Writing Fast or Slow? It’s Personal

*Today’s Guest post is by senior Fine Lines editor and author Margie Lukas

I consider myself a slow writer.

WL_farthest-house_2For me, the deepest connections in Farthest House came over time. I worked on the novel for seven years, though the ideas had been swimming in the back of my mind for a few years even before I put a #2 pencil to yellow legal paper. Which doesn’t mean I did nothing else in that time. As it simmered, I worked on other writing projects.

Grace of Time

Writing slow gave me the time to think and rethink plot lines, discuss them with others and consider fully my objectives. I asked myself over and over, “Is there a better way? What does this achieve, and what might that achieve?”

Giving myself the grace of time, I gave my characters the same grace to mature in my mind. It’s happening again with the current novel I’m working on. With each new draft, I’m able to see associations and links I didn’t see the previous trip through. It’s like getting to know friends… or enemies. Secrets aren’t revealed right away. It’s over time—no matter how sure we are we have someone figured out—that we truly get to know them. Getting to know fictional characters isn’t speed dating. Without having to worry about a pressing deadline, even one that’s self-inflicted, I can wait on the characters, wait on place, and wait on voice.

I think speed, or the long and slow painstaking process, also depends of the writing project itself. Each is different. An author might spend two years on one book and find the next one takes ten. Susan Power is a great example.

“My first novel, The Grass Dancer,” she writes, “took about two years of slow meandering for me to write the first half of it. Then, after I’d sold it on the basis of four chapters and acquired a deadline, I ended up writing the second half of it in about six weeks. My story/essay collection was years in the making. My latest novel, Sacred Wilderness, took seven years to write. This was in part, I realize now, because I wasn’t meant to do only book research, but to actually apply some of the sacred lessons I was learning to my own life. The process of discovering the book (which has a transformational message) was meant to be transformational for me as I worked with it. I was pushed to grow along with the book.”

What do You and Your Project Need?

Is it a quality product, with no other consideration? Or is it more immediate rewards such as a bit of cash or a promotion from adjunct to a tenure-tracked position? There’s certainly nothing wrong with that! Writers do have families, do need to eat, and sleep in out of the rain. A writer needs to know what they want and need from writing, then take the right amount of time to meet that need.

What about You? What makes you a fast or slow writer?

Margaret Lukas is an author and Fine Lines special editor. 
She is a professor in UNO’s Creative Writing program. Her novel Farthest House is a 2014 release.


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