writer in progress: it's not about fast

We live in a world where it's become a talent, a lost art, something we have to relearn: Slow down. -- Heather Sellers

This is one of those lessons that I have to learn over and over again.

No, that's not exactly right. Here's how it really is: I absolutely did not believe that working slowly was working better. I first heard this concept in a chapter titled "Slow Is Fearless," in a book by Heather Sellers.

Slow? I should write slow? And that somehow means I'm more courageous (and will wind up with a better novel) than if I try to write fast?

For some reason, I decided I was exempt. Somehow, I would learn how to write a novel really quickly.

Now I wince. I wish, I wish I would have taken more time crafting this novel.

My first two drafts, especially, of my main novel... oh, the first two drafts. I wrote them as quickly and steadily as I knew how, without taking the time to really consider all the elements of the story. I wasn't super concerned about it. After all, I knew how to write. And I was pretty quick.

How much of a leap is it, then, to just ... go write a novel?

A pretty big one, actually. I think that saying "hey, I can write, so obviously I can just whip out a novel" is like saying, "hey, I know how to walk, so I can probably go run a marathon tomorrow. No problem."

I've seen people at the end of a marathon. They've trained like crazy people, and it still is a problem.

I wish I could go back and tell myself to take more time. Really. Just dig in deep and don't be afraid to move as slowly as you have to.

No one was rushing me. Except for me.

I didn't want to move slowly. Looking back, I don't think my problem was (is) impatience so much as it was terror. Just like Heather Sellers was saying.

This whole concept of telling people after graduation, Nope, I don't have a real job, but I think I'll write a novel. And maybe people will fling money at me some day. We'll see how it shakes out.

That? It scared me stiff. Still scares me stiff. Sometimes it's a minute-by-minute thing. (Yeah, still there. I'm still terrified about the money thing.)

And when the future stayed stubbornly uncertain, and all my dreamed up scenes read like an abandoned Dick and Jane book, I tried to move forward as fast as possible. The next draft will be better, and the next draft will be better, and the next draft, hey, that might be the best yet.

So now, I've been working on Draft Four of my main novel. ... Actually, for nine months, I've been trying to start draft four. Trying to start. And every time I choose a tactic, a way into the next draft, something else in the story falls apart.

It feels like fixing a house, and just as you're focusing on a plumbing problem, a wall falls on top of you. And when you turn your attention to the wall (after your concussion wears off), half the foundation falls in. And as you're hobbling around (you sort of broke your leg, because you fell with it of course), squinting down at the damage, a plague of malaria-ridden mosquitoes descend.

For about nine months.

And you kind of wish you could turn back time, and go find the younger, terrified person that was you, and whisper, Take a very long time planning and building this house. Dream up every thing, and test it out in your mind, step by step. Spend a whole year staring into space and muttering and jotting down notes.

You won't regret it.

(PS: This novel's sequel? I started it today. And it's been dreamed up for a while. A good long while. I think it's ready to be turned loose. I'm going to take my sweet time drafting it, too.)

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