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Entries in self-doubt (1)


Reflections on Week Eight

[Read the completed story here!]

This one nearly broke me, folks. These past almost four months between final story and when I first posted the prompt have been a crucible of self-doubt, resolution, procrastination (i.e., poor impulse control), tentative starts, running around in circles, revelation, and finally just plain unrelenting hard work.

I've said it before, but this is the longest work of fiction I've written since grad school. And, I think, the first since maybe high school where the point of the story wasn't profound meaning and verbal pyrotechnics but just to tell a story.

So, y'know, breakthroughs a-plenty this week. Or "week."

I want to talk a little more about this revelation, though, because there was one thing in particular about Dean Wesley Smith's blog post that made the difference, and that would be Dean Wesley Smith himself.

Because I am trying to be a more active citizen of the blogoverse, I had posted the following in response to another comment where the person was worried about their writing speed:

Same here! My eyes bulged when I read that Dean averages 1,000 words per hour. I’m lucky to average 200–300, and all of those words are hard won.

What steps are you taking, Christopher? And I’d be very curious to hear if and how others have managed to boost their word count without sacrificing quality.

I was hoping for a discussion, some pointers, maybe. But pretty quickly I had a reply from Dean himself:

Hey, Brandon, what is “quality?” If you mean without sacrificing writing from the English teacher part of your brain, then you never will get faster than a few hundred words per hour. But if it means just letting fly and writing from the creative side of your brain, that all comes down to just typing speed for many of us.

To which I gleefully responded:

Hi Dean, thanks so much for taking the time to respond personally! I certainly struggle with censoring the inner editor—learning how to just let fly would definitely improve the output. Maybe it’s a matter of experience, but I find myself getting bogged down in the minutia of this fantasy world I’m writing in but haven’t fleshed out yet. (The idea was to let the rough draft direct the shape of the setting, but then there’s Is there an official town guard? What about plumbing? Clothing? Currency?)

What I’d love to know is how much planning/outlining there is before you feel free to rely solely on the creative side. When writing 1,000 words an hour, how extensive is the revision process?

Thanks again!

To which he... did not respond, because he's an incredibly busy person and, really, he already told me what I needed to know. The big revelation here was the words "typing speed." That I could actually give myself permission to write fiction at the same speed I chat or write emails blew my mind.

Between making a commitment to spend at least five hours a week putting new words to paper and this new "typing speed" approach to the first draft, the last several thousand words of Kyra's tale came pretty easily. All those questions about the world I had previously found so paralyzing were easily answered once I had built up momentum. I trusted that no mistake was so great that I couldn't fix it later. And to respond to my own comment, the revision process was not any more extensive than it was before. I was shocked to find that I liked most of what I had written, and that my many starts and stops did in fact cohere with the sprint at the end.

So that's that. In summary: it was hard work, but I am elated to have done it.

Next up, Week Nine!