Take Your Time (Revisited)

Hey Folks,

As I was discussing with one of my mentoring writers a day or two ago, sometimes it’s necessary to take your time while writing.

Yes, I write around 900 to 1200 words per hour.

But if you do the math, that’s only 15 to 20 words per minute. And a minute is a long time. For comparison, how many WPM did you type in high school? (Mine was around 80 WPM.)

So I’m just saying, even writing 900 to 1200 words per hour leaves a lot of time for staring off into space.

This doesn’t mean you invoke the conscious, critical mind or try to figure out where the story’s going next. That isn’t your job. Your job is only to convey what the characters say and do.

But sometimes you have to slow them down.

Like me, my POV character wants to rush from one action scene to the next or from one dialogue-filled scene to the next. It’s tempting at times even to leave a placeholder, such as <insert maid description here> and move on.

My advice is don’t do it. Slow down a little.

Take the time necessary to describe what the POV characters notices about the maid. It will take only a sentence or two, and then you can move forward, still in the creative subconscious.

Take the time necessary to convey what the POV character sees, hears, smells, tastes and feels (physically and emotionally) in the setting, and his/her opinions of that setting. I do that at least once in every major scene, usually at the beginning. It’s called “grounding the reader.”

Again, it takes only a few minutes, a few sentences, and it will enable the reader to feel as if s/he is in the setting and the scene with the character. And a reader can’t be more engaged in your story than that.

And again, then you can move forward, still in the creative subconscious.

But what about the alternative? What if you WANT to just leave a placeholder and forge ahead?

You will evoke your conscious, critical mind when you “look for” that placeholder (or those placeholders) later.

And when you find the placeholder, you’ll still be in the conscious, critical mind. You’ll want to get the description of the maid “right” instead of just recording what the POV character notices. And chances are, you’ll bore the snot out of your reader.

So don’t do it. Rein-in your POV character’s (and your) desire to rush forward to the next heart-pounding, high-action scene.

Write what’s necessary in the moment to pull your reader into the setting. Write what’s necessary in the moment to enable your reader to see the maid, to scent her perfume, to visit for a moment the scents from the POV character’s grandmother’s kitchen evoked by the maid’s perfume, etc.

Your writing (and your bank book) will be richer for it.

For more on this topic, see my previous post “Take Your Time” at https://harveystanbrough.com/pro-writers/take-your-time/.

‘Til next time, happy writing!


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2 thoughts on “Take Your Time (Revisited)”

  1. A friend, who is trained in theater, advised me to find something off-kilter; the dog not barking, the one window on the building that was smaller, mismatched socks; something that can draw curiosity. Curiosity that also stimulates creativity for the writer.

    • If I understand your meaning, that’s what writers call “focus down.” You ground the reader by focusing down on details.

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