Writing: Fast or Slow?

Do you ever wonder how fast you type? Usually it isn’t an issue, or is it?

Typing is a necessity for many of us, writers even more than most. Something about all those novels makes it hard to understand how you could manage at a slow pace. Do you do 120,000 words on a novel for how many revisions?

In the interest of keeping the writing time down, do you organize your thoughts? Do you wade through an outline or just start chugging from page one through to the end? Do you write longhand or do you sit at the keyboard for hours on end?

I love it when people get to study things like writers tend to be wordier when they do rough drafts at a keyboard instead of by hand. So what does it mean by wordier? Did they put the same writers side by side on the same topics and count words for each of the outpourings? I think it has to be difficult to make a really good comparison between writers. Especially when you consider that there gets to be a point where each writer makes a decision about the form that works better on an individual basis.

I’m one of those writers who logs hours in front of a keyboard. Perhaps less than some who transcribe their longhand so much slower than I type, but more than many if you consider all the other things I do in front of a monitor. Ha.

When I’m warmed up and awake, I can type about 100 words per minute. That’s from a typing test, though, and it isn’t about how fast I can create the words in my head. Creating requires more attention to detail and sometimes the proper word doesn’t just sprout from the fingertips. At times you end up with a blue where you really need a cerulean or a navy.

For me, the first draft is about getting the ideas out. It’s all about the concept. It’s one reason I just let it all run out from my fingers like they’re on fire when the ideas come fast. When they come slow, it’s one word at a time. It’s all about continuing the stream. Sometimes I skip ahead and come back to the troublesome parts. I don’t like to stop where it gets slow; I jump ahead if I have momentum to keep things moving. The movement is how I finish things. Some projects languish when I lose the steam to keep things on track.

It’s one reason I like NaNoWriMo. Everyone’s about moving and keeping the words spilling onto the page without worry about the inner editors getting in the way with whether it ought to be a separate sentence or hooked together with a semicolon. It seems like a small distinction, but it impacts the finished project.

So instead of recording just how fast I type, I’ve been keeping tabs on how fast I can pour out ideas. It varies on topic and particular day for my energy, but it looks like I could finish a day’s worth of a NaNo requirement between 30 and 90 minutes. Big swing, so I’m working on it to see if I can narrow the gap.

Speaking of Time

I’m sure it means I come from an overly technical background when I regularly have discussions and debates with my husband about how pregnant I am in months. It isn’t about whether or not the time is relative – 24 weeks is 24 weeks no matter what scale you use. [No, I’m not opening debate about how pregnant I am; I can be perfectly fine with the one the doctors use.]

But here’s where the debate lies: is 24 weeks equal to 6 months? My husband’s overly technical answer is no. He insists there are 4.3 weeks per month and that must be taken into account. I suppose he’s got a point, since there are 52 weeks in a year and 6 months is half a year, so 26 weeks, right? The issue there is that there are supposed to be 4 weeks in 1 month. Isn’t that what we learned when we were young? And 6 times 4 is 24. Feels like there ought to be wiggle room.

Then you add in the pregnancy thing being 40 weeks, give or take, and you get a messy tangle. Do you count that as ten months? Do you start the count from a different week to make things more confusing, but less difficult to say “I’m five months pregnant.” Do you ever wonder why we allow such discrepancies? Can’t it be fixed to say one month is so many days and so many weeks?

It’s probably just as easy as switching to the metric system. Something that is resisted in this country yet would make things easier once completed.

It also makes me think of time in books. Often I read science fiction and fantasy. Rarely is another time system used that isn’t based on Gregorian calendar. Many fantasy books turn months into moons, and it changes the pace and tone, but it’s a similar system. Science fiction often uses something along the same lines. Star Trek uses a stardate, but it’s simply a different way to state it.

One series I read by Gayle Greeno, The Ghatti’s Tale, had a system with eight days per week. At the time it made me wonder why more authors didn’t try something like that. Time and its passage isn’t a main focus in these novels or it might have become a problem. Like creating a new language and having to understand all the rules involved, time has its own issues. We think in terms of calendars we know. Once a reader has to convert all of the references into something that has no common point to the popular system of time measurement, it might give the reader a chance to check out and put the book down.

What do you think? Have you ever tried to create a time system for a book that didn’t have large similarities to the Gregorian calendar? Did it become a gargantuan task to keep everything straight in your head and your readers? How many books have you encountered that significantly altered the way time was measured for the story and did it change your opinion of the book?