Motorways or country lanes?

A relatively short blog post today, I’m afraid…

As I explained in last month’s post, Why does it all take so long!, I’m deeply embroiled in revising and editing A Woman’s Lot, book 2 of my “Meonbridge Chronicles” series, and it’s a long-drawn-out and, at times, all-consuming, not to say energy-draining, process. I’ve now received some feedback from my “beta readers”, and I’m excited by the input and insights they have brought to my work. Some of it is criticism, yes, but it’s constructive criticism. Advice I can work with to make the book better.

And so I plough on, reviewing and revising until I feel satisfied…

INF3-108_Food_Production_Horse-drawn_plough,_land_girl_Artist_Laura_Knight
Land Army Girl (1939) (National Archives) By Laura Knight [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
But, at the same time, I am rattled by stuff I read (mostly via social media) that leads me to think that I’m making too much a meal of it all, taking too long to write, and writing so “badly” that I have to spend weeks and months putting it right… I read of writers who produce thousands of words an hour, words that are so good they barely have to edit them at all. Really? Then there’s a guy who says, if I follow his method, I could write a book from blank page to publication in two months, getting it right first time, so I don’t even need to edit…

In fact I’m not doubting that this sort of “speed writing” is possible. Who am I to say it isn’t? In my previous post, I mentioned a writer I know who writes fast enough to put out two or even three books a year, which I certainly do admire, in a wistful sort of way. There’s definitely a little voice inside my head that mocks me for not writing faster, not even fast enough to publish ONE book a year.

But then I wonder, would I really want to follow any of these speedy writing methods?Wouldn’t they take the pleasure out of writing?

For the very process of writing – for me at least, and I’m certain for many others – is a joy, by no means a chore to be hurried through. The writing of the first draft, the initial creative burst, is undoubtedly hard work, and can be frustrating and dispiriting and even debilitating. But, at the same time, it is thrilling and inspiring and energising! Writers who love writing, love the process of it, indeed the very agony of it – don’t they? If your aim is to write as quickly as possible – albeit, trying to write as well as possible too – mightn’t that detract from the sheer contentment of the writing craft?

And what about revising and editing? I think many writers enjoy revising their work even more than writing it! I think I do…

As Emma Darwin has said (in her blog, This Itch of Writing), there are different levels of the revising/editing process, including the macro, structural level, where, inter alia, you take a broad view of how your story is put together and how the characters work, and the detailed, nitty-gritty level, when you consider all the infelicities I mentioned in the last post, the wrong words, the clunky sentences, the typos, and so on.

Of course, revisiting your work can be a destructive process, if you discover that it is so full of plot holes and inconsistencies that it needs a complete rewrite. On the other hand, it can be even more creative than the original writing, as you reappraise, reshape and refine your first attempt into “the book you thought you’d already written” (another of Emma Darwin’s expressions), the fulfilment of your vision.

So, would I even want to write a first draft so good that I didn’t have to revise it? I’d be denying myself the delight of seeing my initial creative bud blossom slowly into a glorious flower. Though perhaps the speed writers do also enjoy this blossoming, only they prefer to watch it play out in fast-action rather than slow-mo?

But, of course, we’re all different, with different ways of working, and different ways of expressing our creativity. On our creative journeys, some of us like to take the motorway and others prefer quiet country lanes.

Much as I like the idea of publishing more frequently than I do, I’m not sure I like the concept of racing through the creative process in order to achieve it. Of course, it’s true that I’m not attempting to make a living from writing – if I were, my attitude might well veer more towards brisk efficiency than languid contentment. I understand that.

No, I write simply because I want to. I have no need to write, or publish, any faster, except perhaps to fulfil the wishes of those of my lovely readers who’ve said they are looking forward to my next book. I do have a sense of responsibility towards them, and because of that I’ll do my best to publish A Woman’s Lot, and then book 3, in as timely a fashion as I can.

However, I don’t think I’ll be following anyone’s “methods” to be even more timely. No doubt, as I write more, I will – simply through practice – become a little more efficient at writing a first draft that is, at least, structurally fairly sound. But, I will still take my time before I hit Send and wing it off to the publisher. For, as I said last time, many writers say that a novel cannot, indeed must not, be rushed. And I guess, in my writerly moments, I agree with that.

Anyway, I’ve always preferred country lanes to motorways…

Country_Lanes_-_geograph.org.uk_-_172636
Scott Rimmer [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

2 thoughts on “Motorways or country lanes?

  1. Oh, I do agree!

    I’m currently editing my first novel and at times I feel impatient, worried about time passing, missed opportunities – but then I realise producing something beautiful is the most important thing, not just to maximise the chances of catches an agent’s eye but for myself and my characters.

    Having said that, it’s amazing how often, after several revisions of a sentence I actually return to the original, hastily written draft words as the best!

    Like

    1. Ah, yes, it’s funny how often your first thought turns out to be your best one! Which only serves to underline the importance of always editing a COPY of the original… Having said that, I do think that crafting beautiful sentences can take time, and that the time is, in the long run, well spent, both for your own satisfaction and your readers’ enjoyment.

      Like

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