Welcome back to my series of post reflecting on four reasons I had to abandon a draft-in-progress of The King’s Sons one hundred pages in; I rewrote everything with a different plot set seven years in the future. (Post one, including a list of all the reasons my first attempt failed me, is here.) I’m hoping to give other writers the tools to avoid having to start over again the way I did.
What’s the occasion for this post? My rewrite has a happy ending, and the finished product–book III of the Herezoth trilogy–releases Friday, May 31.
Yesterday I wrote about the first reason I failed: I hadn’t planned sufficiently. I didn’t know my characters or my concept well enough to turn them into a developed plot.
Today, I want to talk about how I wrote those first one hundred pages too quickly.
WHAT IS “TOO FAST”?
Everyone knows you want to write quickly, right? You don’t want to spend more time than you have to on a passage, and you definitely don’t want to go back and edit things as you’re writing.
So what is writing “too fast”?
In my case, part of it was knowing (roughly) how much content I produced on average daily. Though I didn’t set a daily word count goal specifically–and here’s why–I did push myself to write as much as possible, and I got upset with myself when I fell short of the average.
You should never set your writing speed on word count or numbers of pages.
You should make as much progress as you can, as quickly as you can, assuming you know your characters and their world, and you are settled in to that world. You have a foothold on your story, you’re confident and in control, and you understand why the things that you’re writing are happening the way they are.
Looking back, that wasn’t the case for me. Because I hadn’t planned enough, I didn’t understand the dynamics between my characters and the things they were hoping to achieve as I started writing.
I thought I would figure it out as I went, and I tried to do just that.
What that attempt got me was 100 pages of intro material and boring backstory, with me still far away from establishing any kind of action scene or having a personal threat come to any of my major characters.
Did I mention I write sword and sorcery fantasy? Where action is somewhat critical to keeping a reader engaged?
Rather than take some time to really flesh my characters out before I started, or after I started and began to feel a bit unsettled and insecure, I kept moving forward.
I wrote too fast. Not because I was writing X numbers of words a day too many, but because I was writing without a sense of direction or a good enough sense of what my characters intended.
I didn’t fully realize that sense of direction was lacking at the time, but it was. When one day the bad guy has no connection to the heroes, then another he’s an ex-boyfriend of one of their best friends and he’s engaging/charming as an individual, and the next the heroine whose friend he was dating always considered him a problem thanks her magic ability to read emotions and even convinced her friend to let him go….
When that happens, you’ve got problems. As an author of fantasy, you don’t need to know how things will end. You don’t need to know what your characters are going to do each step along the way. But you sure as heck need to know what they feel about each other, and why, and how they respond to one another.
I didn’t. And because of that, I moved rudderless. I couldn’t trust my characters to guide me when couldn’t see clearly what their goals were.
So, that’s my experience with writing too fast. Do you have one? What would constitute writing too fast in your eyes? Do you shoot for a daily goal of some kind when you write? If so, what is it?
Feel free to share you thoughts in the comments. And if you enjoyed this post, consider following my blog by email (top right corner of the page.) That way you won’t miss out on the posts to follow.
Also, remember to mark your calendars: to celebrate release day of book III, the reformatted version of book I of my Herezoth trilogy, The Crimson League, will be free for download May 31 and June 1 (Friday and Saturday). This is a great opportunity, since the story of Herezoth will be complete for all to enjoy now! Don’t miss out.