WSPR #2: Breaking Bottlenecks

One of my biggest goals for 2020 is to learn to write faster.

I’ve been working on a core group of writing projects for about three years now. While I think I’ve learnt a lot about writing in that time (and hopefully improved my own writing accordingly), there are some elements of my writing process that are below the level I want them to be. First among these is my pace. I am, I believe, quite a slow writer, and I am slow on a few different levels.

Firstly, I have tended to develop my projects (the worlds, the characters, the plots) over long periods of time, and it takes a little while before they take any kind of definite shape. I would liken this to a kind of sedimentation, or the way an oyster forms a pearl. A writer is a sculptor who also makes the marble, and sometimes I am waiting for enough raw material to begin to work on a project.

Secondly, despite writing often, I yet to develop a consistent daily writing habit, and so my average output is brought down by dry spells, and periods of little to no production. Part of this is not making the time to write, and part of it is sitting down to write, but not pushing myself hard enough to hit a certain target, or finish a certain scene. I suspect I wait for inspiration too much, and so need to learn to push myself harder even when I am uninspired.

Thirdly, I have a confused and inconsistent approach to the editing and redrafting stages, which has made it unclear to me what I should be working on, for how long, and in what order. I’ve been mostly winging it, editing-wise, with very mixed results.

Finally, I am not a fast typer: my typing speed is slow to average, and my accuracy could be improved (which is to say, the backspace key is my most used key by quite some margin).

Writing fiction is a process of several discrete steps, and the efficient execution of each one is its own skill. A fast typist may not be good at developing ideas, and an efficient outliner may have difficulty fleshing out that outline into a full draft.

Each of these processes require time, and each can be a bottleneck for producing finished prose. The goal of becoming a faster writer reduces to trying to break these bottlenecks in the path between the first seed of an idea, and a finished piece of fiction.

So, how best can I tackle my own bottlenecks?

I can’t really control for the pace of my idea production and gestation, nor do I really want to: I’m quite happy with the way I generate and develop ideas. I don’t consider it that much of a bottleneck either, since I can work on ideas concurrently with doing other things, or working on other projects. Longer term, managing this bottleneck will consist of choosing the right project at the right time, and letting the others gestate in the background.

The second bottleneck suggests its own solution. I am going to work hard to develop a daily writing habit so that I keep my practice up and don’t need time to de-rust. Writing prompts have always been useful as an exercise that is a break from my main projects. I’m a big fan of these kinds of small exercises in learning anything (music, languages, drawing), as it builds creative muscle in a natural way. Recently I’ve been commentating over timelapses of my prompts on my youtube channel, which you can find here.

The third problem has led me to consider my editing and drafting processes, and to try to carefully systematise them. The end goal here is a clear and definite system that I can work through step by step to produce finished drafts. I’ll talk more about this as I develop it in future posts.

The final problem can be solved by increasing my typing speed, to which end I have started practising touch typing and learning to type faster and more accurately. This is the most practical of the problems to solve, and I’ve enjoyed seeing immediate results as I’ve become faster through consistent practice.

I would like to be putting out Breaking Hell at an average pace of a chapter a week. And, ideally, I would like to push that up to two or three chapters a week. I would like to have uploaded two books worth or more by the end of 2020, and I’m quietly confident I can meet that target (averaging about 333 words a day). Isolating ways I can be a more efficient writer and overcoming these bottlenecks is pretty important in meeting that goal.

Next time, I’ll be writing about my new workflow for producing Breaking Hell, and how I’ve learnt from previous serialisation attempts.

so long for now

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