The Slow Writing Movement…
Prior to new Year’s Eve, Joe Konrath said: This year, I’m boiling my resolutions down to the essence:
Elizabeth Hunter wrote: I NEED the writing. It’s still my most-fun-thing. My escape. My happy place.
I love writing and want to write more books, but they can’t happen as fast as I would like and that’s okay. In fact, that’s better than okay. It’s normal and I’m perfectly fine with that.
And then there’s Kristine Kathryn Rusch, a commentator whose words always hold a distinct resonance and clarity for me personally. In her annual ‘Close of Business for the Year’ address she pointed out a couple of salient things…
‘The new world isn’t actively hostile, but it is difficult. And why shouldn’t it be? We’re working on an international level.
But one of the degrees of difficulty we’ve been dealing with since 2009 is that the new system hadn’t stabilized yet. Things changed, sometimes weekly, and those of us who jumped into indie publishing from the beginning were constantly revising expectations as well as ways of doing things.’
I joined the new world of publishing along with some of my closest writing friends, in 2008. We were published POD by an organization in the UK that was government funded with an annual Arts grant. We sold, we did well. But then we stepped out on our own and by 2010, dived into e-books.
Not just diving in I might add, but swimming whole marathons because the industry was mega-populated and the technology seemed to change by the hour…
But they were things we had to learn to cope with as easily as a swimmer manages a tumble-turn before continuing the next lap!
‘2016 will be the Year of the Writer,’ Kristine continued. ‘Not because writers will suddenly become the darlings of the culture. (Wouldn’t that be weird?) But because the writers who have survived all the changes and have worked hard to publish in whatever way is best for them are now returning their attention to the very thing that got them started in the first place:
And that for me is the nub.
I have told stories all of my life – initially for my own pleasure, but since 2008, for the pleasure of others. Stories build in my mind and like an artist must paint, so I must get my story down. I am happy and content when I write.
Kristine went further to quote other writers who were backing off from the ‘publish many novels in one year or die’ programme and who were planning on taking time to live and allow creativity to move through all its phases.
Sometimes, as many writers know, staring out the window, walking the dog or pulling weeds from the garden is like fertilizer to that same garden. It is the constructive ‘rest’ that the creative mind needs. It doesn’t stop being creative – it merely sifts through the best of the creative thoughts in a very subtle way.
I’ve never written more than one novel a year. Except for the odd short-story in collaboration for an anthology or for Bopress Miniatures with whom I am contracted to write miniature stories periodically. But as my peers publish more than one novel a year, I have felt a certain amount of dismay and guilt at my own slow rate of working. So much so that it made me question my ability and dedication.
But Kristine, Joe and Elisabeth and a host of popular authors and commentators appear to have now sanctioned the programme. The one I shall call ‘the Slow Writing Movement’, rather like ‘the slow food movement.’
I want to savour the flavour and not burn out in the process. If readers have found my work, I have to believe and hope they will come back for second and third (and up to eight) helpings. No amount of flinging dishes at them at a furious rate is going to make me a better writer or give me a better income or even force those readers to choose me above all the other excellent and faster writers.
It is what it is.
And I take joy and contentment from moving along at a pace guaranteed to allow me to enjoy all that surrounds me and with which I can infuse my novels.
Just think of it as a perfect slow-cooked casserole, filled with fresh herbs which heighten the flavour on the palate to impossible levels of enjoyment.
That’s me, Prue Batten – Slow Writer!
I agree 100% Prue! I’ve always been a slow writer, and I’m tired of having to explain to people that I can’t write a novel a month (or week) and that doesn’t make my work worthless. Everybody’s muse works at her own pace. Bullying the muse always leads to disaster. Or at least bad writing and/or writer’s block…
Anne, all those who contact me in respect of my series are very good – undemanding and very knowledgable about just what goes into writing hist.fict and understanding that every writer is different. I was a lot harder on myself than they were at the time.
But I tell myself that one of the things writers like about my work is the appeal to all the senses. I couldn’t do that if I hadn’t spent the time being mindful of all that my characters might sense and feel – things as simple as the waft of onions and the way eyes weep because of it or the feel of a barley head in the palm and the way the grains smell malty. The way a horse can shift a few inches sideways as one pulls oneself into the saddle. The way silk rolls and folds against the legs as one walks across a room in a long gown and so on. I would be short-changing the very essence of my work to do it any other way.
I’m just glad there are others like you and me around because it’s so nice not being the only one ( 😉 )and that the urgency of filling a list is finally diminishing.
I am definitely a member of the Slow Writers brigade. I have been writing slowly for years, but never felt anything was ready for publishing until more recently. Now my focus is on getting my work up to a standard I am happy to share. Being there for family and getting on with life in general, has made the process slower than I would like, but I don’t begrudge the time shared with loved ones. They are more important than anything.
Caro, I do agree. It is perhaps life that slows us down most, doesn’t it? And yet, the very act of living life is what imbues writing with veracity. Slow writing is the best!
I fully sympathise with your approach, Prue, though I have turned into a Fast Writer since “going indie”. My working life in the past was incredibly intense. At one point I was bringing up 5 children, holding down 5 part-time jobs (in university teaching, journalism and software design), AND working for my PhD in English Literature. Now that the children have grown up and I have quit the various jobs, I suddenly seem to have HUGE expanses of time!!!! What a novelty!!!! The books that have been seething inside me for ages are now bursting out. I have also been working ridiculously long hours for the last two years, so I think I’ll need to ease up a bit in 2016. We each need to find what works best for us. I’m quite driven, but I also believe in exploring sensory and emotional detail in my work. At last I have the time to do so.
Hallo Ann. I’m afraid I’m guilty of always putting the novel on the back burner when real life requires my attention and that has been so ever since I decided to ‘write to publish’. Farms and family require that sort of thing – they don’t wait, that’s for sure!
Like you, I have many novels jostling in my creative space, waiting for ‘their time’ – at least two more hist.ficts., a piece in a collaborative hist.fict anthology, a full collaboration on a hist.fict and then another hist.fantasy plus continuing my wonderful and rewarding collaboration with Bopress USA. That should all bring me rewardingly into my 70’s!!!
I think all authors are driven. Else they wouldn’t write at all. It’s a compunction that pushes us to write, to retire from the world to do it – long hours of solitude and really not making sense to anyone but oneself and one’s characters.
And I agree with you emphatically about sensory and emotional detail in novels – if we are not mindful of our own reactions to the minutae of life, how can we possible expect our characters to exhibit such things?
As I said to the excellent commentator, Anne R Allen, it’s what my novels have been praised for and it’s a good enough reason for me to write slowly – to examine the depth of the human reaction rather than writing about it blithely and at pace. Horses for courses and I am a slow horse in a slow race…