Do you crank out copy at a fast and furious rate? Or are you “the slow one,” the writer who labors over every word, phrase, or even punctuation mark?
Or, even more weirdly, are you one of those writers who strikes a happy medium between racing and plodding?
I must admit, I’m a bit of both, though I’d never say I strike any kind of happy medium. In short, it all depends on the project.
Labors of Commerce, Labors of Love
In my freelance service, I’m sometimes called upon to bill per project, whereas other times I’m called upon to bill hourly. Obviously, the slower I work, the lower my average hourly rate will be for any given project.
Today I wrote an article in a little under three hours. To round off, let’s call it 1,400 words in about three hours, or an average of around 465 words per hour.
By contrast, I used to spend weeks polishing a 1,400-word article in my old full-time job. In fact, some of them took somewhere around ten hours all told, if I recall correctly. When your workload is limited by what’s assigned to you, you sometimes have the luxury of laboring over each project.
Contrast that even more with my fiction. I’ll admit, I labor over novels more than anything else—in part because I don’t have the luxury of working on them full-time, but mainly because I want them to be as good as they possibly can.
Checking the editing time on my current Work-In-Progress, Jihad Insurance, I see I’ve spent about 40 hours on it. And that’s just the time measured by MS-Word, which doesn’t include the time I’ve spent staring at something, much less any of my research time.
At its current word count of 12K, that means a rate of around 300 words per hour—much faster than I’d ever expected it to be, but not exactly cranking it out, either. But that number will inevitably slow, as I can see by checking the Advanced Reader Copy of my last novel, Whizzers.
Is One Better than the Other?
I’m torn on the issue of whether it’s better to write fast, slow, or somewhere in between. While I know many of my fellow writers prefer not to edit at all while in the composition phase, I’m the opposite: I rewrite and edit as I go, and when I’m finished with a draft, my final editing process from A through Z isn’t difficult at all. If I did it any other way, my A through Z edit would be a nightmare of an emotional rollercoaster.
Writing fast doesn’t always produce bad content, and going slowly doesn’t always produce genius-level results. When I’m in a zone, I can write my best stuff fairly quickly, though not at a madman’s pace. When I’m struggling to create something, I have to slow down.
What do you think? Is slow better? Fast? Neither? Or, like me, do you think it depends almost entirely on the project, as well as what kind of shape you’re in when you work on it? Let me know in the comments below.