Episode 019 – Writing Slowly

In today’s episode, we’re digging into the subject of writing hard and fast. In the run-up to November, a lot of people repeat the advice to “turn off the inner editor” and vomit the words onto the page and worry about the mess later.

This advice is terrible for a couple of reasons: it assumes that writing fast is always messy, and it is impossible for many writers to follow! Some writers need to take their time and think about their words. That’s the best way for them to finish writing a book.

This episode is for everyone who felt disconnected from the “write fast” advice.

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Listen now wherever you stream podcasts.


Hello Navigators. Welcome to Writer Roadmap, the podcast for writers seeking inspiration, guidance, and support on their creative journey. I’m your host, Holly Lyne, and today we’re questioning the often-touted advice to writers to turn off their inner editor and write the first draft hard, fast and messily.

The idea behind this advice is simple: Writing is a two-step process. First, you pour out all your ideas onto the page, without worrying about grammar, structure, or even logic sometimes. And then, during the editing phase, you clean it all up.

Now, this might work for some people, but let’s be honest, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Writing is an individual journey. It’s nuanced, it’s personal, and it often doesn’t follow a neat little path. So today, we’re going to explore why this approach could be beneficial for some but a stumbling block for others.

Let’s start with the pros. Writing your first draft quickly can silence the inner critic, giving you the freedom to explore ideas you might otherwise dismiss. This is ideal for capturing raw emotion and authenticity in your writing. You might even surprise yourself and stumble upon themes and characters you hadn’t planned on. The quick pace can give you a sense of accomplishment, and the rough material can always be polished later. After all, you can’t edit a blank page.

However, there’s a flip side to this coin. Rushing through your first draft can lead to sloppy writing that requires intensive revisions later on, effectively negating the time you saved. Additionally, your narrative may lack depth since you’re focused more on quantity than quality. It can be challenging to build tension, foreshadow, or create intricate subplots when you’re racing against the clock.

Another significant downside is that the “hard and fast” method can be mentally and emotionally draining. It’s like sprinting a marathon; you might get to the finish line, but at what cost? The burnout can leave you dreading the editing phase, which is equally crucial in the writing process.

For some writers, especially those who are planners by nature, or who need time to think, a more measured approach to the first draft can be more beneficial. These writers find that taking their time allows them to make smarter choices regarding plot and character development. The editing process is smoother because the first draft is already relatively clean. The pacing is controlled, and the themes are well-developed.

To be clear, I’m not saying that all fast writing is bad. I myself write at my best when I get up a good speed. My words come out fluidly and the writing is relatively clean and well-structured. Editing from there is quick and joyful. In contrast, when I’ve struggled with a book and taken many months or even years to finish the first draft, it usually requires a lot more editing to get the pacing and flow right.

However, there is no virtue in taking one route or the other. It is not for anyone to judge your writing speed.

So, what’s the takeaway here? Writing is a deeply personal process, and what works for one may not work for another. Experiment and find what’s most effective for you. It’s okay to ignore the age-old advice if it doesn’t serve you. If you find that your creativity thrives in a more measured environment, embrace it. If you find that letting go and writing freely enhances your writing, go for it. Perhaps you write cleanest at a quick clip, or maybe the only way for you to finish is to hit the words hard, even if they are a mess. Maybe your favourite part of the process is doing extensive edits, like moulding clay, this can be extremely rewarding. But if you enjoy and find fulfilment in a slower pace and find the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing something that is meticulously crafted on the first try then go for it!

As always, the key is to write. However you write doesn’t matter as long as you’re putting words on the page. Your unique process is what makes you the writer you are, and there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. Embrace your own path, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

As we approach NaNoWriMo, you’ll see and hear the “write fast” advice a lot and I want you to know that it’s okay to ignore it and do your own thing. You are allowed to edit as you go and it’s still possible to write 50,000 words in a month that way. I’ve done it! But you can also set your own goals and go at your own pace, even in November.

If you’d like some support in a small group or individually this NaNo season, I’ll be running writing sessions on Zoom and Discord for my Patrons and have coaching spots available. You can access all of this at patreon.com/hollylyne.

Until next time, Navigators, don’t forget to subscribe and share this podcast with your fellow writers. May your writing road be smooth and fulfilling!

Writer Roadmap intro and outro music used under license from Pixabay. Music track “Salangseuleoun” was Created by “Dayfox”.

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