RWA National: Not So Fast–Finding Success While Writing in the Slow Lane

Apparently I have a theme lately, and that’s how to function as a writer in a publishing world that seems to value speed over all. What happens when your natural process doesn’t seem to match the demands of the market? Bestselling authors Meredith Duran, Julie James, Sherry Thomas, and Lauren Willig discussed how being a slower writer affects their process and their careers.

The overall takeaway: Your process is what it is. Whether you’re a day-to-day perfectionist who produces a very few pages in a daily session or someone who hammers out a draft in six weeks after “dithering” for the previous five months, it’s important to identify what a successful process looks like and honor that. Promising a quick delivery when your best work takes longer is a quick way to block up your creative flow. Sherry found that having multiple projects to work on at once–a problem that resulted from writing in different styles for different houses–ended up being an advantage for her, for any time she felt herself getting stuck or going stale on one project, she could switch to another and let the first percolate for a bit. Also, consider where and how you are most effective. The writers worked in a variety of places, from home offices to coffee shops, breaking up the routines if needed to spur productivity.

All agreed that the internet presents a great temptation to slow writers, especially if the ability to do research will bog down your forward progress (But I have to know what style of buttonhole was being used on Civil War uniform coats!). Suggested tips are to switch from a laptop to a dedicated word processor like an Alphasmart that limits you to four lines of text (also good if you’re an inveterate editor as you write) or buying a blocking program like Freedom to specify when you can connect to social media. One audience member suggested Dragon Naturally Speaking as a way to dictate as you walk. Although the resulting pages are often a “mess,” they’re pages with content rather than blank ones! Also consider your revision style, as it will impact your overall speed of delivery, and build that time in if needed.

Because slower writers don’t benefit from the momentum that closely-spaced releases do, the authors find that a deliberate approach helps to keep them on their readers’ radar. Sherry prefers conversation with potential readers over social media, but she does post custom pages, etc. when she has a new release. Laurie uses social media to enhance her online persona by creating features like Teaser Tuesdays and Weekly Reading Roundup on Fridays (she loves to talk about books). Meredith suggested linking your various social media accounts so they cross-post automatically, like setting your Instagram account to post to Twitter and Facebook, and creating a newsletter. Julie takes a 90-day approach to promotions, making sure that she schedules an “event” of sorts, like a price drop, a giveaway of signed copies, or a new release, every ninety days.

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