Friday, June 11, 2021

Writing 300 Words a day Will Give you a Novel in a Year, by Karla Stover

                                                                                                                                    I am a slow writer. Once upon a time, I would have been in good company: Margaret Mitchell spent ten years writing Gone With the wind; J.R.R. Tolkien spent seven years working on The Hobbit,  and Maya Angelou took fifteen years to write the final book of her autobiography. But when I read about others ( should there be an apostrophe?) writing habits, I realize I can't do the same. Of course, most of them were men where cooking, cleaning, yard work, dog walking--chores in general don't get in the way. However, I am always thinking. Does that count?  Right now, I am seven thousand words into Parlor Girls, my next book for BWL. Since it's a historical novel based on fact, there is always research to do. Here's an example: my protagonists have just arrived at a boarding house circa 1885. First I found one which fit what I wanted. I looked at the street and the neighbors. Then I went inside (virtually )and looked at the reception area. Up the stairs to a bedroom and once again, I had to research until I found one meeting my requirements. Another time, it took me a whole afternoon to find an appropriate toilet and then what to call it. Of course, I could have made it all up but I'm not comfortable with that; one reason is that I hate it when I'm reading something and a setting doesn't feel real to me. 

I decided to research the "slow writing" issue and found two comments, the first:

 “Not presently ready to begin writing” means you haven't done enough pre-writing to enable you to write under the framework “the words that I am writing are the words the reader will be reading.” ... Many writers who write painfully slow do not do the necessary pre-writing. It's not part of their process."

Well, that isn't nice. I moved onto the second:

"To write slowly is to write deliberately, and often the best way to write 1,000 words in an hour is to sit down with the intention of giving yourself more time and writing 300. Slow writing also has greater clarity, because your thoughts have time to form. Writing fast works when you know exactly what you want to say,

Much better.

The says, "It is the fast writer who uses language in a utilitarian manner. The slow writer prizes the texture of language, and all the richness that creates language." 

Now, we're talking.

I have had two dental procedures recently, and after the shots (why hasn't someone invented a way to make them less painful?) I just zoned out and mentally worked on what was next in my book. Then, I came home and wrote my thoughts. Another thing I've discovered is to work on what I want to say when I can't sleep or when I am super depressed from missing my parents and my brother. It keeps the pain of their loss pushed away.

Here's what two of the best writers had to say:

"Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall." William Shakespeare. Hah! So said the man wrote wrote at least 38 plays and 150 poems.

And to paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, "I don't want to empty the well of my writing." Since he wrote 9 short story collections, 9 non-fiction books, 10 novels / novellas, among many other things, his well must have been deeper and fuller than mine is.

At least I'm doing better than Anna Sewell (one book, Black Beauty) Edgar Allen Poe (one novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket ) and Emily Bronte ( just the one book, Wuthering Heights.) She did have a good excuse, though; she died.

That's it. That's all I have to say. It's time to fold the laundry, sweep the floor and move the hose. Then I'll get back to my book.


  1. You've made me huckle. I always tell new writers if you write one page every day at the end of the yeaar you will have a book. Write slow or write fast just write.

  2. I do prefer writing slow. I have written faster when on tight deadlines, but I'm happier with my work when I take the time to polish it to a shine. Although the last part of the story goes faster, as it seems to write itself.

  3. Your post made me think. I'm not sure if I am a fast or slow writer. I do let the story stew in my brain and ideas whirl through my mind in the middle of the night, during walks and always in the shower. I live by the fact the first draft is never the last draft. Thanks for sharing the good news you only need to write 300 words a day.


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