It’s okay to write slow

We can be really hard on ourselves, and writing — honestly — can be so frustrating because it’s the exact opposite of everything that capitalism and hustler culture stand for.

Writing takes time.

We shouldn’t speak in absolutes and it’s true that writing a book doesn’t have to take a long time. There are indie authors who write and publish books every 6-8 week; they produce a draft, give it a quick edit, and hit publish.

Dead Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rush are big believers in the originality and authenticity that comes through fast drafting, though admittedly, they always give their fiction three rounds of edits before they publish.

For the rapid release model to be viable as a business, you need to publish new long form content every 3 months.

Sales will peak at the beginning, then taper off over the first, second, and third month.

Some writers maintain this publishing schedule because it’s their full-time job and they want it to become a sustainable source of income, however, there is a massive dropout rate because writing takes energy and many people find that writing 8,000-10,000 words a day and publishing a new 40,000-60,000 word book every three months is unsustainable and they quickly burnout.

To paraphrase the creator of 20booksto50Ks, Michael Anderle, if you stop writing and publishing books, you’ll stop making money.

Rapid release is an option, but it is not the only option.

This model works because it follows the rules of capitalism and hustle culture, but that doesn’t mean that it’s sustainable or enjoyable.

The problem is, most of us aren’t full-time writers, though for some of us that’s the dream.

Because we’re working other full-time jobs or maintaining a portfolio career, our writing time is less than we desire. We get frustrated that it is taking so long to finish a first draft, but writing (prior to the golden days of CreateSpace back in 2002) has always been slow with a few exceptions, such as Charles Dicken’s serial publications.

It used to be that releasing one book a year was considered fast and to be honest, I can’t imagine working at that pace, at least not at the moment.

For example, if I had published the first, second, or even third draft of my current manuscript, it would have been fine, but it would have lacked the complexity and emotional richness that the current (sixth) draft has.

You can write and publish at whatever speed suits you, this is totally in your control, but do not use your slower pace as a reason to beat yourself up.

Even when you work on your writing 2-3 hours a day, five days a week, it still feels slow because we’re often not ‘finishing’ anything. Instead, think of writing as a slow progression, a gentle unfurling.

Writing this way feels more enriching, satisfying, and rewarding. We’re able to go deep into the work, to explore all the possible variations, and we allow space for new discoveries and revelations to occur in the act of writing and when we are out living our lives.  

In this model, writing isn’t a product it’s a practice. It’s an activity that is connected to every other part of your life and every part of your life is connected to your writing.

You’re allowed to take your time, to get messy, to question the work, to lift your game and stretch your abilities, to work in short bursts and long walks. It’s okay to spend time on your writing. The world will wait, and when you’re ready, you’ll know that you did the right thing by yourself and the book because writing is the reward.

Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you wish you could write faster? Do you have the pace of your own writing frustrating, or do you enjoy taking your time? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it.

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The Permission to Write

You get to write whatever stories you want to write.

I do my best to read widely. That includes everything from Wyoming cowboy and Indian mysteries to urban vampire romps to family dramas set in Melbourne to novels about eighteenth-century American botanists. I read classics, historical fiction, literary fiction, short stories, series, crime, and lately, I’ve returned to Fantasy—something that I haven’t read since I was a teenager. Then there is the occasional science fiction, speculative, or young adult novel.

The only criteria I have is that you (the writer) tell me (the reader) a good story.

I hate genre shaming. No one should make you feel bad about liking chick-lit, general popular fiction, romance or sci-fi. You have the right to like what you like free from judgement. I equally detest the question ‘what are your guilty reads?’ Lord knows there are a few novels on my bookshelf that some readers would be ashamed to place alongside last year’s Booker or their copy of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Incidentally, it’s highly likely that neither novel has been read. Don’t all budding author have unread copies of infinite jest on their bookshelf?

The point is, no one should be embarrassed about the fact that they enjoy Outlander, Harry Potter, Throne of Glass or any other work deemed shameful because it has achieved mainstream success.

Similarly, no one should be made to feel bad about the contemporary rom-com/epic fantasy/space opera that is their current WIP.

You are allowed to write whatever you like.

You are allowed to write highbrow literary fiction that no-one will get.

You are allowed to write erotica even though your mum might read it.

You are allowed to write a story about a vampire detective and his werewolf sidekick with whom he has a crush on.

There are writing rules but there are no rules about writing.

If we start censoring our creative desires and impulses, then what is the point in writing at all? Why put all that time and energy into writing something that you’re not even into?

If you don’t enjoy working on your story, then you may as well get a day job because a) it would be easier and b) it would pay more.

If you’re looking for a permission slip to write that cosy mystery, cosmic horror or outback romance novel that is the work of your heart, considered it give.

Write what you want to write!