Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

Writing at flank speed

In the comment thread to my recent post on legacies, jetse takes me to task, at length, over the way I write. I reported here a while back on a similar conversation I had with Gavin Grant last summer.

In both cases, the point they were making (to paraphrase extensively) is that I'm already a pretty good writer, and if I'd just freaking slow down and take my time, I might be a great one.

I've got two answers to that. One is, you're probably right, but I don't really know how to slow down. I have enough trouble viewing myself as being sufficiently productive as it is. (Seriously. I know it sounds weird, but that's really how I see myself.) Moving slower would be very difficult indeed. Not to mention which, when I do write it just pretty much comes shooting out of me.

The obvious counterpoint to that is fine, big boy, draft at lightspeed if it pleases you, but for the love of Ghu, let the stuff steep for a while before you chuck it out the door. Believe it or not, that's what I've been trying to do. Still, rewriting is very difficult for me, even now. I'd always rather be writing something new. By the same token, I can come back to old stories and always find things to improve. It feels like an endless process to me, and I've long lived under the engineering rubric of not letting perfect get in the way of good enough.

My second answer is, well, I'm trying that. Original Destiny, Manifest Sin has been gestating for about four years now, since its inception, and if that book gets finished before 2010, I'll be amazed. It's the one project I've ever taken on which stands outside my rapid-fire process.

Meanwhile, I do keep getting better, at least to my own eyes. Writing fast, with the full voice that comes alongside that wide-open throttle, is what brung me to the dance. As the saying goes, dance with who brung ya'.

So I don't disagree with jetse, or Gavin, in principle. I just don't know any other way to do it. I'm working on it. If I ever stop working on bettering my writing, throw a sheet over me and sell the Edsel -- that'll mean I'm done.
Tags: personal, process, writing

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