Fast Versus Slow: Picking A Writing Speed

Mm, writer brains.

The eternal debate: fast versus slow. Whether you’re talking about zombies, sex, or writing, everyone’s got an opinion.* Some love the heady, breakneck pace of an out-of-control zero draft, feeling the rush as they careen toward the finish line like a drunk chimp behind the wheel of a tank. Others prefer a slower, more considered pace, choosing words with exact care and placing them with all the deliberation and delicacy of a obsessive-compulsive Faberge egg maker.** So, which way is better? Which way will lead you to novel-finishing glory? Which way will gain you legions of minions fans and AN ARMY WHICH BLACKENS THE EARTH ON WHICH IT WALKS?

I don’t know.

Kind of anti-climactic. Much like the vast majority of arguments about sex.

The thing is, as I’ve said before, no one can tell you how to write. They can only tell you how they write. And even then, it tends to be a homogenized version, as if every day at precisely nine am they sit down with their cup of monkey brains and a freshly-sharpened femur to begin the daily process of scratching out exactly 1000 words. Or 5000, or 500, or 329. I do this, too—the glossing-over, not the femur thing—and it’s just because it’s easier to explain that way. Also, no one wants to listen to an endless daily recitation of how each writing session varies. Or, if they do, presumably they’re already on Twitter where writers like me bitch/snivel/cheer/hoot triumphantly as we live-tweet our days into the void.

There are benefits to writing fast and there are benefits to writing slow. Write fast and you’ll finish fast, but you’re probably going to spend more time editing because THERE IS NO TIME FOR EDITS IN THE THUNDERDOME. Write slow and you’ll probably get something more polished, but you run the risk of never finishing at all and falling prey to the most boring type of creative endeavour, Describing Reasons You Can’t Write.

Which works for you on which day will depend on the following:

-Writing style

-How much planning you did before you started writing

-How much you already know about your story

-How much editing you want to do

-How easily you get bored

-Lifestyle and available writing time

-Caffeine levels

-Blood type

-Star sign

-Number of episodes left of that show you’ve been binge-watching

-Presence of spouse, kids, roommates, a social life, and other things that can take away from writing

-What the hell you feel like doing at the moment when you sit down to write

Through this highly scientific list, you can tell that it all depends.

The only way to find out which one works for you is to try stuff, and note which methods work for you. Try writing an entire chapter in a day, or a single page in a weekend. See which result you like better.

And then be prepared for it to change at any moment, because writing is a bitch like that.

* I would in fact argue that the zombie arguers are more vehement than the sex arguers. Or maybe it’s just that the former can shout their opinions in a crowded restaurant without getting kicked out.

**Presumably, Fabrege.

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