A very well-known author told me the other day that the “new normal” is three novels a year. She didn’t mean that the new normal is to read three novels a year. No, no, it was to write three novels a year.
As a person who took fifty years to write her first novel, the idea of three in one year made my head spin. This, from a woman whose motto is “write like your fingers are on fire.” Let me be the first to say, that’s not at all what I meant.
Write fast, yes. I especially write fast when I’m trying to get a story down. Otherwise I tend to muck about over every sentence, toying with them until they’re “perfect”—whatever that means. In that regard, writing fast allows me to get out of my own way.
Writing fast also gets me down the road, it gets me to write long and wide so that I have the rough material to wade into and work with. (Okay, I admit it, sometimes I write myself right off the cliff. It happens.)
But let me be the first to say that for me writing fast is not the same as writing good. I think of all that fast writing as the dough. Once it’s in the bowl, it needs to be poked and prodded and rolled and then left alone to rise.
I’m not saying this to knock those of you who have the ability to write three novels in a year. WOW. I’m in awe of you. And I certainly understand the financial pressure to produce. I also know that some of you speedy types are doing excellent work—speed doesn’t necessarily mean lesser work. Not at all.
However, for me, one of the pleasures of writing a novel is the world that I get to inhabit, the world of the novel itself. I rather like to wallow around in it. I enjoy getting to know the characters, even the villains, and I love the fictional places—largely because they tend to be places I don’t normally knock about in: swamps and sandbars. I’m not always ready to abandon that, even when my editor is tugging on my sleeve.
I don’t think I could write three novels in a year, even if I had to. Maybe? So far, I haven’t been pressed to go there, which makes me feel lucky. But I guess I want to know how you do it—those of you who write so fast that your fingers must be smoking? What does it take to get those novels written? What is lost, if anything? And what is gained?
Inquiring minds want to know…