Friday, December 22, 2023

Why I’ll never be a prolific writer

Since settling into proper “first draft” mode back in October, progress on The Videshi Dilemma remains on track at the moment. However I’m reminded again of something I’ve noticed from previous novels: I’m a slow writer.

This is not a reflection of raw writing speed. When I’m on a roll I can comfortably knock out a thousand words inside an hour. At that pace, if I was writing full time I’d complete a novel in well under a month.

Nor is it a reflection of time available. Yes, I have a full time job and family commitments so I aim to spend an hour a day on writing, as a reasonable and achievable commitment. But even when I have a whole day available to me, I struggle to spend much more than an hour or two actually writing.

My limitation is that I can only write as fast as my imagination works, producing ideas to feed into a scene. So, perhaps it’s better to say: I’m a slow thinker.

On the writer’s “plotter versus pantser” scale, I’m somewhere in the middle. I often start with a scene that caught my imagination but without any idea yet where it’s going. I write a bit, then step back and start plotting the outline. But it’s only a high level outline, with lots of gaps and unknowns. It gives me a sense of structure and direction, but much of the detail emerges over time as writing progresses. The outline plot feeds off the actual writing as much as the other way around. I think this style is better described as a “gardener”.

And this back-and-forth is a vital aspect of my writing process. Once I’m well into a project and have immersed myself in the story, things occur to me that would never have come to mind if I tried to figure everything out from the outset. Back to The Videshi Dilemma, right now I’m about 60% through. I know how things end, and roughly what happens to get there, but many of the details still need to be fleshed out. It’s only now my characters have reached this point in the story did I start to realize some of the pressures and conflicts that should crop up, things I suspect I couldn’t have envisaged before now. So even when I retire and have all the time in the world, I don’t see myself suddenly churning out novels any faster than I do today.

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