Ah, it is National Novel Writing Month. Many of you are participating in NaNoWriMo (write 50,000 words in a month) and many are not. Either way is fine. Your call. I love doing Nano simply because I have to fast draft everything because I tend to nitpick stuff to death, especially fiction.
I fast draft all year, so November is the only time I have company and lots of immoral support.
Why do I love writing fast? So happy you asked!
Many new authors slog out that first book, editing every word to perfection, revising, reworking, redoing. When I used to be a part of critique groups, it was not at all uncommon to find writers who’d been working on the same book two, five, eight and even ten years. Still see them at conferences, shopping the same book, getting rejected, then rewriting, rewriting…..
Great, maybe Kathryn Stockett, the author of The Help took five years and 62 revisions to get her story published. Awesome for her. And yes, her book was a runaway success, but this isn’t the norm. It’s playing Literary Lottery with our careers.
For most writers, it will be hard to have a long-term successful career if our pace is a book or two a decade.
Most authors who’ve made legend status were all talented, yes. But many were (are) also prolific.
Does Writing Quickly Produce Inferior Work?
As I mentioned in a post last week, I’m a huge fan of Fast Draft. Candy Havens teaches this technique, and it works. Write your novel in two weeks a month, whatever, but write fast and furious. No looking back. Always forward. You can fix stuff later.
I’ve heard some writers criticize this method, believing that writing at this increased pace somehow compromises quality. Many writers are afraid that picking up speed will somehow undermine craftsmanship, yet this isn’t necessarily so.
To prove my point, here are some interesting factoids about writing hard and fast, some taken from James Scott Bell’s WONDERFUL book The Art of War for Writers (pages 79-82):
- William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in six weeks.
- Ernest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises in six weeks.
- After being mocked by a fellow writer that writing so fast created junk, John D. MacDonald wrote The Executioners in a month. Simon & Schuster published it in hardback. It was also serialized in a magazine, selected by a book club, and turned into the movie Cape Fear TWICE.
- Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in nine days on a rented typewriter.
- Isaac Asimov was the author/editor of over 700 books over the course of his career.
- Stephen King writes 1,500 words a day every day of the year except his birthday. He’s published over fifty novels, and I don’t even know how many short stories and novellas. Let’s just say he’s written a LOT. Could he have done this writing a book every three years? Every five?
Meet “Captain Kirk Brain” and “Spock Brain”
Here’s my explanation of why writing faster than we “are comfortable” can produce fiction just as good (if not better) than a work that’s been written slowly and deliberately. And, since all roads that don’t lead to Lord of the Rings lead to Star Trek…
When we write quickly, we get into The Zone and pass The Wall. We become part of the world we’re creating. Fatigue wears out the cerebral cortex (the “Inner Editor” which I will call our “Spock Brain”). Fatigue diverts us to the Limbic Brain (also known as the Reptilian or Primal Brain, or for today’s purposes—“The Captain Kirk Brain”).
When we get tired, we go into a fugue-like state and our reality shifts. The closest way non-writers can experience this is by licking strange frogs or chasing 20 Pixie Sticks with a bottle of NyQuil.
When we immerse ourselves and keep pressing and pushing we are there. Vested and present. We think about that place we’ve created and the people we’ve imagined non-stop. We eat, think, and dream about it.
If we slow down? We’re constantly having to reacclimatize ourselves and regain familiarity, which costs us time and makes us over think and second guess. We also end up making dumb mistakes.
I had one book I wrote many years ago and it took me so long to finish that I’d actually changed the NAME of a few of the key characters by the end of the book. How did Dave suddenly become Mark? That was how unfamiliar I was with my own story. I was letting Spock Brain put curb feelers on my cortex.
Kirk brain? Another story.
Kirk Brain is emotional, visceral and has no problem kissing hot, green alien women or cheating the Kobayashi Maru. He out-bluffs Klingons, outruns Romulans, starts brawls and throws the rulebook out the window. He’s pure instinct, raw emotion and all action. In short, Kirk is the stuff of great stories. No one ever got to the end of a book and said, “Wow, that book was riveting. The grammar was PERFECT!”
Captain Kirk Brain can do it’s job better—write fiction—when Spock Brain isn’t there saying, “But Captain, you’re being illogical. It clearly states in Strunk & White….”
The BEST line in the last Star Trek movie was when Khan says to Spock, “You can’t even break rules, how can you expect to break bones?” So, I’m going to apply this to writing.
Are you breaking enough bones?
Many writers hold back emotionally when writing. Why? They aren’t going fast and hard and so Spock takes over and he wants us to use a seatbelt and our blinkers. He isn’t the guy you want in charge if you’re going for the GUTS and breaking bones.
Kirk is Great for Action and Spock is Better for Rules
Spock Brain is a perfectionist and wants us to take our time, make sure we follow all the rules and put the commas in the right spot. He’s seriously uncomfortable with “suspending disbelief” and he tries to explain everything so others don’t get confused. He doesn’t like risk-taking and he hates going big. Thus, he downplays things and that is poison for great fiction.
The trick is to hop on a cerebral crotch-rocket and outrun Spock. He is seriously uncomfortable with speeding and you can easily lose him in the school zones or the parking lot of Walmart. Don’t worry, Spock will yell at us later….at the appropriate time which is during revisions.
Thing is, Kirk and Spock make the perfect team, whether on The Enterprise or in our head. They balance each other, but they are also antagonists. Kirk wants to put phasers on KILL, and Spock wants to check and see if the rules for the Oxford Comma allows this.
Blogging and Writing Quickly Helps Us Learn to Shut off The Spock Brain
Blogging helps us ship and get comfortable with going FAST. No maybe every piece isn’t the quality of a New Yorker article, but who cares? It’s a BLOG. We aren’t looking to win the Pulitzer. We’re looking to get better riding a Cerebral Ducati and ignoring all of Spock’s protests that “This isn’t safe” and “Where is our helmet?” and “Clearly the speed limit forbids you going this fast.”
When we get the stories out and on the screen faster, they’re more visceral. We get more practice with more stories since we aren’t letting Spock nit-pick for the next ten years…which he will do if Kirk doesn’t go running the other way despite Spock’s protests. So even if you don’t do Nano, try picking up speed. I know it’s scary but what do you have to lose?
What are your thoughts? Has your inner Vulcan taken over and edited all the life out of your story? Has Kirk been allowed too much sway and now you’ve got to let Spock whip it into structure shape? Does the idea of going faster scare you?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of NOVEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.
I will announce OCTOBER’S WINNER later. Hubby has had the flu and I need more time to figure out who won.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.
#1 by Prudence Macleod on November 2, 2015 - 12:29 pm
I must say, I do agree completely with this post. I have a friend who is working on his third book. The first has yet to be published, the second has, and the third? Who knows. Over the same period of time I have written and published over forty books, some self published and some through a publishing house. The point is, it doesn’t have to be perfect, just tell the dang story. Fast track that first draft, go back and tidy it up, toss it out there and move on.
Oh yeah, remember to have a bit of fun with it too. 🙂
#2 by Kate McMurry on November 2, 2015 - 12:32 pm
This post and your previous one on Nano have totally inspired me. I’m doing Nano for the first time since 2004. Thank you!
#3 by willmacmillanjones on November 2, 2015 - 12:33 pm
I spent ages on my first novel (and still KNOW it could be better). Then I read Stephen King’s On Writing, and changed my approach. Fast writing has another advantage Karen has missed here – for the fact is, the more we write the better we get at it. As King says, the first draft is you telling the story – after that you can tweak it: but you’ve got to get the story out first – and the more stories you write, the better you become at telling them.
#4 by coldhandboyack on November 2, 2015 - 12:37 pm
I love this. You make your points in a way people will remember.
#5 by Aura Eadon on November 2, 2015 - 12:39 pm
Absolutely brilliant, if I say I agree with what you wrote won’t do it justice. As I was reading I recognised what I have been feeling and doing throughout the year. The best thing I ever did for myself was to let go of the notion I “should” be writing perfection on the first try. Then in February I wrote a novel from scratch in two months. Yes it needed and still needs fixing but when I let go of the perfection obsession, I wrote using the part of the brain that feels and is highly creative. I always end up crying my eyes out when I write like this but I blame being sensitive and emotional.
#6 by Tam Francis on November 2, 2015 - 12:56 pm
Loved this post. I’ve just recently begun to trust my sub-conscious. I didn’t realize the power of it before. It’s taken a lot of the fear away. Two successful NaNo under my belt. I wish I was doing this year, but I’ve got three books done and need to get them for sale. Grrrr, I am really missing not doing Nano this year. Best of luck to everyone who is.
~ Tam Francis~
#7 by dkent on November 2, 2015 - 12:59 pm
I’ll be a contrarian here. The problem with fast writing I see with my writing students is that many follow the well-worn paths of plot and character so there are no surprises in either. They are so eager to move forward that they don’t pause to think — how can I make this different?
Predictable paths make boring books.
And writing lots of books very fast teaches nothing in most cases. All it is creative diarrhea if you aren’t editing, working with beta readers, taking craft courses, etc.
I’ve read lots of series bundles of self-pubs in recent years, and I’ve seen some writers who learn nothing as they move forward, and that’s just sad.
In my early writing days, I wrote really fast with just minor editing as I went because I feared I’d lose the story. As I gained confidence, I slowed down and really thought about what I was doing, and I improved my stories. Now, both Kirk and Spock reside in my head while I work with Bones there to throw in another view.
#8 by Aura Eadon on November 2, 2015 - 1:59 pm
I think there is a minor confusion here. This is about writing the first draft fast, not about writing a first draft, then decide it’s ready to publish. The main premise is this: first drafts suck. That is fine. Yes they are creative diarrhea as you very eloquently put it but that has nothing to do with the subsequent drafts, editing, beta readers, etc. Those are still needed. You still need to edit ruthlessly, examine your plot, do developmental edits, find holes, work with beta readers, do revision and re-vision, rinse and repeat.
It’s not for everyone and that is fair enough. I know writers who can’t shut up the inner editor. That’s also fine.
However, the assumption that people who write the first drafts fast don’t write good stories, write boring and unediting books, and never learn anything is a fallacy.
Additionally please note that no course has ever made a writer. Writers become writers by writing. A lot. As much as possible. And in these days for those of us who have to support ourselves with a day job, the only way to become full time authors is to write many good books. That is, many high quality and well edited books.
#9 by dkent on November 2, 2015 - 3:14 pm
Sure, writing fast can work, but, sometimes, it doesn’t. I was mentioning a flaw in the idea. And, believe me, you don’t want to discover during the editing process that you’ve been lazy with your plot or character so you have to toss the rest of the book and start over where you made a massive mistake.
I’ve found that sports are a good analogy to the craft of writing. Even the best athletes in the world must practice the elements of their game and bring in experts to improve their golf swing, or their failure to hit three-pointers with any consistency, etc.
Writers are the same way. Eventually, they may figure out what they are doing wrong, but a good coach, be that a writing teacher, critique partner, or beta reader, can help them improve and help them spot the flaws in their writing, and it’s every so much faster and more successful than slogging along by yourself.
#10 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 2, 2015 - 6:00 pm
Eventually writers do have to find what works for them and there are arguments for both camps. BUT, it is easy to assume that writing quickly automatically equals crappy work. AND, having been in this business many many years, I will say that more writers fail because of going too slowly. They plod along and over think and over perfect and never finish. They work and rework ONE book and simply never get enough PRACTICE writing books, FULL LENGTH books. I would rather an author err on the side of writing ten eh books than never finishing the world’s most perfect novel.
Sure, maybe a writer fast drafts ten sucky books over the course of a couple years but gets SO much practice that eventually something clicks. Suddenly? That writer doesn’t suck so much but now she is a far faster writer and maybe has developed enough skill where she can spot problems earlier. One of the BIGGEST problems writers face is they simply don’t give themselves enough PRACTICE. It takes a million words to not suck. Another reason I love blogging. Too many writers are busy rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic instead of hopping in a life boat and trying again.
#11 by tammyjpalmer on November 2, 2015 - 11:38 pm
I’m glad you wrote this. When I write fast I end up with a heaping steaming pile of you know what. It’s such a mess that I have to start over from scratch. It feels like a waste of time. When I write slowly and really think about it, the end result is something I feel good about. No, I’m not prolific. Sadly, I probably won’t be able to make a living at this. But some of us can’t write fast and well. I envy those who can.
#12 by IchBinMeisterin on June 15, 2016 - 4:00 am
To be fair, Hemingway said the first draft of anything is shit. Write fast, edit slooooowwww.
#13 by apocalypticwriterskye on November 2, 2015 - 1:00 pm
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Jekyll and Hyde in 6 days. 3 days for the first draft which he threw into a fire, and 3 days for the second draft.
#14 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 2, 2015 - 1:46 pm
#15 by IchBinMeisterin on June 15, 2016 - 3:59 am
#16 by barbtaub on November 2, 2015 - 1:02 pm
“The only way non-writers can experience this is by licking strange frogs or chasing 20 Pixie Sticks with a bottle of NyQuil.”
Feeling overwhelming urge to stop NaNo-ing and hit the 7-Eleven…
#17 by Renee on November 2, 2015 - 1:02 pm
Hi, Kristen: I can’t do NaNo this year, doggone it, but I do think this post is spot-on. Like so many writers, I’ve learned the hard way. Used to rewrite openings so I could enter another RWA contest (first 25 pages) and tried my best to hit all their checklists. Resulted in half-written, “patchwork” novels, lots of external clutter that did nothing to further the story. Decimated my confidence. Worse, I forgot to trust my instincts. I tore apart three novels in pursuit of one contest win — entered 55+ RWA chapter contests over the course of two unhappy years and got nowhere.
Not anyone’s fault but my own, and it was a really destructive pattern. I was a criticism junkie.
And in a strange way, I think this humbling — and fumbling — has helped me as a writer and as a human being.
So here is what I focused on in the past 2 years. (1) stop entering RWA contests and accept that I’m an outlier romance writer. And that’s okay. (2) submerge myself in storytelling, structure and plotting. As an ADD writer, those are my biggest weaknesses. Being a right-brained writer, I’ll always be a “reforming plotter,” (LOL) (3) Establish a framework, a structure of the story, then write uber-fast. That is precisely how STORY FLOW happens. STORY Is what readers respond to, not how pretty the words are, or how clever the one-liners are. A perfect one-liner builds on the emotion of the scene — like, for example, in “American Sniper,” after Chris Kyle discovers his girlfriend is cheating, and his brother asks: “When’s the wedding?”
A screenwriter once told me: “Words don’t sell (wordsmithing). Stories are what sell.” (4) take that really ugly first draft, embrace it as beautiful, because the story is in there — what came from my heart and subconscious is in that ugly first draft — and start (5) shaping it.
I used to wordsmith a chapter to death. You can waste a lot of time doing that.
Best to all writers and to you, Kristen. Thank you for your blog.
#18 by dave94015 on November 2, 2015 - 1:03 pm
Reblogged this on dave94015 and commented:
writers don’t have to plod along seeking the perfect choice for their next word. KL suggests go full speed and get into the “Zone” – there will be time to revise later!
#19 by dkent on November 2, 2015 - 1:03 pm
Oh, in answer to your question. No amount of air freshers can hide the smell of a decomposing human body. Even if you remove it, the odor will have penetrated everything from the furniture, wood, carpet, etc.
If they bring in a cadaver dog, you are so screwed.
#20 by dave94015 on November 2, 2015 - 1:05 pm
I like your critique on blogging – it’s a great way to warm up to writing!
#21 by newfsull on November 2, 2015 - 1:07 pm
Sorry, don’t have time to comment. Yes, I had time to read. But, got to get back to NANO; and then there’s tweetdeck, Wanatribe, facebook, the Dane, the Rat Terrier; my wife is asking for Dinner. Oh ya, tax season is about to start up.
Am I in a hurry when I write? you bet ya
#22 by The Story Reading Ape on November 2, 2015 - 1:19 pm
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog.
#23 by Sue on November 2, 2015 - 1:20 pm
This is my first time attempting Nano and I am Spock brain all the way, which is rather disappointing seeing as my 14 year old self had a major crush on Kirk. My 50 year old self still kinda does, actually.
Anyway- I haven’t written much fiction – my blog is primarily anecdotal humor- so I’m pretty sure my nano novel will be garbage. However, I’m going to try anyway – it will be a good lesson in story telling and hopefully will help me learn to write faster without editing as I go.
This was an excellent post of encouragement- because I was going to rebel and do my “own thing” but now I’m going to go after it. What the heck. Sleep is for the weak.
#24 by Leslie Leibhardt Goodman - Writer on November 2, 2015 - 1:26 pm
I can clearly see I have strong ties to Spock. That nagging little editor in my head found a comfy seat on my shoulder and scrutinizes every blasted word I type. I’ll try to write in Kirk mode, but no promises.
#25 by tjhapney on November 2, 2015 - 1:42 pm
Reblogged this on TJ's New Book Blog and commented:
I’m one of those that is guilty of overthinking what I’m doing and it really slows my process down. How about you? NaNoWriMo is on. I’m at 6,272 words on Day 2 and am trying to keep my mind on advice like this.
#26 by darcyflynn on November 2, 2015 - 1:53 pm
Oh yeah! I want Captain Kirk right now! Spock can wait til next month!
#27 by ontyrepassages on November 2, 2015 - 1:56 pm
I learned last year at NaNo just how true your advice is. Spock Brain ponders and considers and evaluates and ponders some more. Kirk Brain cackles like a lunatic while he pounds keys and sweat drips off his brow onto the keyboard. Trek was well aware of the contrast and often explored the differences, including within the two men (they each struggled with their other Brain). For November we need to give Spock Brain a Rubik’s Cube and sit him in the corner. He’ll be fine.
#28 by Parlor of Horror on November 2, 2015 - 2:17 pm
Great post and great advice. I used to edit as I went along and now I’m finding just writing it all and going back later to be much more efficient – this article explains why in simple terms 🙂
#29 by donnajeanmcdunn on November 2, 2015 - 2:21 pm
I don’t do NaNo, because I’d rather work on what I’m already writing, but, I so agree you Kristen. I try not to edit a lot before I make it to the end of the story. In the past, I used to edit the beginning, before I would begin writing where I left off the day before. I broke myself of that habit when I realized, it was taking forever to get to the end of the first draft and I like to know as soon as possible where my characters are going to take me. I now hurry to have a complete book before I spend to much time on revisions and I think it has helped a lot. I’ll soon have three books published and another that’s with my editors now and I’m always working on at least one with many more ideas for future books. At my age, I can’t waste time.
#30 by lalouziane on November 2, 2015 - 2:25 pm
I am definitely going to try this!
#31 by mdellert on November 2, 2015 - 2:27 pm
Reblogged this on MDellert-dot-Com and commented:
#MondayBlogs: “When we write quickly, we get into The Zone and pass The Wall… The closest way non-writers can experience this is by licking strange frogs or chasing 20 Pixie Sticks with a bottle of NyQuil.”
#32 by ariefarnam on November 2, 2015 - 2:39 pm
When I started, I had no idea this was how writing works. I was a journalist after all. You research, you plan, you outline and then you write, checking everything carefully as you go. Then all you need is a quick once over and you have an editor and a copyeditor anyway. You weren’t allowed to have so much emotion. And still we had to keep a fast pace but it was a much more Spock-like pace even so. Then when I wrote my first full-length fiction the first two chapters took 8 weeks to write and then I got hit by the fiction freight tsunami and three months later I had not one 80,000-word book but three. My children were neglected, my house needed to be fumigated and I didn’t even know what month it was, let alone what day, but the drafts were done. It is the most amazing experience. I love writing 2,000 words a day and hammering out a book fast. There is nothing so good. I’m not sure how Stephen King did it 364 days a year though. I need a break every book or so and time to edit and all the rest. But first drafts are best fast and furious! 🙂
#33 by marshaward on November 2, 2015 - 3:09 pm
Kristen Lamb, I. Love. You!
Curb feelers! Oh glory, you can’t be old enough.
Kirk and Spock Brains? So perfect!
#34 by anaatcalin on November 2, 2015 - 3:17 pm
This is true! I’ve been concentrating on short stories in quick scenes, all suspense, and the result was that I only wrote the essentials, which means my readers aren’t forced to put up with linking scenes and other dragging pieces. I tend to keep my novels to the point too, since I write suspense, but in the short stories this is particularly evident. Whole novels can be written like this.
#35 by Jo Lamb on November 2, 2015 - 3:29 pm
So true, I like many other writers, believe that perfection is the starting block when it should be the final product. I love fast writing, it free’s me from the shackle that prevent me from doing just that. It doesn’t matter if it reads like drivel when you read it the next day, the next week, if you look deep enough a nugget of the story you really wanted to tell will be there…
#36 by Jo Lamb on November 2, 2015 - 3:30 pm
I meant to say believed, that’s fast writing for you! it isn’t perfect 🙂
#37 by Heather on November 2, 2015 - 3:30 pm
This is so true, Kristen, and thank you for the reminder! Lately, I’ve been struggling with a nearly-complete rough draft and have not been able to connect with it enough to get into the writing zone. Your post reminded me of the feeling I’ve had when writing earlier works–daydreaming about my story, living and breathing it, because I’m so immersed. I think my best bet for getting there with this new story would be to do some fast writing…either that or start licking strange frogs? Thanks again!
#38 by Margaret Craig on November 2, 2015 - 3:34 pm
I’m writing this fast! I enjoyed your article. I’m a total Spock. I’m going to break out and go Kirk. Wish me luck.
#39 by Margaret Gerow Craig on November 2, 2015 - 3:39 pm
I enjoyed your post. I’m totally Spock, but I’m going Kirk, if I can. I’m going to give it my best shot.
#40 by Deborah Makarios on November 2, 2015 - 4:06 pm
I’ve recently realized that I need to spend more time dreaming up the story before I sit down to write – because otherwise the writing takes far too long and ends up with far too much unnecessary stuff in it. Dream. Write. Edit.
#41 by Southpaw, HR Sinclair on November 2, 2015 - 4:06 pm
I’m doing NaNo and fast writing. I had to or I’d never start. My brain just kept trying to perfect everything before I even put a word down! That’s how to get nowhere quick!
#42 by nancysegovia on November 2, 2015 - 4:16 pm
I’ve been in the zone, in the past, but not this year. Bones has been in charge, but hoping for Kirk next year.
#43 by nancysegovia on November 2, 2015 - 4:16 pm
Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia and commented:
Get in the zone, or lick some strange frogs?
#44 by ichbinmeisterin on November 2, 2015 - 4:24 pm
EXCELLENT article, Kristen! Just what I needed to read today, just when I was freaking out about my lack of preparation for NaNo. I am rusty with my writing, as my SLLOOOWWW pace has discouraged me from continuing (I also have a significant procrastination problem), and now I don’t even know half my own work. So right now I am working on something new, but am planning to just GET THE HELL ON WITH IT before worrying about its sound. Because that is what editing is for! Thanks for the motivation.
#45 by jeddiamond on November 2, 2015 - 4:50 pm
Prior to writing my first book (Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man) in 1983, I took a one day writing class with Marc Allen (author and publisher of New World Library). He said two things that have suck with me: 1. Writers get treated like royalty. (i.e. they get royalties. While you’re reading this someone is buying my books). 2. Never rewrite a word until you’ve finished the manuscript. I’ve taken that to heart. Doesn’t mean we don’t edit, but editing before we’re done, keeps us from ever getting done. Even non-fiction benefits from writing our first drafts quickly, from the heart and soul. There will be plenty of time for the head later.
#46 by Ivy Willow on November 2, 2015 - 5:28 pm
This was a very good read. Thank you! I’ll have to come through and read it again.
#47 by Tamara LeBlanc on November 2, 2015 - 6:02 pm
My inner Vulcan is 8 feet tall and wears size 18 shoes, stomping all over my productivity all day long…bastard 🙂
After reading this wonderful post, however, It’s time I climb a ladder and give old pointy ears a nice Vulcan nerve pinch and shut him the hell up.
It’s time to start writing daily and with Kirk-like determination!
Thank you for this Kristen.
#48 by shelleywidhalm on November 2, 2015 - 6:05 pm
I totally agree with the idea of fast writing, because you do become immersed and live with the characters daily. When you write once a week or set it aside because of life circumstances, you have to review, review and lose that momentum. It’s hard to get back into the story, when if you’re present every day, it’s already there waiting for you to let it unfold.
#49 by KFD Wilk on November 2, 2015 - 6:35 pm
The fugue state, that’s why my best ideas come at 2 in the morning! I’m riding with the Captain from now on.
#50 by katkent2014 on November 2, 2015 - 7:13 pm
I love writing first thing in the morning when I’m the freshest and as fast as I can. If I overthink something I’m writing, I tend to muddy it up. I can always check the technicals later and make any adjustments. I try to do research ahead of time but some ideas just come to you as your writing your WIP and even though I have some sort of an outline; things get tweaked and changed to make more sense. “Fast is golden.”
#51 by nathanhall913 on November 2, 2015 - 7:54 pm
I’ve always found that I write my best work when I write more slowly. Call it the Dean Koontz method of writing. The only scene I’ve had trouble with in my current novel, in terms of emotional impact, was written quickly.
I certainly do need to write more prolifically, to shut off the inner editor until revisions come around. But as I’ve been doing things, writing slow doesn’t rob my story of anything except for being finished.
#52 by karenawyle on November 2, 2015 - 9:06 pm
I agree with everything you say, except for your characterization of my first love, Mr. Spock. Mr. Spock is perfectly capable of taking a risk and going for broke — when it’s logical to do so.
#53 by ehbates on November 2, 2015 - 9:32 pm
Love it! This is my first year doing NaNo and going at breakneck speed through the first draft, and I LOVE it. Even more with the visualization of letting James T. Kirk drive the writing process. 🙂
#54 by Julie Holmes, author on November 2, 2015 - 10:34 pm
Reblogged this on Facets of a Muse and commented:
As I’m stumbling out of the gate for that deep revision of my WIP I working on for NaNo, this piece illustrates with far more humor than I can the reason I do NaNo to begin with. As long as my Kirk brain doesn’t over-act… 🙂
#55 by A.j. on November 2, 2015 - 10:35 pm
Just the pep talk I needed to anchor and remember the feeling of being in the zone today for Nano!
#56 by gilliansnotebook on November 3, 2015 - 1:44 am
On the topic of how many air fresheners it take to the dead body smell out of a basement….. I find Fabreeze OCEAN SPRAY does the trick in one bot…. Uh…I mean…I …. I have no idea. 😀
#57 by paulaacton on November 3, 2015 - 7:17 am
As long as the body is buried at least two feet deep there will be no smell….just don’t ask how I know!
#58 by gilliansnotebook on November 3, 2015 - 3:22 pm
😉 Not a word.
#59 by Andrea Fingerson on November 3, 2015 - 11:47 am
I loved your metaphor about the Kirk and Spock brain. I struggle with NaNoWritMo because the 50,000 word count just looms over my head. That annoying Spock brain tells me 50,000 words in a month is impossible.
But it isn’t. All of the people who complete NaNoWritMo every year prove that. It just doesn’t work for me.
When I was trying to finish the first draft of my novel for grad school, I told myself I had to write at least 20 pages a week. Three weeks later I think I had about 20 pages total. Working toward a number just did not work for me. So, I sat down and rethought my plan. Instead of worrying about a certain number of pages, I promised myself that I would work on my novel at least 5 days a week.
In no time I was just cranking out pages. During my best week I wrote 38 pages. On the week when my back was out I still wrote 18, which was still a whole lot better than anything I did during those first three weeks.
So, while the word count still looms over my head, I have a strategy now. I am not going to commit to 50,000 words. I am not even going to keep track of the number of words I write. But I am committing to working on my new project (a YA adult novel about teenage pregnancy) at least 5 days a week, and to blogging more.
These are goals I can be successful with. These are goals that will motivate me. And that is the whole purpose of this challenge.
#60 by Susy on November 5, 2015 - 2:33 am
I like that way of thinking… I’m doing this nano writing thing for the first time ever and that number does kind of scare me… I will follow your strategy and see where it takes me. Thanks!
#61 by Ellen Keigh on November 3, 2015 - 12:43 pm
You are so right. The only time I enjoyed skiing was when I was going too fast to worry about it. Writing’s the same way. Nano, rock on!
#62 by Kaylen on November 3, 2015 - 9:31 pm
I’ve been working on my first full length story (a memoir) for way too long – thank you for your encouragement to write quickly.
#63 by thomasreich on November 3, 2015 - 11:27 pm
Simply awesome advice. During NaNo 15 in three days I’ve gotten 6067 words out; charging straight and not looking back. OK. I’ll look back when it come to revising. Best writing tip I’ve had. Ever. Thanks, Kristen!
#64 by Betsy Love on November 4, 2015 - 12:54 am
Great article! I call it “lock the internal editor in the closet and just write the darn book!” I managed to write my best novel in 6 weeks, and two of those weeks were spent with my editor on my first book. I cannot tell you how empowering it was to write that book so fast. The story has great flow, the main character has an amazing character arc. I actually found there was less revision with the fast writing. Thanks for the reminder. I’ve been plugging away at a novel and feel like I’ve been taking way to long on telling the story. So I am going to just press forward with my story–damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!
#65 by gilliansnotebook on November 7, 2015 - 12:22 am
I’ll go a step further and say Bind AND Gag the internal editor and THEN lock her in the closet and write the darn book.” A gagged internal editor can still kick on your creative door until she wears you out with persistent doubt, “Should I have said this?” “I could have had ____ do that.”
I worked on a story for my blog for a while, and enjoy the way it was coming along. When I went back to it, a month or so later, I realized it was dialogue heavy.” I’ve got some serious editing to do, but I totally understand how it feels to let the story flow. “First SPILL YOUR GUTS. Then Clean it up.” Also, Writing and cooking are two different things. They say that the best way to avoid a messy kitchen is to clean as you go. But that’s because we’re dealing with a completed product. Editing a story as you’re writing is like washing the kitchen floor while it’s still concrete or board and the tile hasn’t been installed yet. It’s a waste of time and energy. Wait til the kitchen’s finished and then clean it.
#66 by Timi Adigun on November 4, 2015 - 1:29 am
I love this and I agree totally with you.
I’ve been on a book for about 5 years and it’s frustrating having to reread everytime I want to continue.
I’ve always been an advocate of writing fast and finishing before editing but I guess I get too lazy. Consistency has been my major issue.
Thanks again for this. I’m inspired.
I’m a Christian writer and a few of my books are on my blog for free download. I do fiction mostly.
#67 by Niina on November 4, 2015 - 3:48 am
I really enjoyed the Kirk-Spock brain comparison. I think I’ve become better at writing first drafts Kirk-style but afterwards Spock will walk in and try to halt the process the best he can. One novel never made it through the first revision because I didn’t think it was good enough or followed the rules enough or that were enough seat-belts and helmets around. Since then I’ve tried to find a good balance between these two brains. Not easy and I still can’t always figure it out, but knowing when to hit the gas or the breaks does get easier over time.
#68 by Susy on November 5, 2015 - 2:30 am
This is great! I’ve always felt like I need to hold back so I write “correctly”, but I just want to let go and write the story I know is in my brainI don’t have a book, but I am joining the nano thing you mentioned, let’s see where I go! Thanks for the encouragement and Star Trek analogy!
#69 by Laura Irrgang on November 5, 2015 - 12:28 pm
I needed this reminder. I get into the trap of editing and re-editing a project to death. I’m not sure what it is…maybe scarcity mentality? Do you guys ever find yourself sticking to one manuscript because you’re afraid you’ll run out of ideas? That’s silly…I have TONS of ideas. Maybe I worry it will be (insert nasal whining) too hard and too much work to get the next one started. Just a mental hurdle. As far as speed…I come up with far fresher work when I’m Speedy Gonzales. You are so right about how going fast will make your inner Spock shut up.
#70 by Tina Bruner on November 6, 2015 - 11:10 pm
Reblogged this on WriteitLOVE and commented:
Great article. Now to get rid of Spock’s voice in my head and make room for Captain Kirk!
#71 by Tina Bruner on November 6, 2015 - 11:21 pm
Thank you for this enlightening article. Being a newbie and working on my first book I started out with Kirk and the words flew onto the page. I’ve struggled with the last 20K words, Kirk has left and in his place, Spock has gotten rather comfortable.
I’ve decided to hang a picture of Captain Kirk in my office for motivation. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with us.
#72 by Samc95xc on November 9, 2015 - 2:37 am
This is one of best posts I’ve read today. I do agree with everything your said. Its a very good read! I loved it.
#73 by Eugenie Black on November 9, 2015 - 3:39 am
“Kirk wants to put phasers on KILL, and Spock wants to check and see if the rules for the Oxford Comma allows this.” – Oh, how I love this! But I adored Spock (the original Leonard Nimoy) and felt Kirk was a meat-head. Then Patrick Stewart changed all that of course. So – good point, totally get it. Memo to me: put phasers on KILL right now. I know I need to write fast to get the flow. I can only write fast if I have taken off my pants and plotted it all out first. So – guess which part I’m stuck on now with the third novel? Yes – the plotting – damn it! If you can blog a version of Save the Cat for novels I’d be so grateful!
#74 by tish on November 9, 2015 - 5:33 am
I allow my inner Kirk out everyday. I average 3,000 words a day, and never allow Spock out to play until I am ready to revise my work. I never thought of the way I write like this until I read your blog, but you have described my method perfectly! It’s definitely the way to do things! All I have to do now is finish writing, and see what I have created. If its any good wahey, if not, well, I will do better with my next story 😁
#75 by Gitanjali Singh Cherian on November 9, 2015 - 7:04 am
I am definitely going to try this technique. Thank you!
#76 by Larry Kahaner on November 9, 2015 - 11:09 am
Kristen: I mentioned your blog post in my blog post. Best, Larry
#77 by Jenny Larson on November 9, 2015 - 12:13 pm
I’m the curly, redhead who has sat across from you at the DFWWC meeting a couple times and witnessed your spot-on critiques. In my search for a stylist to cut my hair, (my hair is a condition of my prenup naturally) I’m willing to drive 45 minutes to Olive the Beauty Lounge in Mansfield to avoid a crying bout afterward (hopefully). I’ve never written a novel, much less a suspense, and need some help. I’m hoping to bribe you with coffee and pastries at the place of your choosing this Friday so I can get my name in your ‘hat’ with special benefits of course. My appt is at 2pm and will take about an hour and half. I’m available before and after if you dare. I’ll also be at the meeting on Wednesday.
If you have the time, your advice would be so appreciated. That being said, I know you are very busy with your own career and will completely understand if we can’t work something out. I’ve written about a page and a half thus far….what is that, 200 words from 50,000 = I’m screwed. I have the characters and plot figured out, but the writing isn’t coming organically. In the meantime, I’ll follow the brilliant advice on your blog. After all, I want to be Kirk, he’s the hot one!
#78 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 9, 2015 - 12:17 pm
LOL. Of course! I love bribes 😀 . I will message you… My DFWWW peeps get preferential treatment.
#79 by blondieaka on November 10, 2015 - 3:41 am
Wow.. great article I have not been writing that long..not seriously and when I did I just wrote and this is the comment I got from someone whom I admire “Great blog Carol! Very amusing, Oh My Buddha, now you have started you just cannot stop – Phuket Writer’s Group – we have created a monster! Ha, ha,ha! xxxxxx…… However the LP( Language Police) got to me and now I am agonising over every word and ready to give up…..But no I am going back to how I was, this article has given me a wake up call and I don’t care if I have the shittiest first draft It will be done at the speed I write best at…so many thanks I am going to save this and read if I get bogged down again 🙂
#80 by P.D. Workman on November 12, 2015 - 5:48 pm
I always liked Spock better. But I love Nano!
I was at a writer’s meet-up the other day. Most of the time I had my headphones on to block out conversations, because I was busy nano-ing (I’m going for 125,000 words this month, so…) When I took my headphones off and was putting things away, I was listening to a couple of writers who had been chattering for the last half hour about the state of publishing, making a living off of writing, all of their contacts in the industry, etc. Then as I was getting ready to go, realized that neither of them had ever finished writing a book. They were having a lot of fun fantasizing about being writers, but they weren’t getting it done.
You got to get it done. Even if you are a slow-drafter, Get in your 200 or 500 words a day and advance the plot. Don’t just sit and dream over your manuscript.
#81 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 13, 2015 - 10:18 am
That’s a fantastic observation. I need to write a blog about that. Thanks for the comment!
#82 by tanvirparvez13 on November 20, 2015 - 1:24 pm
Thank you for write this wonderful article. I have a dream to research about the Prejudice believed by the people in our country and i will write about these subject in a blog for awareness so that people can overcome from prejudice.