I’ve been prompted to ask this question because I recently picked up, in a second-hand bookshop, a book called “No plot? No problem!”. The author is Chris Baty, who started the "Write a novel in a month” competition, otherwise known as “Nanowrimo”.
I haven’t read very much of it yet, but from what I have read I’m impressed. For example, he says that if you just get on with it and don’t allow yourself to be held back by little things like whether you know what’s going to happen, the characters and plot take on a life of their own. Stephen King says something similar in On Writing.
He also says that setting aside a prolonged period of time for writing, e.g. by going on a writing retreat, is the worst thing you can do from a productivity point of view. Deadlines, he says, along with almost no time to fit writing in to a busy life, are your best friends. Well, I can relate to that as well; I daresay I’m not the only person who, despite the best intentions, often completes the commission the evening before it’s due!
But I suspect there is some academic support for this idea that speed and creativity are positively rather than inversely related. Back in my university days, in my Psychology course, we had to see what happened when the subject had to perform a difficult task as fast as possible. Surprisingly (to me at least), the faster he worked, the fewer mistakes he made. Perhaps because of the pressure to complete the task as quickly as possible he didn’t have the time or mental space to start second-guessing or doubting himself. If so, maybe a similar mechanism is at work in the novel writing context.
Whatever the case, I am going to try it with my next non-fiction work. I will try to “bash it out” as fast as possible, and fill in any gaps and correct any errors once it’s done. After all, not only do I have nothing to lose, but I may even gain some time to write a novel!
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