I just finished a novel. Writing one, that is. My second novel written this year. I wrote it crazy fast, 93,000 words in two months and one week. And yes, it’s a bit of a mess, but it’s an awesome mess that nearly flipped my wig (Husker Du refrence one!). And while their might be faster guns in the west, writing this one broke my own land speed record (ha! another Husker Du reference! I get a cookie!).
There’s an interesting, though sometimes futile, debate about the speed of production in regards to quality. Some folks say fast writing isn’t good writing. Or that working at a fever pitch will only lead to surface depth. Lots of times this is true. That’s why, even if I am a fast writer, I also do revisions (something many “fast” writers are not fans of, unless they’re requested by an editor). Why am I different on this front? The idea that I got everything right the first time is silly. And, while you certainly can revise some of the cool “zest” out of the story that was there when you were gunning it at full speed, revisions can also add depth, richness, and clarity. Folks like those things, too.
That said, I’m no fan of revisions at first. It takes a while to flip the switch from thinking, “This novel sucked and I worked hard for nothing to make this Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crap!” to “there’s lots of cool shit in here, let’s see if I can make it rock harder!” But then you get into a groove, and you see patterns you were too busy to see the first time, echoes of neat bits that need a little shine here, a little shadow there, and problems that need excision. I won’t spend a year revising, but I do commit to it as part of the game.
Still, I think every piece of fiction is it’s own beast. And the tempo generated to finish it evolves in part because of one’s intent, and in part because of the nature of the work. I don’t think Philip K. Dick’s work would have been the same if not for the tempo he wrote at, and I’m not sure if he slowed down he’d have written “better” books. Granted, he also wrote a lot of junk, but what I loved about Dick’s approach was he was always trying his best, even if the book was El Stinko. He was giving you everything he had in that moment, and sometimes that led to THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, and sometimes it led to ZAPGUN!
I dig my big, ugly, caffeine stained novel. It has mucho fighting. It has snappy dialog and a large cast of fun characters. And it has Cold War nostalgia and the blues. One thing I noticed, writing it as fast as I did, was that I was inventing a lot as I was going along, pulling rabbits out of hats, and hats out of rabbits, problem solving and plot shaping like an improve comic on crack. And I know that while it’s a mess, one I will clean up, the awesome bits and pieces in there were a result of of me driving at Mach 10 through my imagination to find them.
Time to take a break, cool the jets, and let the dust settle. But damn, it feels good to be across the finish line with a book that I hope is going to turn out pretty killer.
So here is my absolute favorite blues musician, the one of a kind, John Lee Hooker: