Saturday, May 31, 2008

How Long, How Fast - Writing in Time

Tonight over dinner a friend of mine commented that I "write faster" than he does. We went on to discuss how long it takes us to write something short. Then, I came home, looked over my old emails and found this excerpt, forwarded to me from Angela Keene. How long DOES it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop, or a short story? The world may never know.

From an interview in Children's Literature Review, 2003, about writing the children's story, Wolves in the Walls:

"The concept for Wolves came from the author's young daughter, who had a bad dream one night. "She was convinced there were wolves in the walls," says Gaiman, "and as she described them to me, I immediately knew that I would steal the idea for a book." Not long after, he sat down and wrote the first draft of the story. "I didn't like it at all," says Gaiman. Instead of rewriting it, however, he decided to abandon it. After about eight months, he tried once more, but again, he didn't like it, and again, he abandoned the story. Another eight months passed. Then one night, Gaiman suddenly woke up in bed and thought, "When the wolves come out of the walls, it's all over!" This, apparently, was just the idea he needed to bring the book to life. That afternoon, he wrote the entire story, to perfection. "It took me one afternoon to write it," says Gaiman, "but also two-and-a-half years.""

I have recently revisited little bits of ideas from long ago that are now emerging in completely different ways. Think, write, think, revise, simmer, write, revise, write.

What does time look & feel like for you as a writer? How long do you work on something? How many times do you come back to it?


  1. Anonymous10:09 PM

    For me, my writing speed and whole approach to the process has changed dramatically.

    I always used to feel like writing was a bit like walking barefoot through a vat of thick molasses. It always seemed to take forever, and was rather unpleasant.

    The problem was always that I tried to do the final stage of the process at the beginning -- and so I was unnecessarily stretching out the time.

    But I came up with a systematic approach to writing that enabled me to fly through the writing process extremely quickly and very painlessly. I wrote my book Writing FAST: How to Write Anything with Lightning Speed in just 8 weeks. That felt a lot more shooting down a ski slope with the wind in my hair, always partially afraid I was going to crash into something. Fortunately, the run was well planned, so I was safe the whole time.

    Believe it or not, writing can be fun, be really fast, and actually be good.

    Thanks for the blog!

  2. Thanks for the comment!

    Are you familiar with the book A WRITER'S TIME by Kenneth Atichity? Like you, he advocates a systematic approach to the process. He has some useful thoughts on balancing the creative brain and the systematic brain as you work your way through something. He also talks about how different stages of the writing process can feel slower and more painful or, as you described, like flying down a mountain.

  3. I'm the slowest writer in the world, I think. Probably because my internal editor is a tyrant. I'm checking into the recommended reading above.

  4. Jan - Just a word of caution - Like any book recommending a process, WRITER'S TIME will serve you best if you take what works for you and leave the rest. That is, don't fall prey to the notion of "The One Right Way." Some of his stuff I found really helpful and some just wasn't a process that fits my style. Still, it is worth checking out.


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