I’ve talked a lot on this blog about my focus on quality over speed in writing. I try not to take hardline stances on issues as a matter of course (because there are always exceptions and drawing lines in the sand is a great way to alienate people). But when it comes to emphasizing care over quickness in writing, I am about as hardline as I get.
I was discussing this with national bestselling science-fiction, fantasy and romance (and, I’d argue, horror) writer Ann Aguirre, who has become something of a friend and mentor to me since I went pro. Ann writes with *blazing* speed. If I’m remembering correctly, she can do 3-5k/day regularly. And they’re GOOD words too. I can certainly turn out that kind of a word count, but I then produce an extremely rough manuscript that requires another 4–6 months of revisions before I even feel comfortable showing it to my agent. Ann produces good work, bestselling work, quickly and consistently.
I asked her how she did it, and was so intrigued by her response that I asked her if it was okay to share it with you:
Well, the thing is, it’s a learned skill. When I first got serious about writing, again, in 2006, 1K was a LOT for me in a day. But I trained my brain, just like you can train your body. I got to the point where I could write 1K fast, and then I upped the ante. I kept going that way, until I found I could reliably churn out 3K fast. (It helps that I’m a quick typist / 80 words a minute at last test). I also learned tricks that keep me writing and eliminate staring time. NONE of this is natural inborn talent. I suspect anyone could teach themselves to work as I do. Some people don’t want to, choose not to, or subscribe to the fallacious belief that I am ‘naturally’ a fast writer. Bollocks. I wanted to write lots of books. So I figured out how to do it.
I think even slow writers could learn because I was slow. I used to be a tinkerer, and it took me forever and it caused me lots of angst and unhappiness. It led to project abandonment. I wasn’t meeting my goals, or achieving what I wanted. So now, it does agitate me when tinkerers and slow people tell me how “lucky” I am to be fast. Luck be damned, I made this happen with determination. I didn’t like the results I got as a slow writer. The market doesn’t value that or respect it like it once did. Publishers want regular, reliable product. There are people who bemoan this as a general statement on the impoverishment of our society, etc, etc, but I’d rather make some money and please some readers. Publishing is very much adapt or die. That said, I’m not arbitrating that everyone should work my way. Everyone should do what makes them happy and works for them.
What I like about Ann’s implied position is her insistence that people can change habits and retrain themselves to do … well … anything, really. We have a tendency to treat a lot of life as inevitable. I’ll always look like this, I’ll never do X or Y, I can’t write fast. None of that is true, beyond the boundaries we place on ourselves, and Ann gives a good reminder of that.
So, yeah, no hard lines here. You usually turn out to be wrong.