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Not So Fast…

The idea for this blog post on writing speed came after reading some responses our readers made to Shelley Coriell’s 1/25/17 blog post, Write on 2017! Strengths and Weaknesses. (Awesome series! Check it out.) In retrospect, writing speed has been on my radar since the Ruby Blog’s early days, when I jokingly called Ruby Sister Darynda Jones and me “The Tortoise and the Hare.” (Make no mistake, I’m the tortoise.) While reading comments people posted to Shelley’s blog, it didn’t take long to notice a distinct theme starting to emerge: writers were identifying their writing pace as “slow,” and further identifying this pace as a weakness they wanted to overcome.

I’m here to say…not so fast.

What follows are a few snippets from that conversation, all from published Rubies. First, Elizabeth Langston, who’d identified her writing speed as a weakness earlier in the thread: 

I need to let the comparison thing go. But it’s been bothering more than usual since I attended an RWA chapter meeting in November. The speaker is completely indie. I think she said that she releases 4+ books a year. I have another author friend who averages 6 books per year (which is insane). I can’t sustain either pace.

Jamie Michele weighed in:

Damn it, I’m all done with the cult of productivity within our community!! Like most of us, I’m not in a position to perform at that level, so I will not tolerate any career plans that include producing four books a year!!

I think of one of my favorite books — The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It took her ten YEARS to write that thing, and it was worth every second she slaved over it. I’m grateful to her for that book, even if she never writes another.

YAAASSS – and for what it’s worth, I feel the same way about Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks.  And here’s my reply:

Beth and Jamie, my sisters! I have the same issues and concerns. An admission: Over the last year or so, I’ve pulled away from some corners of the romance writing community out of sheer self-preservation, because the focus on pace of production just clobbers my self-confidence. My ‘natural’ writing pace right now is one book per year. Compared to most writers in our genre, I will always come up short in comparison. Always. I think my stories would start to suffer if I tried to pick up the pace. My health, and my work/life balance, would certainly take a hit.

Whether you think you write quickly or slowly, I’d like us all to stop beating ourselves up. Only in Romancelandia is writing one book per year considered “slow.”

Seriously, when did pace of production become the dominant metric by which romance authors measure success? And what does this mean for those of us who can’t measure up? 

What it means is that some of us pull away from our writing communities out of sheer self-preservation. It means we come home from conferences and RWA chapter meetings feeling inadequate rather than energized. It means we too often compare ourselves to others, and always come up short.

Needless to say, this mindset is not great for one’s creativity. As Ruby Sis Hope Ramsey so wisely says later in the thread, we each need to accept our process for what it is, and set our personal goals accordingly.

As someone who used to design processes for a living, I’ll be the first to say that work methods can improve, evolve and change over time – but I’ve been writing for a decade now, and one piece of self-awareness I’ve gained is that I don’t produce my best work quickly.

Speed is not for me.

I’m a slow food writer. I love to focus on selecting the individual ingredients, the careful and precise preparations. I need things to simmer and cook, testing – tasting – as I go along. I want to appreciate the process itself. My natural writing process produces about one book per year. If I tried to write more quickly than that, quality would suffer. I’m not willing to make that trade-off, and I’m tired of feeling guilty about it.

So, I’m here to say: I reject the Cult of Productivity. I reject it utterly and completely. The Cult of Productivity won’t help me produce my best, most satisfying work. It certainly won’t preserve my joy in the process, which is the most important thing about this wacky business that’s under my direct control. 

Your choice, your approach, and your goals are just that: YOURS. One size does NOT fit all. Ultimately, we each need to find our own, right rhythm. Me? I’m a happy tortoise. I’ll be back here, taking in the scenery, and marching to the beat of my own drummer. 😛

Q: Do you write quickly, slowly, or at some pace in between? Are you satisfied with your pace? Why or why not? Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer. There’s simply what’s right for YOU. 

-tammy

P.S. And speaking of slow food…

I recently got publication rights back to Taste Me and Chase Me, the first two books in my award-winning Underbelly Chronicles series. After a light revision pass on all four books, I just reissued the entire series on Kindle/KDP. (More on that process in my next blog post.)  But I wanted to give our readers a peek at my pretty new covers!! and supply some Kindle links if you’re inclined to Buy or borrow.

Taste Me Chase Me Touch Me Tempt Me

Tamara Hogan is the award-winning author of The Underbelly Chronicles paranormal romance series. An English major by education and a software developer/process engineer by trade, she recently stopped telecommuting to Silicon Valley to teach, edit, and write full-time. Tamara loathes cold and snow, but nonetheless lives near Minneapolis with her husband and two naughty cats.

Her debut, TASTE ME, won a Daphne du Maurier Award for Mystery and Suspense, was nominated for the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award®, and won Prism Awards for Best Dark Paranormal, Best First Book, and Best of the Best. Catch her on line at www.tamarahogan.com, or on Twitter, @TamaraHogan1.

Happy Tortoise by digitalart at freedigitalart.net

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