Today’s blog topic comes courtesy of a question from reader Kati.
Kati wanted to know whether the novel writing experience gets easier with more experience. Specifically, she wondered whether I noticed any changes in my writing speed over time. So for example, whether it once took three hours to write a chapter of 1,500 words, and now it only takes, say, an hour.
Kati worded it well: for her, it’s “not really the ‘sitting longer in the chair,’ but more a ‘getting more out of it once I sit’ thing.”
This is why I absolutely love writing these blogs and hearing from readers, first off. I actually learn a hell of a lot more just answering questions. So thanks to Kati for this brilliant question that forced me into thinking, and thanks to everyone else who has got in touch.
In all honesty, I don’t believe I’ve become a faster writer over time. Not consciously, anyway. I never rush my writing–I just spend more time in the chair writing.
But there are two elements to this answer of whether writing gets easier or faster over time and with more practice: firstly, there’s the critical side of things, and secondly, there’s the individual side. I’ll go into both below.
The Critical Block
When a writer writes their early books, they are often a struggle because they spend a lot of time in the chair overthinking. I was guilty of this–I sat there staring out of the window pondering my next word, my next sentence, my next paragraph.
And yes, doing this adds on time to the writing process.
I call this the critical block.
With the critical block, a writer might take twice as long to write 1,000 words as the average professional writer. Forgetting all other mitigating factors like typing and thinking speed (which we’ll go into in the individual side as they are just as important), these writers might feel like getting the first draft words down is a struggle.
A key to writing the first draft is to trust the subconscious. To throw up on the page, as some writers put it, then clean up all the mess in the rewriting and editing stages, of which will take their time.
The key to overcoming the critical block and writing faster as a result is to just write the words without constantly stressing about quality. Because you can address quality later–you will address quality later. But at the first draft stage, worry more about writing a fun and entertaining story.
Do that, then fix the words and fix the story later.
Yes, you will need to rewrite. Being a fairly messy drafter, I do about five to ten rewrites per project, and these include story rewrites and complete sentence rewrites, cutting and adding, reordering, things like that. I’ve thrown whole drafts away before too. Just the nature of the method.
But I keep on getting the words out in the first draft. I type as quick as I can without rushing, allowing my brain to do its work and my fingers to keep up, and I don’t worry.
Not worrying about the grammar and spelling during the first draft is critical. You can fix those later.
Worry about the story in the first draft. Even story problems can be edited and rewritten later, but keep a close eye on them.
Enjoy the writing process and you’ll write to your full potential. It’s as simple as that.
The Individual Considerations
There is a double-edged sword to this though, and that is the simple fact that every single writer is different.
And we should respect, appreciate, and bear that in mind.
One writer might write 3,000 words per hour. They might be amazing words. Another might write 350 words per hour. They might be just as amazing.
The simple, honest truth is that some people write quicker than others. There isn’t a set speed–a set pace–where quality dips.
So the writer should just focus on their own pace and write to it.
I know, I know — it’s easy to get discouraged when you see people writing twice as much as you in a day. But there are many mitigating individual factors. Some people take a bit of a delay in getting the information from the brain to the keys. Others need to think more about certain sentences, and others simply don’t type as fast.
But that’s fine. It’s all fine.
Protect your own pace. Your own method. Protect your writing, and don’t compare yourself to others.
And that’s why I still think the answer to this question–whether I write faster over time, or whether the process gets any easier–is probably “no.” The writing itself doesn’t get any faster. And it always stays about the same difficulty, as long as you conquer the critical block. And sure, typing more might make you a faster typist just by practice.
But the process stays the same. Your way of handling the process however may make it easier.
It’s as simple as that.
Thanks to Kati for the excellent question. Keep them coming, everyone!