Should I write slow?

Nov 29, 2010Find joy today, Write!


I’m reading an amazing book right now, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

Her first book, Seabiscuit, was an amazing piece of research and storytelling. Ten years later, she delivers again with a true story about Louie Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who fought in the Pacific theater of WW2. Plane wrecked, drifting at sea, then “rescued” by the Japanese, he endured horrific abuse in his POW camp. His story is that of resilience, something echoed in Hillenbrand’s own battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In the past two years, she’s left the house two times.

It got me wondering about my career. I’ve cranked out books. While Hillenbrand has written two in ten years, I will have published 12 in 6 years. Yet I’m sure she’s making a living at writing, and I’m scraping by. I wonder if there’s merit in writing a book slowly, making it sing (as Hillenbrand has done), then hope-hope-hope it sells well.

There’s a cycle writers get into unfortunately. You get a small advance, write a book, then hope it earns back that advance. If it doesn’t, publishers aren’t interested in giving you a higher advance, so you write more books in less time to make ends meet. Personally, I’d rather write less books in more time, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Perhaps I need the perseverance and grit of Seabiscuit, or the wily strength of Louie Zamperini as I write stories. Maybe I’ve gone at this thing all wrong. Or maybe this is the particular path I’m supposed to be on. Hard to say. I don’t have the luxury of slowing down, though. Bills beckon.

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