Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Insecure Writer and Being Slow at Writing

Today is July's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

In my ISWG post back in January , I fretted over my painstakingly slow progress and worried aloud that my book would never get finished. I set Christmas 2012 as my target completion date and promised to give you an update of my progress in June. Well, it’s July and it’s time for that update.

Since this an Insecure Writer’s post, you’ve probably guessed by now that the news is not good. Unless some sort of miracle occurs – an accident in the lab where I ingest a chemical mixture that turns my brain into a writing machine, I lose my job and spend my time sitting at home with nothing else to do but write, someone writes a piece of software that can take a rudimentary rough draft and convert it into publishable prose at the click of the mouse – I’m not going to reach my goal. Not by a long shot.

Out of a thirty chapter first draft, I’ve only managed to give my critique partner the first four chapters. That’s less than a chapter a month. You don’t need to be a math major to know that isn’t going to cut it. To be honest, the lion’s share of this time was spent rewriting the first two chapters repeatedly to fix a structural problem my CP was kind enough to point out, so I expect things to move along more quickly now.

But I’m still in trouble.

And this brings me to this month’s insecurity. Every time I load up a chapter to send to my CP – a chapter I thought was in good shape back when I wrote it last year - I’m shocked to discover just how much more work it needs before I can send it out. I’m not talking cosmetic changes here. I'm referring to missing paragraphs replaced with the words “mention XXX here” or “describe the character” marked in red. Entire pages that need to be rewritten to align with changes I’ve since made to the plot. Scenes that need reordering. It’s gotten to the point where I’m more comfortable spending hours tweaking a chapter I’ve already sent off to my CP than with moving on to the next chapter and having to discover just how much more work it needs.

To help give myself the illusion of accomplishing something, I’ve added a progress bar to the blog to track my manuscript. It’s rudimentary and I may jazz it up a bit later, but it’ll do for now. Its purpose is to shame inspire me to write more quickly. If any of you ever notice the bar hasn’t moved in a while, feel free to ding me for slacking off.

Have a happy 4th of July (for those of you in the states)!


  1. You're not slacking! Rewrites take time. Way more than the initial writing or just simple edits.
    If you don't hit your target date, just reset it.

  2. I agree with Alex. People don't realize how much work goes into a revision. It'll turn out great because of all the time and effort you're putting into it. Good luck.

  3. It doesn't help that I keep giving you more scenes to write, but if I didn't think the end result would be worth it, I'd let it go. Since I have the same slow writing problem, sometimes I wonder what would happen if we traded our entire MS and worked on the other's for a month.

  4. Hi Ken, I'm sure it will be worth it in the end. I wish I had your patience. I'm the sort of person who digs up seeds to see how they're getting on. I do do want to see what you come up with. Emma x

  5. Well met, Ken :)
    I think that what you're doing is fine. If you're in too much of a rush to get to that finish line, the quality of the story is going to suffer for it. I've just finished reading Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings, and his afterword of the first book says that book took 10 years to write and another 8 to perfect. After reading it, I'm glad it took that long.

    Doing the rewrites now will only strengthen your craft and make your next chapters even better.

  6. Alex and Stephanie, you're right, I can just push the date back. The trouble is, not only am I anxious to finish it, but I'm also anxious to get around to writing my own, publishable story.

    Sheryl, I appreciate your input and I'm already working on the scene you suggested.

    Emma, I'll let you know when I get closer to being finished. In the meantime, keep working on your next book!

    Jamie, Thansk for the encouragement. I wouldn't mind spending the extra time if I could end up wielding words as well as Brandon Sanderson.

  7. It sounds like you need to organize your revision a bit more. Read the whole thing, decide where things need to be fixed, write a list. You can tackle big things first, and then go back for technical changes later. And it's not a bad thing to give a CP a rough draft if you need someone to help you see big picture problems.
    Good luck!