A method to my madness

tortoise-and-hareBack when my son was in his early teens, I dragged him outside for a run. It was a beautiful day, and I was eager for some exercise as well as a bit of mother-son bonding time.

My son, however, was looking to show off. He hit the sidewalk and took off, leaving me in the dust. By the time I reached the corner, he was already out of sight.

I found him a mile or so later, panting by the side of the road, a stitch in his side. After a bit of coaxing we set off again, and this time, he held my pace.

“Slow and steady,” I told him, “just like the tortoise. Stop trying to be such a hare.”

Between puffs, he managed a confused “Huh?”

Apparently, his elementary schools in Holland weren’t big on Aesop’s Fables, so I started to fill him in on the tale.

I’d barely begun when he turned to me and said, “I’m not going to like this story very much, am I?”

He didn’t, but at that particular moment, his mother sure did.

I should have remembered this incident last month, when I signed up for an online class called Fast Draft. The idea behind Fast Draft is just that: pound out words–6,000 of them a day, in fact–and voila! Two weeks later you have your book’s first draft. Yes, it’s a disjointed nightmare. Yes, the story is all over the place. But it’s there, in bits and pieces and stops and starts on your hard drive, really, really quickly.

I lasted all of five days in Fast Draft before I found myself panting on the side of the road, a stitch in my side–or in this case: staring at a blank page, completely out of words. I had no idea where my story was going because I hadn’t actually stopped to consider where my story was going. I had to come up with 6,000 brand new words! Every day! I didn’t have the time.

Have I mentioned I write like I run?

I know now I should have trusted my own method. I should have remembered I like producing a clean first draft, one I don’t have to spend just as much time fixing as I did writing. I should have known thinking-time is just as essential for me as writing-time. I should have believed that slow and steady would, well, maybe not win the race exactly, but at least bring me to the finish line.

It took me four days to fix the damage Fast Draft did to my story, but it’s back on track now, and so am I.

It might take me a little longer to get to The End, but I’ll get there.


About Kimberly S. Belle

Kimberly Belle grew up in Eastern Tennessee, in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. A graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, Kimberly lived for over a decade in the Netherlands and has worked in marketing and fundraising for various nonprofits. She's the author of two novels, THE LAST BREATH and THE ONES WE TRUST (August 2015). She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. Keep up with Kimberly on Facebook (www.facebook.com/KimberlyBelleBooks), Twitter (@KimberlySBelle), or via her website at www.kimberlybellebooks.com.

Posted on May 3, 2013, in Blog Posts. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I SO like this post, Kimberle. I never have and won’t ever participate in the fast-paced nanowrimo or however you spell it, write-a-thons. I think a lot when I’m writing and don’t care about daily word counts. When I’m finished I know exactly where I’ve been and then go back and spiff it up. So, I, too, don’t think in Hare-Style but am rather a Tortoise, I guess.

  2. Kimberle Swaak

    Thanks for your comment, Patti. I’m glad to hear there are other writers out there like me. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype, to compare ourselves and our word counts to other writers, but I’m learning to, slowly but surely. 😉

  3. Kimberle, you are so right. What works for one writer doesn’t work for the next. Yet it’s so easy to get caught up in the “this is the best way to write” trap, especially when we’re following much loved authors’ advice. Unfortunately, it’s something we have to learn the hard way. 🙂 Good luck with your new book!

  4. Kimberle, I don’t think I could write 6.000 words in one day if I tried. Like you, my first drafts come out reasonably clean, but it takes some time to get there. I’m a 1,000-2,000 word a day girl and if it takes three months to get there, at least I’m only facing minor edits at the end instead of trying to tame a document full of gobblydigook. Write the way that’s best for you. 🙂

  5. Christy Hayes

    Every time I think I should be writing faster, life throws me a curve ball. I think it’s God’s way of telling me to go by my own pace and be happy I’m able to write at all. Clean copy makes me happy, too.

  6. Janna Qualman

    Exactly! This is why I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo. Can’t do it! (And part of it is probably the whole too-much-pressure thing.)

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