about this a lot.
I’ve gone through many evolutions in my thoughts and thinking about what makes good writing, and how speed of writing plays into good writing.
It’s often said, and I have said, that when you write fast, you tap into a more natural voice for yourself. You write more naturally, and that is a benefit to your style.
I still believe there’s a lot of truth in that, but it is something you can’t take for granted. You can’t apply it universally.
There are people who write very, very fast, who do not produce good work. And, of course, there are writers who write slowly and turn out excellent work.
(Less of the latter in the indie community, because it’s harder for us to build a career that way.)
What made ME realize it was possible was just…doing it.
My very first book was written quickly. Before that, I wrote hundreds of thousands of words of fanfiction. I wrote it quickly, and I liked the result. “Can fast be good” was never really a question for me.
But in the end, what led to me producing books that I was proud of—not just “are they good,” but really PROUD of—wasn’t writing fast.
It was editing, and it was learning more about storytelling in general.
I’ve said this before in Writer Wednesday: the more you outline, the less you need to edit, and vice-versa. And I really think that’s true.
I’m not proud of my books because I write them fast. I don’t think that their quality comes from the fact that I write them fast.
I think that I happen to write fast.
I think what makes me proud of them is that I have learned a lot about story. I know how to tell a story that is exciting and good and pleasing to me.
This is why my outlining process takes as long as it does. And this is why I spend more and more time editing.
Weird, right? My outlining gets better, but I also take more time editing—not because I have more stuff to fix, but because I am refining my stories more.
At this point—and this might change—my first draft is just a kind of annoying roadblock in between my outline and a done book. I don’t usually like writing them. Right now, it’s my least favorite part of the whole process.
I like coming up with the story, and then I like editing and refining and getting it right down to the nitty gritty.
At some point during the editing process, it becomes less fun. But I like the initial editing, the first big changes that really knock it into shape.
And so, more so than it’s ever been, my first draft is something I have to get through. It is something that I reach the end of as quickly as possible.
It’s a step towards a good book, but I don’t think that fast first drafting makes my books good.
Of course, the whole “Write your first draft fast to get better books” advice is probably applicable to somebody who currently takes too long. But that’s something I don’t have experience with.
To somebody who writes their first chapter and then goes back and edits it, or maybe rewrites it completely and then stops in the middle of a paragraph to go back and fix something, and, and, and—
Knock that off. That’s just never gonna get you a done book.
But once you hit a certain level where you can just write a first draft from beginning to end, you’re going to start getting better and better stories. Not from writing faster, but from learning story craft better, and from more editing.
That’s been my experience. And my opinion now is different than it’s been in the past, because I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about it.
I think that there’s something hopeful in this. If quality was just based on writing fast, you would hit a cap at the point where your fingers could not move any faster. Same goes for dictation.
But you can always improve in your craft. Once you realize that, you realize you can’t base quality off of mechanical limits like how fast you’re going.
So the simplest answer to your question, Sam, is that I discovered you can write good stories by writing fast…
…by writing fast and ending up with a good story.
But, to me, what I learned beyond that is much more important:
You need to discover other, new ways to tell better stories. To nail your story structure before you start writing, and then to take your first draft and make it worth reading.
Otherwise, it’s easy to get stagnant.
Nobody wants to read a stagnant writer.
Thank you, Sam, for the question. I hope that this answer was not too far out of left-field, and I hope it was useful to everyone else.
Sam and my other $5 patrons are the only ones allowed to request Writer Wednesday topics, and they also get them two weeks in advance.
Want to pitch in? https://patreon.com/garrettbrobinson
Thank you so much, and I will see you next time. Byyye!