(For the record, I do not bristle at the question that annoys the crap out of most romance authors, which is, "how do you research your sex scenes?")
One reason I'm not a reason I'm not a fan of inquiries about the speed of my writing is that it can vary wildly. Once upon a time, I could write a full-length, 85,000-word novel in about three months with a couple extra weeks tacked on for critique partner feedback and revisions. That was before the pressure of promotional responsibilities, conflicting editorial demands, and life-changes like divorce and young kids in the house. Those things slowed my pace considerably, turning novel-writing into something chopped up into random spurts over a 12 or 16-month period. Sometimes longer.
I'd reached a point where I assumed that slower pace of fits and starts was the new normal for me, so when my agent landed me a new contract in March and asked how long I needed to write a shorter 55,000-word novel, I asked for roughly five months. I'd just gotten started when she came back and said, "could you do it in six weeks?"
Like an idiot, I replied, "Um, sure?"
This coincided with my longtime critique partner accepting a similarly insane deadline, so we agreed to help one another with moral support, speedy feedback, and the occasional encouraging butt-pat.
The biggest challenge was not that butt-patting is difficult when you live 2,638 miles apart. It's that it took me awhile to recall how differently we approach writing. She writes best in quick bursts of 1,000 words on her lunch hour or 2,500 words after her daughter has gone to bed, then sends me scenes to critique.
For the first week or so, I'd grimace when I saw a text message from her declaring she'd written another 1,300 words while waiting for a doctor's appointment. You suck, I'd tell myself. The only words you wrote were Facebook posts about about your boobs falling out of your dress and how much you admire your gentleman friend's butt.
For the record, he does have a great butt.
I'd head home from the day job pledging to write 2,000 words after dinner, only to find myself cleaning the keyboard with a Q-tip while my computer screen remained blank. Some author you are, I'd mutter to myself.
It took me a good week to pull my head out of my butt and remember how I write best. Long, productive stretches of 5,000 to 10,000 words in a day, followed by three or four days of
As it turns out, it works fine for a crazy deadline, too. I'm on track to finish the whole book in roughly five weeks, thanks mostly to
After one such day, I made the mistake of posting my daily word count on Facebook and Twitter. I was pleased with my spurt of 9,000 words in 8 hours, and felt like sharing.
I regretted it almost instantly when I saw other writers lamenting their own daily production. I couldn't do that many words in a week, someone shared. I only wrote 500 words today, someone tweeted with a frowny-face.
By sheer coincidence, a non-author friend posted the following quote in her Facebook feed that same day:
"Comparison is the thief of joy."
It's attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, and the instant I saw it, I wished Facebook had a stronger option than, "like" (which is not to be confused with my usual wish that Facebook offered a "lust" option. See aforementioned comment about my gentleman friend's butt).
It is a great reminder to all of us, whether you're a writer or a teacher or a firefighter or a nipple-clamp tester. Your skills, your talents, your accomplishments, are your own. Someone else's skills, talents, and accomplishments do not diminish or detract from yours. Keep your eyes on your own test paper and your head in your own game.
Is this something that comes naturally for you, or do you find yourself playing comparison roulette pretty regularly? How do you feel about that? Please share!
Oh, and to answer those earlier questions, of course not, yes, and very, very thoroughly. You're welcome.