I've been pondering a lot lately about finding the right pace.
I know writers who can churn out 3,000 words in an hour. I know other writers who take hours to produce that much — and yet they'll still have that, or a similarly high figure, as their daily target. I'm presuming that's partly a function of available time, and yet I do know writers quite capable of burning the candle at both ends, working long hours at the dayjob and putting in equally long hours at the writing in any one day. This I find awesome. My own body rebels if ever I try that, and I find myself sleeping at the desk. It probably doesn't help that coffee makes me sick; there's not that many caffeine-free stimulants, you know?
I'm not a fast writer, but a slow pace frustrates me and makes me stall just as much as an unrealistically high target exhausts me beyond my limits. It's a tricky balance, especially when you throw in necessities like sleep, family and friends, day to day errands, that sort of thing. There's also the issue of habit and routine, to some extent: what initially seems like a high figure, if you push for it long enough, soon becomes an easily attainable figure and then maybe it's time to move the goalposts.
Lately (and I use the term loosely to mean the last couple of days), I've been pushing myself to hit 2,000 words a day. This is a lot, for me, and when I'm tired it can take up to four hours. After a day at the dayjob, that's too much. But I'm reluctant to lower the goalposts because you know what? Part of what makes me a slow writer is the procrastination effect. And maybe if I work at it just a little longer, I can break that nasty little habit.
Although part of that problem is tied into another issue I've been pondering lately, namely that of starting a story too soon. Not "too soon" as it relates to the story's plot arc, but "too soon" as it relates to the story's gestation time. I have this nasty habit of trying to start a story before the whole of it has coalesced into an actual story. As a result I get fractured tales, stories with characters but an enforced plot, stories with plot but no characters, stories with setting but no coherent theme or ending. You get the picture, I'm sure.
I was talking last week about how sometimes I liked to write longhand over typing, particularly for a story that's not quite up to flowing yet. Because I can type quicker than I can think of the next sentence, which means that I'm always at the end of a sentence and stuttering for the next; and sometimes that can kill a story, it just gutters and dies in the pauses. That's when I like to switch to longhand, because I can't write by hand quicker than I can think, so there's always that sense of a story building up, gathering momentum, eager to be written. I much prefer words with a bit of momentum behind them, on the whole.
And I'm thinking that sometimes — not all the time, but sometimes — when a story is at risk of guttering in the pauses, then maybe I've started it too soon.
So much thinking, so little conclusioning… 😉