Friday, June 24, 2011

The Tortoise Wins the Race

If there's any story that encourages me, it is the old Aesop's fable about the tortoise and the hare. I am not a hare, that's for sure. At least not where writing is concerned.

Oh sure, I write my blog pretty quickly. It's a blog, and I have set myself 3 weekly deadlines that demand I move fast to be done. But each entry is short and separate. A one-off piece. So I can do it fast and move on.

With my ongoing novel, this is definitely not the case. I feel like the tortoise. While other writers around me are getting 1,500 words done at a time, or 2,000, or 3,000, or even 6,000, I'm getting 600-1,000 a day right now, at best. I won't even get started talking about Nathan Lowell, founder of Nanowrimo, who gets, oh I don't know, a gajillion words done in a day. Compared to these power writers, I feel like a 90-pound weakling on the beach, in desperate need of a Jack Lalane program for increasing my word counts.

That's why comparing myself to others is a destructive behavior that I have to jettison. I don't mind hearing about other writers' successes, of course. Just the opposite. I cheer them on. But I'm not running their race; I'm running mine. And that means if I get 600-1,000 words down on a daily basis, then I'm accomplishing something that is within the realm of reality for me right now.

And I did the math, just to see... A 75,000-word novel (300 pages) will take me four months to draft at the rate I'm going. You know what? That's not so bad. In fact, it's great as long as I finish. Because that's my goal: to finish the race. So I'll be a tortoise if I have to, plodding along slowly but surely, until I cross the finish line. That's the way you win the race, hare or turtle.

Are you like me...a slow but sure plodder with your writing? Or are you a hare, racing along? And how to you keep yourself motivated with your writing goals? Does it help you or hurt you to hear how other writers are doing with their own word count?

Weigh in here. And keep running!

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.


  1. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

    That said, I can churn out words during NaNoWriMo at 900-100 words/hour,. I've hit 50K as early as the 15th of November. The other 11 months of the year, my pace seems to drop to 500-600 words/hour. I think it's the hyper focus on GETTING IT WRITTEN (at least the first 50K) during NaNo that I can produce so much. The rest of the year, I seem to lack that hard focus and drive.

    It's something I need to work on.

  2. I'm also a hare when it comes to writing. I average in your range (between 500-2,000) words per day. It's the way I've always written and it probably won't change either. I envy those who can write thousands of words per day. However, like you said, it's not how fast or slow you write, its that you finish.

  3. Wow, 900+ words an hour is very impressive! I'm definitely slower than that, but it's probably because I'm more of a discovery writer than a planner, and I think that slows me down some. I haven't won a NaNoWriMo yet.

    And yes, TL, it's all about finishing in the end. Nothing finished = nothing published.

    I guess we're all learning what works for us as writers, and improving.

  4. Well, I didn't win a NaNo until my third year, a come from behind win with a little more than 2 full days left. I've won every year since then, 4 straight.

    Now ask me how many of those "winners" are completely finished? That's correct, zero! One is lacking a written-out sub-plot and some final punching up. Another morphed from one single novel into seven!

    I try not to plan too much for a NaNo. I'll have a basic idea and a few plot points/scenes thought of, for general guidance, but I like the journey of discovery along the way too. When the story grows organically, I seem to do better than with a heavily detailed plan before hand.

    You can tie a tomato plant to a stake to support it, but it's got to grow on it's own.


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