It’s not a race… It’s a marathon

Something I learned just recently, which has changed my approach to writing for the better, was the idea that writing a piece of fiction is not a race. For years, I was competing to write my novel as quickly as possible in order to get it out the door and sell. But it doesn’t work quite like that (at least, not for us amateurs). No… writing is a marathon, you see. It isn’t so much a question of when you finish, but a game of seeing if you even can finish.

When you’re rushing your writing, you rarely have a chance to pause and actually enjoy what you’re doing. Characters don’t develop in your head, so much as splat onto the page in a bloody mess of literary abandon. Plot lines become knotted abominations, settings broken and/or bland and your own mood takes on a dark, savage quality. In short, you are no longer writer and story; you are now raving madman and word-scramble.

The greatest thing you can do for yourself as a writer is to take time over what you are doing. The time you might think you’ll be saving yourself writing the first draft will come for payback, doubling, trebling even, when you come to re-drafting, IF you rush! Who cares how many words you wrote today, or yesterday, or last week? Is your story moving along? Are your characters developing? If so, what have you got to worry about?

As an old friend of mine said recently, everyone has time to write at least 100 words every day. Whether you bash them out on your phone while waiting for a train, or on a scrap of paper during a boring meeting, or even on a napkin (a NAPKIN, dammit!) while you’re knocking back your morning Starbucks… *pause for breath*… it doesn’t really matter.

Oh, and if you think you need to get your story written and out in the world ASAP because you might get hit by a bus next week, I have these pearls of wisdom for you:

  1. There’s more of a chance agents/publishers will reject you if you’ve rushed your manuscript.
  2. Your manuscript probably isn’t that good anyway (no offence, but let’s be honest with ourselves).
  3. What do you care if people read your story or not once you’re dead? Just relax and have fun haunting that guy at work you don’t like!

In all seriousness, though, just enjoy your writing. When you’re having fun, your best work will come through.

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7 thoughts on “It’s not a race… It’s a marathon

  1. Gwen 18-Jul-2013 / 16:41

    This is so true – and I’ve been through similar emotions. I like to think of writing as a journey, rather than a destination. No matter what level of success we attain (regardless of your definition of success), we can always improve, and we never stop learning.

  2. tmewalsh 18-Jul-2013 / 16:52

    Very true and I have to remind myself this from time to time (usually if I’m feeling a bit ‘low’ about trying to be a full time author)

    Your pearls of wisdom (especially number 2)_are spot on! 🙂

  3. kford2007 05-Sep-2013 / 10:49

    Reblogged this on J. Keller Ford – Author and commented:
    Loved this article so much I had to share it with all my writer friends. I couldn’t say it any better.

  4. Jenny 05-Sep-2013 / 10:50

    I loved this post so much I reblogged it. I hope you don’t mind.

  5. change it up editing 05-Sep-2013 / 12:05

    There’s a reason why the Aesop’s fable of the hare and the tortoise has been a favorite for so many years, isn’t there? As an editor, I see more than a few manuscripts that could benefited from another round of revisions before a line edit.

  6. emmyleigh 05-Sep-2013 / 12:18

    Thank you, that’s exactly the conclusion I’m coming to myself. The pleasure is in the crafting, so take your time.

  7. Jennifer M Eaton 07-Sep-2013 / 01:02

    I need to remind myself to enjoy writing sometimes. I frequently push myself too hard and forget to enjoy the process.

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