Full confession: I’m a slow writer.
I didn’t know this for awhile. I started my first epic fantasy novel back in March 2011 without thinking much about it. It was something I had to do. The main characters had been gallivanting around in my head for years, and I finally had the time and space in my life and myself to put them on the page and see what happened. I didn’t think about how much work it was going to be, or that I had picked a particularly ambitious sort of book to write for a first novel. I didn’t seek out any particular training; I read a ton of fantasy and books in general, and I thought I knew what I was doing.
I just dove right in.
Now here I am, just over three and a half years later, and I’m still working on the same damn book. I’ve finished world-building (as much as world-building is ever finished) and the first draft, and I’m three quarters of the way through the second. I’ve learned how hard the work really is, and love it even more. But I’m no Stephen King. I’m never going to be.
King himself has published 85 books over the last 40 years. I’ve read eleven of those books; all 8 books of the Dark Tower series, Cujo, his collection Everything’s Eventual, and On Writing. In On Writing, he brags that he manages 2,000 words per day, and with a publication history like that I believe it. Though his work is brilliant and flawed, haunting and ridiculous by turns, you can’t argue that the man is anything but an undisputed Titan of Prolific-ness.
He does set the bar at 1,000 words per day for us mere mortals though, and mercifully grants us one day off per week.
As far as I can tell, there is a general consensus on that 1,000 words per day. Every article I’ve read on the subject gives the same goal — a thousand words, a thousand words. And most of the time, I just can’t do it. I’ll get 800 words, maybe 500, and have to go to bed. Or maybe I won’t have the energy to write at all. My day job tired me out. Life threw a curveball at me. Anxiety or Seasonal Affective Disorder got in the way.
And it doesn’t help that I write slowly. On a very good day, I can bang out that 1,000 words in 2 hours, but usually it takes me three or four.
I had held on to the belief that this was a reasonable pace until last week when I finally (finally!) convinced my husband to start working on his own creative writing. We’ve sat side by side writing a few times now.
In the time it took me to write 800 words, he got out 1,400.
And my e-pal, Kyle Lewis, puts us both to shame. In the two years or so since we met in a facebook group he’s self-published 3 fantasy novels, and his fourth is already on pre-order. And I’m still working on the same damn book.
But persistence is key. I mule away, and I mule away, and over the last three and a half years I have done a tremendous amount of work. I’ve written over 400,000 words, built a world (two, actually), found new sources of inspiration, developed my own writing philosophies, and improved my writing style. I’ve taught myself to write, and slow though I may be I am proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish.
So for all you other slow writers out there; don’t get discouraged! Don’t worry about what the Kings and Lewises are able to manage. Keep at it. Even if you’re only writing 300 words a day, you’ll get to the end of your manuscript eventually. What’s the rush? When you get there, you just start over and do it again.