Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Finding Rhythm

(and no, I dance on occasion, but I am not terribly worried about the rhythm part, as anyone who sees me will tell you).

And FYI, Today I am also at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash talking money...

But back to rhythm... Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's a nightmare... I'm not sure exactly what it is, but it is like each book has its own heartbeat, and the writer needs to find that pace and WRITE at that pace, and if you get it down, you can cruise along steadily—the best way to get it done.

It seems more logical that each AUTHOR would have a pace, but I'm not sure that's true—at least for me, I have some complicated stories in my head that require some savoring, mulling... they can't be forced out. My first one was this way. I know there were a lot of floundering halts because I wasn't altogether convinced I could really WRITE a book, but even when I was 'on' I was writing about 2 chapters a MONTH. They are 4000 word chapters, so really I was only writing about 2000 words a week.

I have a second I am about half done with that still SITS half done because another book so rudely interrupted it and poured out of my pen at almost a chapter A DAY. Now these were only 2000 word chapters, but still—do you see that pace difference?

I thought maybe we'd explore WHY.

The Fitness Theory

You know someone who has been practicing is GOING to go faster—is going to need fewer rests—is going to complete the thing in a quicker time.

My first book took me 2.5 YEARS. If I apply that 2 chapters a month to the 31 chapters, it only SHOULD have taken me 15 months... I was OUT of shape, and then got INTO shape. I hold to the thought though, that I never could have done a 2000 word a day pace with that story.

External Pressure

NaNoWriMo is one of these... a FORCE pushing you to go as fast as humanly possible... it is like you are running from Zombies, and the faster you can SPRINT the more likely you are to LIVE.

I was successful with my first WriMo—I think it's a great book that MATCHES that pace. My second WriMo I FINISHED but seems to lack some of the heart I want the story to have—rushing didn't go with the wrenching emotions I wanted to display. Part of that may have been self protective... who can dig out their heart day after day after day? But I think more of it is that it just takes a little more time to get deeply and emotionally immersed, and then convey that. At least for me.

The one that it WORKED for was my spy novel, and that has emotional REVEAL (that largely still needs to be written, I might add—the other stuff is there—that stuff is rough) but is hugely action.


Which brings me to content. I think this is a biggie. That first novel had four different voices—a family—each with times I was in their head—switching gears takes a little work, and I covered every PoV in every chapter, and almost NEVER covered more than one PoV in a night. SOMETIMES I would jump to that characters next scene and keep going... the two daughters, in spite of being 15 and 5 were easier to go back and forth, probably because each had such a truly distinct voice. The two adults though, were much harder.

And then the emotional match mentioned in the WriMo section of course... But what about how COMPLICATED the story is? Setting land speed records may not be the way to write something SUBTLE. I'm just saying...

The ones I've successfully written fast are the mostly action packed... I always try to have the underlying emotions (especially some self revelation or something) but there are definitely varying levels of how to include this, and I think the fast written books have less subtle emotional layers.

So I'd like to ask YOU, to satisfy my curiosity...

How fast do you write? (does it vary at all?)
What is your habit (daily writing, or sporadic and for how long?)
What is your genre?
How much emotion do you use?
How complicated are your plots?

If I get enough responses, maybe I will do a summary on Sunday.

TOMORROW, don't forget to come in and learn the Book Promo Scoop from a PRO! Elizabeth Spann Craig is revealing to MY READERS what she has learned about promoting books at book release, since she is now on her 3rd.

And for anyone already published, Karen is offering to Buy Your Book if you win her contest... bunch of reviewing and publicity sharing goes with that... so you published folks, go see her!


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Interesting post!

How fast do you write? (does it vary at all?) Pretty fast. It does vary, depending on where I am with my deadline and how far I want to push it.

What is your habit: Daily writing.
What is your genre? Traditional mystery (cozy)
How much emotion do you use? My books are usually humorous, but I do dabble in fear. :)
How complicated are your plots? Typical mystery--embedded puzzle with clues, red herrings, etc. So...middling?

Old Kitty said...

Oooh very interesting! For you it would seem that pace and speed not only depends on the individual and circumstances but the type of genre - that for me is very interesting!! I've never really thought of genre dictating speed and pace! Hmmm - much to ponder!

How fast do I write? Depends how excited I am about what I'm writing!
What is your habit golly - very sporadic!!! As and when I feel like it!
What is your genre? eclectic!
How much emotion do you use? lots and lots and lots of emotion!
How complicated are your plots? my current wip is stupidly complicated - i need to simplify!

Thanks for this very thought provoking post!
take care

Falen (Sarah) said...

i think all my stories require some mulling beforehand, regardless of how complicated they are

Megan Bostic said...

How fast do you write? When I'm hot on a story, I write like lighting. When I'm stuck or have writer's block, not so much.

What is your habit I like writing daily for a couple hours, but life sometimes gets in the way of that goal.

What is your genre? Mostly YA, but wrote one adult mainstream, and working on an adult dystopian.

How much emotion do you use? I write my best when I'm my most angsty. I also really try to feel what's happening in the story, so I use a LOT of emotion when writing.

How complicated are your plots? My plots are pretty uncomplicated. I'm into the simple well written storyline with maybe just one plot twist toward the end. :)

Hart Johnson said...

DATA!!! Excellent! Thanks, guys!

Sarah-I typically mull, too, but once I am WRITING the speed differs drastically...

LTM said...

Good stuff here (btw, you won an award over at CQG & great burrow post)--as for your questions, well it's just all out the window now that summer break has arrived.
1-I can be really fast if I have stretches of uninterrupted time. During school, I wrote an entire 55K book in two weeks... edits & amplifications took a little longer. My first book took 6 mos, so I guess I'm sporadic.
2-I'd love to write EVERY DAY, but lately that's been hard. (I do write every day for work, but I bet you mean on my WiPs)
3-Genre: commercial YA always w/some romance thrown in. B/c that's how I roll... ;p (the SciFi's going pretty well, btw)
4-Emotion? Me? Huh? ;p No, funny, sad, embarrassing... this is YA after all
5-I've written complicated plots and simple ones. The 55K was simple. The 6-mo was complicated.... Current WiP=complicated.

Talli Roland said...

Wow! Great questions!

How fast do you write? (does it vary at all?)

I aim for at least 2000 words a day. Sometimes it takes me two hours, sometimes more!

What is your habit (daily writing, or sporadic and for how long?)

Daily writing, for the past three and a half years.

What is your genre?

Light women's fiction.

How much emotion do you use?

Mostly emotion of the snarky variety. I can't help it; my voice comes out that way!

How complicated are your plots?

The last one was quite complex due to lots of subterfuge, but they're usually of normal complexity, I'd say.

Hope that helps, Hart! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Some weeks I'm lucky to do 1000, other times I do that a day. I write daily. Science fiction. Simple plot, complete characters.
At least I hope that's how it turns out.
And good choice of photo ofr external pressure - cardio is important!

Helena said...

I'm not a fast writer, but I coudn't swear to that because I think in pages on my computer screen and not word count.

Genre -- I'm all over the place, but even with modern settings I use a lot of history and my stories are fast-paced. The Compass Master is definitely a thriller.

Emotions vary. I've written some scenes in manuscripts that hit me hard, but most of the time I'm more detached.

Finally, my stories tend to get complicated, even if I plot them out more simply. If the characters come alive and take over, they tend to do the complicating.

B. Miller said...

How fast do you write? (does it vary at all?) Depends on what I'm working on and what's going on in the rest of my life. When I was working on the novel I tried to get at least 5000 words a week but sometimes that didn't pan out. Short stories go a little faster, though.

What is your habit (daily writing, or sporadic and for how long?) I try to write every day, but sometimes this doesn't always happen (like right now in the throes of editing).

What is your genre? Horror.

How much emotion do you use? I feel like the story should be emotional to get your reader involved, so I try to put a lot of emotion in my characters.

How complicated are your plots? I've only written one book. I'd give it a 6 on the complicated scale, out of 10. It's not simple but it's not difficult to follow either.

Thanks for asking! :D

Hart Johnson said...

Excellent! I've got a little data anyway! Hopefully more will chime in overnight, but I think there is both some consistency and some variability.

Almost like y'all are PEOPLE! HA! [sorry, the social scientist in me can get snarky]

But I'm thrilled to have some answers to work with!

Anonymous said...

My first completed manuscript flew. When I truly sat down to write it took me about eight months to finish and was in the genre of romance. Truth be told it was considered "main stream w/ strong romantic elements". Good amount of action (she was in martial arts) and emotion, but the pacing was relatively quick, the emotional stuff nuanced relatively well (after edits). Current work gets hacked at mostly every day, it's a literary endeavor and the pace is pretty slow. This isn't because things aren't happening, time moves quickly within the work itself, but the narrative is picky, sparse, and without anything being harped on or repeated. Every sentence is a labor in this work, each word mattering in ways it didn't in the previous. I feel accomplished when I write 200 words a day sometimes, but instead shoot for about 500 (I only have nap time to write).

Good thoughts, Hart. Thanks for this post. :)

Ellie said...

Sometimes fast, other times slow~ Subject and approach seem to be what sets my pace. How much I know about the subject-depends. I am only writing random bits, lately. Maybe I can thread them together and piece into a quilt. Yes, it will be a crazy

Great post~

RaShelle said...

Hey Hart - I'm editing, but I write daily too. Nanowrimo rocks. Last year I wrote 80,000 words in a month. Mainly I write YA, but the one that's finished and is being published is adult. Go figure.

RosieC said...

I've been a little slow on catching up on my blog reel (and have been going backwards :)

How fast do you write? It depends on how fired up I am. I have been known to write up to 10,000 word/day. That being said, there are plenty of days when I don't write much. Yo-yo, you are my muse :)

What is your habit? Unfortunately, I don't have much of one. I write when I can, when I don't have papers and projects due. Or, then again, I write when I *do* have papers and projects due because I'm avoiding them. haha.

What is your genre? YA. When I try to break away from it, the voice is never compelling enough for me and I usually drop it.

How much emotion do you use? Tons. Angsty teens. Need I say more?

How complicated are your plots? More complicated than they need to be.