Fast or Slow?


Photo by Katie Cullinan

Often, while out running errands, a car races past me and others, weaving in and out of traffic. I shake my head, secretly hoping he or she gets pulled over (especially if they drive down the shoulder!). Sometimes, right after this car zooms past me, traffic ahead slows down to a stop. I pull up right behind Mr. Speed Racer. So what did all that racing around accomplish?

On the other hand, I sometimes I end up behind slow cars, who seem to take forever to get where they are going.

There are risks and potential payoffs for both approaches. If you drive fast, you may get to your destination quicker. However, you run the risk of causing an accident, and possibly hurting yourself and others. If you drive slow, it will take longer to get to where you’re going, and you might be late, but you increase the chances of getting there safely.

Let’s extend this metaphor to writing (novels in particular). What is the right speed to write a novel? If you write extremely fast, you may finish your first draft quicker, but the risk is higher that the novel crashes and burns from unfocused sloppy narrative or plot. Writing very fast also only works when there are no barriers (like the traffic stopping unexpectedly). When was the last time you experienced no barriers in your writing (or anything else, for that matter)?

Writing slowly means taking much longer to finish your novel. You will delay the satisfaction of completing the manuscript, and you could possibly lose momentum.

Neither approach is ideal. I think I’ll write as a slightly sporty sedan. Maybe with a convertible top for when I’m feeling daring. I will take a moderate pace, and keep moving. I’ll save speed for those sunny days when a revision cycle is ending- just grammar and logistical cleanups. Then I can take my novel for a spin. By then, I’ll have travelled the route many times. I know it well.

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