A little while ago, I talked a little about my writing habits, specifically my tendency to write a few pages, then go back and edit, then move on to the next chunk of pages. One of the annoying things about writing, particularly for newcomers who (like I did when I got going) would like to get a few stable guidelines, is that as soon as you mention this kind of guideline, it tends to change the next day. That’s what’s happened to me.
About a week and a half ago, my output on this novel suddenly trippled. Whereas some people are talented enough to crank out 15 pages a day, I’m generally very contented with 5. And so it’s never a chore to go back and edit them the next day before diving into new stuff. But suddenly I got a clear vision of where my story was heading, and the pages just seemed to drop out of me. 15, then 17, then 19, then 19 again, and on one miraculous day nearly 30. I felt like a porn star.
But then, like any successful porn star, I started to worry.
Because by the end of the week, I had nearly 100 pages of only lightly edited stuff. I liked looking at the stack, of course, and showing it off to my girlfriend, but then she said, “And is it good?”I shrugged. I didn’t really know. In fact, I doubted it. But I wasn’t going to worry about it too much. I couldn’t waste time when my fingers were hammering out so damned much progress.Finally, on Friday, I reached page 250 (out of a guesstimated 300 pp manuscript) and decided it was time to catch my breath. I was closing in on the final act, and needed to make sure I was at least going in the right direction.
Overall, I was. The story’s generally good. A little overmuch in places, but once I’ve set the finished manuscript aside for a couple weeks, I’ll be far enough away from the pages to edit those correctly. But in the last, say, 50 pages, I saw that I’d started to lose track of where the story was heading. There were some nice scenes, and it was generally believable, but it started to feel plodding.
So I’ve had to rethink those last 50pp and cut most of them in order to put things back on track. Today, I came up with a new understanding of all the denouments, and wrote a lousy 9 pages in that direction.
Lousy? Well, no. But it sure would’ve been nice to see 15.
I think my point here is just to say that when it’s going well, when the pages are flowing, go ahead and let it flow. Don’t hinder yourself. But when it’s gushing continually for over a week, and you’ve got 100+ pages to gaze at, it’s probably time to take a day off and see what’s really in there. You’ll surprise yourself in good ways and bad, but most importantly, you’ll make sure you’re still on track, and not waste another week leading the story down a blind alley.
Of course, like any rule, this one may go out the window tomorrow. And I’m sure that this guy would call it a load of bunk.