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Speed writing - Quality reading

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Friends expressed disbelief that I wrote my first novel inside six weeks and published it within eight.

   'Finding Rose' emerged as a simple idea - after I recalled an episode I experienced as a young boy, before letting my imagination take over for the next 50,000 words.

I had encouragement - first from my wife, who suggested I write down all the stories I had come out with over the years; then from a former professional author who read a sample of my writing, concluding 'that I could write'. 

   The former became a series of events I built into my stories, but which I fictionalized to make them more interesting; the latter confirmed that I could write in a style that held the reader's attention.

A disciplined approach to writing

   So many of you reading this now may have both of these capabilities. You can do it too, no doubt (in many cases) better than I can. What holds many of you back is the discipline. The motivation that - once you start - you keep going day in day out until a readable result is achieved.

   On my page 'Write your book' I talk about writing 600 words per hour. I am comfortable with that, but you will have to find the rate at which you are confident you can turn out quality, readable prose. This may be as little as 400 - 500 words per hour.

That's still OK. What you need to avoid is writing (poor quality) just for the sake of it.**

But don't worry. You may be happier if your output per hour is modest, if you are able to compensate this by writing for longer periods each day.

   (** TIP: If you come up against 'writer's block' it can be dispiriting. ONE way I found that worked for me was to write anyway. Anything, as long as it was vaguely relevant. The end result could again be speed writing - quality reading.

   'Aren't you contradicting yourself?' you ask. 'Wouldn't this end up as pages of rubbish?'

Writing is discovery - and self-discovery   

Maybe. Maybe not. You may even discover a new thread you hadn't thought of before. But there is another factor: re-write your initial draft until you are happy with it. You should do this anyway. Even if I have written a first draft that (in my opinion) is good to go, I still go back, re-read it, and rewrite it. I perform this ritual sometimes several days after writing the original. I call it 'polishing'.)

   There are blogs and articles out there to tell you how to write. I read - and still do - loads of them and took notice of the advice that suited me best.

One size does not fit all

   Some seasoned writers work through the night, others are more suited to mornings. It doesn't matter as long as you write regularly and strive for an optimum 'x' words per session. But don't punish yourself. Here's a comparison.

   Many years ago I used to go to the gym after work at least three, and sometimes five, times a week. A typical session would be an hour and a quarter.

   Guess what? Some days I just could not face it. But I had only been twice that week, so did I really want to fall behind in my disciplined fitness regime? No. So what did I do?

   I would still go, but with the promise (to myself) that I would take it easy and just exercise for half an hour. After ten minutes warm up and a similar period warm down, the ten minutes in the middle would be easy. The idea of meeting my goals did not 'beat' me.

So what happened? Nine times out of ten I would still manage an hour-plus and leave the session doubly satisfied, but not having punished myself. Use this technique to meet your writing goals. It could well work for you.

Copy-edit AS you write - not just AFTER

Now, are you ready for the best part?

I have talked about reading and re-reading, writing and rewriting to achieve quality results. Within this, of course, is copy-editing by a third party. Consider introducing this process as you write, rather than finish the novel then send it out to be edited. It helps the point I am about to make.

Writing is - or should be - FUN!

   For me, the fun part IS re-reading and re-writing. Why? Because you get to know your characters better, and your story line, with the opportunity - yes, it's a valuable opportunity - to improve both. And if you employ an editor during the process, they have the opportunity to, perhaps, point out improvements you may have missed. 

You also get the chance to change things, add and subtract sections, or even switch things around. If you're lucky - hopefully - you will enjoy your own work with each re-read, getting a buzz from your own writing. That can be a real bonus.

Speed writing - quality reading

   Finally, I hope that the 'speed writing - quality reading' concept helps you put to one side, for a moment, some of the essential techniques and lessons you feel you have to 'learn' to become a good writer, to discover ways to enjoy writing. For one good reason:

Unless you enjoy your own writing, it's unlikely that your readers will.

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