The Muse and the Editor: How Their Collaboration Style Affects Writing Speed

This summer I came across a couple of writer’s blogs addressing the topic of writing slowly.  Both emphasized that writers who can’t turn out a high volume of words in a short time shouldn’t feel inferior to those who can.  In particular, they pointed out that some of the great masters have been slow writers — one often mentioned is James Joyce, who is said to have taken eight years to write Ulysses.

Assuming, of course, that the writer in question is actually sitting down and getting something done, the most significant factor in determining writing speed seems to be whether the author is polishing each page as they go — we’ll call this the ‘slow method’ — or focusing on getting a rough draft down, and then coming back and revising — the ‘fast method’.  Although I’m going to explain here why the ‘fast method’ works better for me than the ‘slow method’ — and also why I think it helps to prevent writer’s block — I strongly agree that the creative process is very personal, and each writer must find their own path in that process.  The end result is what matters, not how long it takes to get there.

Looking at my own progression as a writer, I find it noteworthy that my modus operandi has changed.  As a kid I wrote mostly by hand, and only occasionally used a typewriter.  The entire first draft of my first novel was written by hand (and in pencil!), a thought that makes me shudder now.   I also have short stories written in college that only exist in one hand-written draft.   Yet some of those stories have passages in them that I wouldn’t change even now. Continue reading