Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Speed Writing

By Mark W. Danielson

It’s been a while since I’ve written about writing, so today I’ll introduce my method that I call “speed writing”. Of course, this isn’t a novel concept, but rather two words that describe how I create my stories.

Before I ever sit down to the computer, I’ve spent months or years thinking about what I intend to write. I’ve also completed my research, walked the settings, and even photographed many of the scenes to engage my mind where it needs to be. In other words, what makes speed writing possible is I’ve thought out every aspect of the story, thus the subsequent writing becomes effortless. Now, all that’s missing are my characters, but letting them evolve is the best part of writing.

I wrote my next story in thirty days; half of which I completed in four. How is that possible? Simple – I was in Kazakhstan, couldn’t sleep, and had nothing better to do. In situations like that, I either produce or wither. But does speed writing work for others? Beats me. I do know that Dean Koontz spends sixty to ninety hours per week writing, and when you have that much uninterrupted time, you can churn out stories pretty fast.

Unlike many authors, I don’t spend much time outlining. However, I do jot notes as I go along, primarily so I can remember details. For example, I need to know my characters; where they live, what they do, what they look like, but these notes never give direction.

I’ve often linked writing to painting, and speed writing is no exception. In painting, you can only do so many brush strokes before the paint dries, and you only get so many versions before you’ve ruined the canvas. And so it goes for writing; too much thought and revisions will ruin a story. Thus my logic becomes, if I’m struggling with a thought, then it probably wasn’t a great one, so I should drop it and move on.

Bear in mind that speed writing doesn’t carry over to editing. Editing is like exiting the freeway into a school zone. It has to be slow and methodical to check for logic and inconsistencies, so enjoy the freeway for as long as you can.

The most important thing about writing is to get the story from my head into a workable document. I never stop until my first draft is complete. For me, writing fiction is no different than telling a story around a camp fire. So, when you think about writing in those terms, you’ll see why I believe anyone can write.


Jean Henry Mead said...

I guess I'm a speed writer, too, Mark, but I've always attributed it to my journalism background. I don't outline because I find it inhibiting and I rarely have to backtrack to rewrite or rework the plot. Speed writing is exhilirating when the characters take over and run with the story. :)

Beth Terrell said...

Good description of speed writing, Mark. I do more of a mixture of speed writing and loosely outlining.

Chester Campbell said...

That's an interesting style, Mark. I suppose mine should be called creepy writing. I not only know little about the plot when I start, but I constantly edit as I go. By the time I finish a "first draft," the story is in pretty fair shape. But then I start revising and anything can happen.