Friday, January 14, 2011

Rushing Slows Me Down

by Rebecca J. Carlson

The cabin girl sneaked a look at the latest print-out of my unfinished manuscript.

Okay, I let her. I didn't take it away from her when I saw her bringing it out to the car. All the long one-hour drive into town for our monthly Costco trip I listened eagerly for the gratifying giggles that came now and then from the back seat.

After she'd read the last page I waited, breathless, for the verdict. My daughter has no problem telling me when my writing is boring, or lame, or just doesn't work.

"This is good, Mom, but after the first few chapters it feels like you're rushing."

She was right. I had been rushing. Desperately rushing to catch up from the sixth months I'd spent moving my family to Hawaii. Rushing to catch up with my dreams. Rushing to write the book I'd been waiting all my life to write. But day after day, the words only trickled out. I stopped counting words to keep from getting depressed. I pushed harder, tried to put in more hours. Still, I felt bogged down in the endless morass of the middle. Have to get out, must get to climax, must press on...

Wait a minute! Sure, I'm excited to finish this book and get on with my writing career, but what's the rush? The real fun is in the writing.

So yesterday I decided to relax and have fun. Enjoy each and every beat. Stop trying to plow through my outline and get to "the good stuff." It's all good stuff, or it isn't worth writing.

When I stopped driving myself so hard, the words came. At the end of my daily writing session I had ten pages to print out, whereas in these past weeks my daily page count had been five or six.

I'm through rushing. It slows me down.


  1. Rebecca, how true. The real fun is in the awesome discovery in the first draft. I'm still trying to convince myself that editing and revisions are fun.(Some parts are.) It's so hard not to push forward to reach those exciting scenes. But what really makes your story are all those 'slow' pages before where your character reveals herself/himself and comes to life. And you're so lucky to have your cabin girl!

  2. Awesome self-discovery! There is a rhythm to writing that has nothing to do with the rhythm of the story. I'm glad you're finding the tempo that works best!! :)

  3. So true! Though I tackle the issue differently. I skip ahead to write the scenes I love, and then it's the challenge of making those scenes make sense that drives the rest of the book. The characters need to be in the right places, physically and emotionally, and the background has to be clear, etc. Often the scenes change as I discover more about the characters or have different ideas, but I don't make myself write all the verbiage in between those fun scenes until I've taken a crack at the fun scenes themselves. They, in turn, make the rest of the project fun, though challenging.

  4. Love the fact that you daughter not only enjoyed it but is discerning enough to give you some great insights! Awesome :)

  5. I'm guilty of doing that sometimes. I usually fix it all in the first round of revisions.

  6. Thanks for all the comments!

    Yesterday I wrote a scene I had almost decided to skip, and it turned out to be one of my favorites so far. I often find it surprisingly rewarding to simply follow my imagination, to lay out whatever visions play into my mind.

    I used to skip ahead too, Emily, but I found that when I went back to write the intermediate material the characters evolved faster than I expected. They would realize things I had meant to keep from them until later, get further ahead on their "emotional journey" than I originally planned. So then I had to entirely rewrite the "good scenes" anyways.

  7. Of course, now that I think about it, those scenes I'd skipped ahead to write would come out BETTER in the re-write because I'd already tried writing them once. Hmmm...

  8. Yeah, everyone finds their own way. I just started skipping ahead after what was probably about fifteen years of writing straight through, and skipping's worked wonders for me, but there's no right or wrong way to do it.

  9. It's so true! Sometimes we just need to whack ourselves upside the head to remind us this is fun. Or it won't be. Thanks for the gentle head-thumping.


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