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Scott Stoops  

Speed Writer – A Confession

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“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”

Isaac Asimov


I have two confessions to make. I am a speed writer and I have never done NaNoWriMo. The idea of sitting down in November and writing a 50,000 word novel intrigues me. As a speed writer, I should be eager to jump on this bandwagon, crank out that first draft, and then take December off before launching into revising.

At that pace, I should be able to complete at least one novel a year.

Speed Writer

At the time of writing this article, I have exactly zero books and zero short stories published. Unless you count the stories that I wrote in high school, but that was a long time ago. I have written and continue to write short stories which I read at a local literati group once a month. Two novels are “in development” as we like to say.

These things qualify me to talk about my personal speed writing process.

I should be clear up front, though, about the kinds of writing speed I am talking about. The header image would suggest I am talking about speeds exceeding 200 MPH. Those speeds, to my mind, are what the NaNoWriMo people do. Write fast to get that novel to first draft.

There is something thrilling about writing at breakneck speeds and ignoring your characters as they hold on to whatever they can find and scream from the backseat, “For the sake of all that is holy, please slow down. We want to get to the end of the story in one piece.”

Well, it would be if I was that kind of writer.

I’m closer to 35 MPH. On a good day.

My characters sit in the backseat arguing about whether they should hitch a ride with a different writer.

What’s the rush?

I’ve often heard these bits of sage advice:

  • Get the story on paper even if it’s bad. That’s what revisions are for.
  • Set daily writing goals and complete them, even if tomorrow you scrap most of what you wrote today.
  • Don’t write and edit at the same time.

The problem, for me anyway, is that I don’t work this way. I’m sure that if I actually plotted ahead of time, I could pick my speed up significantly. I might even get to 45 MPH.

But I don’t. I start with an interesting premise, perhaps a memorable or intriguing character, and then I say, “Let’s see where this leads.” I’m also the person who likes to get up on a Saturday or Sunday morning and say to my wife, “Let’s pick a destination and go”, all the while without too much of a plan of what exactly we are going to do when we get there.

Is a slow speed writer a thing?

“I can’t drive 55.”

Sammy Hagar

Sammy and I have this in common, even if our preferred speeds are different.

My “let’s see where this goes” approach combined with my inability not to edit while I write essentially begs for a slower approach. If you don’t know where you are going – and I often don’t – you really shouldn’t rush to get there.

I also enjoy the view on the journey. And that means taking my time, pausing, waiting for that right word or phrase or image.

One of these days

One of these days I will actually participate in NaNoWriMo. I will have a novel plotted, fully developed characters, compelling storylines and a killer ending. I will be probably never get up to speeds exceeding 100 MPH but 55 or maybe, just maybe, 65.

And when I do, I’ll write an article about it.

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Scott J Stoops - Writer

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