Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


Writing at Your Own Speed

By Lazette Gifford
Lazette Gifford

This is something you may have heard from other writers and non-writers:

If you write quickly, you're obviously a bad writer. 

The statement often includes (though sometimes unstated) the corollary that if you write slowly, you're a good writer.

Of course it isn't true.  Speed of writing has nothing to do with the ability to tell a story and do it well. That ability comes, most often, from practice.  You learn to write better by writing and applying everything you've picked up elsewhere -- reading, writing groups, critiquing others -- into that work.  Whether your natural flow of words is slow or fast has nothing to do with your ability to tell the story well. 

And besides, the people who believe writing slow is the answer tie everything to writing the work and nothing to editing.  Working writers know that writing is only the first step in creating a good, solid story. Editing is where we make that story shine and fill in all the holes with nice shiny plot-fixer.

Some people write very slow, excellent first drafts.  Others write extremely slow horrible first drafts.  Some people write good fast first drafts -- and may even do several in a year -- and then take the time to edit them more slowly (or quickly, if they're good at it).  Some write a lot of books and don't bother to edit at all -- which often puts them back in the same level as the very slow, horrible first draft people.  Others write horrible, fast first drafts that sometimes are beyond the hope of editing.

Writers, both new and professional, do not all work in the same way.  Assuming that you can suddenly become a better writer just by slowing down isn't true.  A new writer doesn't abruptly become infused with writerly-knowledge by writing 500 words a day rather than 3000. 

To become a better writer you need to do two things:

  1. Take the time to write stories.  It doesn't matter how fast or slow, as long as you stick to it.
  2. Be willing to look at those written words objectively and see what you can learn to do better.

There is no simple answer like writing slower will make you a better writer.  It can help in some cases, but the ability to tell a story quickly is not a sign of poor storytelling skills.  It's just as likely that if a fast writer tried to work slowly, they'd lose the spark of their story and probably lose interest.  Writing 'in the fire' for them is an important aspect of creativity. 

The flow a writer achieves is something personal, and usually changes from book-to-book.  It can also depend on the amount of pre-writing work they do, like outlines, character sheets and other background material.  It can depend on mood, outside interference, and whether there is enough tea and chocolate in the house.

The work the person produces can't be judged by the speed they write it.  Work in ways that suit you.  Your stories will be better for it.