When Writing, Take Your Time

Photo credit: listentothemountains on Flickr
We often talk about writing quickly, editing quickly, reading and revising and getting those word counts down as quickly as humanely possible.

We share secrets about how to write faster, how to make the most of our time as writers, how to go, go, go in a culture that only seems to be speeding up.

And sometimes it's not a bad thing, sometimes the difference between 100 and 1,000 words written in a writing session is directly related to mindset or strategy. Sometimes writing quickly is exactly what we need to finish our WIPs, especially when we're short on time.

But sometimes we need to slow down.

I've already written about how for writers, time is on our side, but I'd like to reiterate something that I think is important because it's something that's easy to forget: we all write at our own pace.

Each of us writers has our own journey— for some of us it takes a couple years to meet our goals, for others it takes over a decade. Some writers write four to five books a year, others take two or three years just to complete one novel. There are writers who self-publish immediately and writers who spend years seeking representation, even long after the advent of indie publishing.

What I'm trying to say is that it doesn't matter how much time it takes for you to reach your goal. It doesn't matter if it takes you a month or a year to write a first draft. It doesn't matter if you spend three years to bring your manuscript to the best it can be, while your writing buddy finishes in a couple months.

What matters is that you take all the time you need to write the very best work that you can.

When you see other writers speeding past you, don't let it get you down. When it takes much longer than you expected to finish your novel, while your family peers over your shoulder, don't let it bother you.

A writer's journey is not a race. It's not about who gets to the finish line first, or how many times they race around you on the track.

A writer's journey is about one thing: meeting your goals on your time. At your pace. At the time that's right for you.

So next time you feel tempted to rush through a writing stage, take a deep breath and remember to take your time. As long as you keep moving forward, one way or another, you'll meet your goals, too.

Have you ever felt like you were taking too long to finish a writing stage? What did you do to combat it?


Laurapauling said...

Every writer is different. It is so hard not to compare but I try my hardest not to and accept my writing speed for what it is!

Daphne Gray-Grant said...

You make a really interesting point about how writers should work at the pace that feels best to them. I mostly agree with you EXCEPT on one point. I find that many writers try to sneak in some editing-as-they go. This is a completely destructive habit because it turns off the creative part of your brain (and don't you want the creative part turned on while you're writing?) 

One of the best solutions to this is to write as quickly as you can and then edit as slowly as you can bear. (You are right, Ava, the speed will vary from writer to writer.) You won't likely save much time by using this method (any gains in the writing time will likely be cancelled out by the increased editing time.) BUT, your writing will feel much less tortured. AND you'll get much better results because you'll have built in enough time for proper self-editing, a step many write-at-the-very-last-minute writers end up missing. 

Angie Richmond said...

This post could not have come at a better time. I have been feeling lately that writing has become a chore, instead of a desire. I'm trying to rush through, write quickly, edit fast, stick to self imposed deadlines and I'm just exhausted. My heart hasn't been in it and it makes me sad. I lost the play aspect of my writing and made it all work. 

Thank you for this post and reminding me that it isn't a race to the finish line. Big HUGS!

Ava Jae said...

Acceptance can sometimes be the hardest part, but there's something really freeing about accepting that your writing process and speed is your own and as long as you keep progressing, you're doing the right thing. :)

Ava Jae said...

Editing-as-you-go is an entirely different topic and you're right--it should be avoided as much as possible. I've personally found that I agree that writing quickly then editing later can help avoiding the edit-as-you-go trap, however I've come across a few writers who just work differently--they have much more trouble just throwing words down and coming back to them later than mulling over the words at the beginning. Although it's slower going for them, they spend considerably less time editing later, so I suppose it's a trade-off. 

Ava Jae said...

Glad I could help, Angie! It's easy to get caught up in the race to the finish line, but when writing becomes a chore, that's usually a good time to take a step back and remind yourself why you started in the first place. :)

Yesenia said...

Thanks for this post! I just had a baby 1 month ago and havent spent time writing at all! Makes me feel better about slowly getting back into writing as I can. 

Ava Jae said...

Firstly, congratulations on the baby! That's wonderful, and if there's ever a reason to take a break in your writing, a baby is it. Take however much time you need to adjust--writing is important, but your family is definitely a top priority. :)

Carissa Andrews said...

I love this! It reminds me that while I've had to take some time away, that all good things happen at our own pace. I will finish in my own time. Thanks, Ava!

Ava Jae said...

Of course, Carissa! Glad to hear the post resonated with you. Everyone has their own journey. 

Arlo Hanlin Hemphill said...

How long did it take to write this blog post?

Ava Jae said...

Mmm, not too long. Why?

Author Steven said...

Hi. I loved this. All your articles seem to come at the perfect time for me! :) I was wondering if you could maybe do a post on outlining and worldbuilding. The pre-production of writing a book so to speak. Also about planners and seat-of-your-pants-writers. Or maybe you have already written about these topics. I'm not sure. Once again though thank you for this blog. It is by far my favorite writing blog and seems to always have words of constructive criticism and encouragement. Keep up the good work. I look forward to the next post! :D


Ava Jae said...

Hi Steven! So glad to hear you've been enjoying my blog and that my posts have been timely for you. Much to my surprise (because I could have sworn I'd written more about the topics you suggested), I've written two posts about the pre-production, as you put it. 

The two posts are: 

How to Plot with Flashcards which is about...well, exactly what it sounds like, really, and Brainstorming, which doesn't have a particularly creative title either. 

The second is one of my earlier posts and is written with a little more...erm...energy, I suppose the word is. Hope you enjoy the posts. :) 

P.S.: I'll be thinking about more pre-production posts. Thanks for the suggestion! 

Author Steven said...

Cool, I'll check them out. They must have been a bit older because I only discovered this blog a couple months ago. :)

Ava Jae said...

They were indeed buried a bit deeper in the archives than many other posts. :D

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