Confession of an Inefficient Writer

I know I should either create an outline and then write the story, or start writing and simply let the story flow, writing from beginning to end without editing along the way. One way or the other would be efficient…but that’s not how I work, which results in a lot of backtracking and rewriting.

I always think I’m going to change, that I’ll do a better job with the next book, but that never seems to happen. I start a story, might even create a simple outline, and then, somewhere along the way, I suddenly realize that’s not how I want the story to go, or that’s not really what a character wants.

I have a writer friend who last month wrote 200 pages of a new novel. During that same time period, I wrote 18 pages. When she starts writing, she knows her characters, and she lets them determine the direction of the story. She’s always worried that she has too many words with her finished novels and will have to cut some (that rarely happens); I’m always worried that I won’t have enough words (that sometimes happens). We both started writing about the same time and she’s published three times as many books as I have.

She’s an efficient writer, I’m not.

So what should I do???

Probably stop lamenting about my writing style and realize my friend and I are simply different. I don’t write like her and I don’t write the same type of stories as she writes. That doesn’t necessarily mean the way I write is wrong. Inefficient yes, but not wrong since at some point in time I do get a book written, and even though I’ve never hit the New York Times list, my stories have received nice reviews and some awards.

The point of this blog is:

  • Learn about outlining and various methods of coming up with a story.
  • Try different techniques.

If you find one that works for you, something that helps you create the story you want to tell, then use that skill. If you simply can’t write that way, don’t worry about it. No one can tell a story the same way you do, and it doesn’t really matter how you get from page one to the end, just that you do it, and when you’re finished, you’re proud of what you wrote.

Go forth and write.

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18 Responses to Confession of an Inefficient Writer

  1. Diana Stout says:

    Efficient versus inefficient? Those labels speak of right versus wrong. Knowing you as I do, you conciously think about the words and tend to edit as you write. As much as you’d like to be able to write fast (without editing), it’s not your style, your methodology. You’re right about reminding us to not compare ourselves to someone else. We always fail when we do that. The irony is that, at the same time, someone else is always comparing themselves to us. You, of all people I know, are not inefficient. Deliberate, yes. Thoughtful, yes. All with a voice that marks your work as YOU.

  2. Melissa Keir says:

    I agree with Diana. Just the words made me cringe as if you were doing something wrong. I write much like you but that’s because while I love writing, I also have other things coming along to take away from my time at it. So the time I spend requires me to do a lot of rewrites or edits along the way.

    You are too good of a writer for anyone to think you are inefficient. You just do it your way!

    • Maris Soule says:

      You are right, Melissa. Part of my problem is I no longer have long, uninterrupted blocks of time to write. In part, that’s my fault. I don’t isolate myself so I’m not interrupted and I say yes to way too many social invitations. Thanks for taking time to read my lament.

  3. Oh, how I can relate, Maris. Thanks for your honesty. I agree, we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, but it’s difficult not to. I don’t publish books as quickly as many of my author friends, and sometimes I struggle with that. But no one else can tell my stories, so I trust my process. I love your books, so keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll wait patiently for the next one 🙂

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thank you, Betty. The way this one is going, you will need to be patient…but I’ll keep at it. (By the way, I love your books, too, so stick to your method so I have more to read.)

  4. Alice Orr says:

    Hi Maris. Comparing ourselves with each other is such a temptation for all of us. But, in my almost never humble opinion, that is generally a giant waste of time and, worse yet, a waste of spirit which would be better used in more positive ways. You say one thing that I think contradicts all of your self-doubt because it is so right on target. ” You say, “I suddenly realize that’s not how I want the story to go, or that’s not really what a character wants.” You realize that and you listen, to your gut speaking to you. Way too few of us do that listening. Way too few of us credit our gut wisdom and instead continue on in in the stumbling way we’ve been going. Or, we don’t want to do the work a change of direction will require. You resist all of that, and I applaud you for it. Your muse may strike you differently from that of your friend. Your writing timetable may differ from hers. Most of all, your pile of completed pages may not match up with hers. May I say that much too much is made of writing fast and far too little is said about writing well. I personally, humble or otherwise, think you are on the right path for you and that, in the end, is the only path you can tread and be true to yourself. So, accept yourself please, and accept your friend too. We may all be together in this basket, trying our hardest, but we are definitely not all the same, and I for one am happy about that. After all, how beautiful would a rainbow be if it were only one color? Love your color, and your friend’s, and mine too, if you wouldn’t mind. And keep on writing, whatever may occur.

  5. Bonnie Alkema says:

    Hi Maris,
    Don’t go there! My first thought is whether the writer actually wrote 200 pages in that time or not…And as a life coach once told me “Don’t
    should on yourself.” I say carry on! You’re a wonderful writer!

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thank you, Bonnie. I find, when the writing goes smoothly, I’m on top of the world. When I hit a few bumps, I tend to slip into the dumps. Time for me to get out of the dumps.

  6. Maris, I could have written that post. I look at what I accomplish as I plod along, and wonder if I could ever write two or three books a year. The answer is probably no. I tinker and edit and rewrite and replete and on and on. I want to be satisfied with what I’ve done, and I want readers to feel they’re getting something I’ve thought carefully about.

    Comparing myself to other writers just makes me frustrated and wastes time and energy. We’re all different and we use our abilities and energies in different ways. I like what I do and I enjoy reading what others write. I leave it at that.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks, Susan. You’re so right, I shouldn’t compare my writing speed to anyone else. It’s obviously envy on my part. How I wish I could be 200 pages into this story by now, but I’m not and moaning about it won’t get me there.

  7. I think realizing you and your friend are different is the best advice you can give and follow. We are all different and our writing styles reflect that so we need to keep the main thing, the main thing: As long as we’re writing we’re doing what we’re called to do.
    Great post.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Good luck and God’s blessings

  8. We all have different styles. In the end, whether a story is written by a hare or a turtle, all that matters is good editing when it’s finished. Writing fast does not mean the writer doesn’t care about quality or about a finished product that will please his/her readers. It only means the story tends to pour out faster than her fingers can type it. You can ALWAYS go back and spend all the time it takes to edit so that you still produce a well-written book. No writer is “inefficient” in the WAY he or she produces a story, as long as it’s a damn good story in the end. And, Maris, you write damn good stories.

  9. Maris,

    You’re such a good writer that I agree, it doesn’t pay to worry about how quickly or how much you write.