Pulsing Forward: How Slow Writers Can Write Faster

I am a slow writer, and a poor typist. I edit as I go, and some days I stop to think about the plot to ensure I'm headed to the right place. Other days I spend shaping/editing/expanding a scene, until it is pretty close to finished, so word-count isn't the best measurement of success for me (but a deadline for completion is). I've tried to "just write" which can work for short stories, but for a novel, the errors compound to the point that a forced manuscript is not fixable.

So I wanted to tell you some tricks I have come up with to increase my speed, without sacrificing my rolling edits. This post is for slow writers. These tricks won't work for all people, and for some people this is exactly the wrong advice. I suggest you just try it out and see if it helps you. Here is what I suggest:

You can probably tell that this post is written for people who edit a lot during their first pass. I know, I know, you're not supposed to do that. But if that's how it works for you, then this is my advice. Don't fight it! Use your self-editing to propel your story forward.

  1. Cut a Path - Write 10-40 pages of a new work without thinking. You won't be allowed to copy-paste, so the shorter the better.
  2. Survey - Of what you wrote, what do you actually like? List the character/story ideas you like the best.
  3. Construct - Think of this as an outpost in the wilderness. Design a story around that person/idea/setting you liked. Once you have the structure you usually need for a novel, you can start writing.
    1. I usually write in four Acts (divided into scenes), and stop after each Act to plot-and-fiddle. I like to have a basic outline but everybody has a different strategy. Use what works for you.
  4. Explore Cautiously - Write/Edit your book as you normally do, but at the end of each writing session, write ahead without thinking. That is, write for 15 minutes for any scene without stopping or reading it. For me this is almost always dialog, but sometimes it's just bullet points. My self-editor is so worn out from the writing session, that he can't stop me.
    1. If you can't do that, start a "Blather Page". That is, a separate document where you can just type whatever you want. It may be two books ahead. It may be a character you've never thought of. Just write (for a short burst). Again, if it's good, you will re-read it later, then type from memory into your current story. If it's bad, you never have to use it. And it won't contaminate your true manuscript, because it's in a different document.
  5. Trim the New Path - The next writing session, you have something to edit and expand, so the uncertainty factor isn't there. At the end of that writing/editing session, make sure you write ahead for 15 minutes. Then repeat steps 3-4-5 as needed.

 

Will This Work For Everyone?

Negative. No person falls neatly into the Intuitive (Pantser) or the Structural (Plotter) types of writers. We are all hybrids, and the percentage Intuitive/Structural is going to change with each book we write, depending on the voice and genre and our own experiences.

But I wanted to address those writers who tend more toward the Structural, or who at least, seem to be more comfortable at a measured pace in the first draft, but whose work is more complete at the end. Following these tips allow the more careful writers to gain the benefits of burst writing, without the dangers of editing overload. If it seems interesting, give it a shot.

What matters is that you find what works for you,

Eric

Copyright(c) 2019 E.C. Stever

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