Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Speed Writing

By Darvell Hunt

I write really fast, but then take long breaks between stories. I call this speed writing.

I was trying to think of something to write about for today, but nothing hit me. This, unfortunately, is typical of my writing history. I’ve written quite a backlog of novels, mostly for practice, it seems, so it’s not that I don’t write much, but most of the time I am not writing.

That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped--it just means I’m in the “fermentation stage.” But what does that mean?

About three years ago, I had an idea for a children’s chapter book, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. It wasn’t just a story, but employed a fun gimmick that I thought kids would like. The problem was, that it took me about 2 ½ years to figure out how to make it work. Of course, during that time, I was also working on other books and “fermenting” other ideas, but this chapter book was always in the back of my mind.

About eight months ago, I decided it was time to start. I wrote 14 chapters over five days, but wasn’t sure how to end it. So, I put it back in the fermentation stage. Six months later, I pulled it out, wrote for two more days, and finished the rough draft at 17 chapters and around 30,000 words. I very much like it.

But now, when people ask me how long it took for me to write it, I don’t know what to say. The correct answer could be seven days. That’s probably the best response, because it will amaze and astound my friends that I wrote it so quickly, but yet, that's not quite true.

I am a speed writer. Like any sprint runner, I train and train over a long period of time. I keep the story in my head until I think it's sufficiently formed. I spend time pondering and plotting, creating characters and motivations, but write nothing until I know what I’m doing. Once I hear the starter pistol, though, I’m off, and I don’t stop until I’m done. The quicker I write, the more cohesive I think the story becomes, because I can remember the whole plot and the characters all at once. It's what works for me.

I once wrote a 90,000-word novel in 30 days—and about eight of those days I wrote nothing at all (it was during November with Thanksgiving in the middle). This story was some of the best stuff I’ve ever written, but, to be fair, it was in the planning stage for about three years.

I don’t write every day. I probably never will. Sometimes I don’t even write for weeks. But I’m always a writer and always thinking about what's going into my next story. Perhaps I’m weird, but then again, don’t you have to be a little weird to even want to write fiction?

I think so. What a curious lot we fiction writers are.


Deborah said...

I'm a chronic editor. So, I guess, I'm a tortoise to your rabbit.

Darvell Hunt said...

Chronic editor. LOL. Good comparison. Maybe we'll teach the finish line at about the same time. :-)


Stephanie Humphreys said...

I write this way too. No ideas for a while and then one that just has to come out. Often I feel a little guilty when people tell me I should be writing every day, but that just isn't how my writing gets done. I guess we just all do what works.