Posted On February 20, 2012 by Print This Post

Slow Down by Avery Flynn

I am so lucky to have Avery Flynn as a fellow Waterworld Mermaid – a group of new  members to the Washington Romance Writers.  We hit it off right away because she is funny, smart, gorgeous  . . .  and she thinks I am as well.  So, we get along famously!  She also runs life at a breakneck speed and juggles many different hats just like me and probably most of you.  Here is her take on slowing the pace down a little bit  . . .
I had the horrible misfortune of having to give up coffee recently. It seems years of drinking at least a pot of coffee by myself on a daily basis turned me into a bit of a jittering, poor-circulation freak with fingers that turned white and went numb. Not so great if you spend the day clacking away at the keyboard. The fix? Cut out caffeine.

In December, I switched from black coffee to herbal tea. Don’t talk to me about decaf coffee – it’s a sacrilege. When making tea, you have to wait for the kettle to boil. Then, you have to let the tea seep. Five minutes later you finally have a single cup of tea. The switch from coffee to tea forced me to slow down.

I’m burying the lede here, but I swear I have a writing-related point and it’s this: Isn’t it time you slowed down in your writing?

As writers we’re urged, prodded and taunted into just finishing that draft. Hate your heroine? Don’t think about it, just push onward. Plagued by paper-thin motivation? You’ll fix it in revisions. Missing meaningful conflict? You’ll beef it up in the next draft. Well, that’s what I did during NaNo. Then I went back and reread the tens of thousands of words I’d written.

Most of them were crap. Total crap.

The doubt monster sat down next to me and began wondering out loud what in the hell was I thinking to call myself a writer. Lucky me, I have some wonderful fellow writers who are amazing in moments like these and told me exactly what I needed to hear: Suck it up and fix what needs to be fixed.

So, instead of trying to rush through that first draft, I sat back and went into slow mode. What’s slow mode? Glad you asked.

1. Walk away from the computer. Close the laptop, wheel back the chair and go outside. Pretend for at least a weekend that you’re not a crazy writer, you’re a normal human being who doesn’t talk to imaginary people.
2. Read a book. Don’t do this as a writer, relax back into reading a book as a reader. Don’t judge, don’t critique and don’t get down on your own skills. Let yourself fall into another writer’s world and recapture what it is about the world of romance that you love.
3. Think about your book. What do you love and what makes your stomach twist into knots? Take the time to really ponder and plan the main conflicts in your story and how you can raise the stakes.
4. Focus on the first chapters, the ones up to your first turn, without placing any arbitrary deadlines or word count goals on yourself. Move on from there at your own pace. Don’t freak out about how much your writing every day. It’s quality not quantity.
5. Fall in love with you story again. If you don’t love it, no one else will either.

The slow method is the writing equivalent of switching from espresso to herbal tea. The transition may be rocky at first, but it’s amazing how well it will get your fingers moving across the keyboard.

***

Do you need to slow down? Have you made changes to your writing life that forced you to slow and breathe?

Debut author, Cynthia D’Alba, is here on Wednesday to talk about the importance of naming your characters.

***

 

Bio:

Romantic suspense novelist Avery Flynn’s first Dry Creek novel, Up a Dry Creek, was published in 2011. Her latest, A Dry Creek Bed, has just been released by Evernight Publishing. RT Book Reviews gave A Dry Creek Bed four star review, calling it “molten hot.”

Born and raised in western Nebraska, the setting of her fictional town of Dry Creek, she now lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. There she continues to write and work at her day job while enjoying her own happily ever after with her husband, three children and two dogs.

You can learn more about Avery at her website, on Facebook, and Twitter at @AveryFlynn

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Discussion

33 Responses to “Slow Down by Avery Flynn”

  1. Hi Avery,

    Thanks so much for joining us today! Slow down? What’s that? LOL Yes, I’ve realized this in the last year or so and cut out a lot of volunteer work. I also had to say goodbye to several loops. There just wasn’t enough time for it all–and I’m still making adjustments today. Writing on contract refocuses one on the book, the delicious main entree. The rest must become the dessert. :)

    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | February 20, 2012, 6:14 am
  2. Hi Avery! It’s so nice to see one of our regulars doing a post! Yay.

    Number 3 really stands out for me. I’ve tried all methods of getting through that first draft and have found that if I start writing before I have a general idea of where the story is going, I’ll be spending a lot of time rewriting. The thing that works for me is to take time (sometimes a lot of time! LOL) to do the prep work on the beginning, middle and end of the story, character sketches and scene ideas and then start writing. If I have all that down, I can usually get through a fairly clean first draft without having to do major rewrites because of plotting issues.

    Thanks for a great post!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | February 20, 2012, 7:36 am
  3. Morning Avery!

    I gave up caffeine many years ago, but luckily I’d never drank coffee, but I desperately miss my Coke. Caffeine free works for me though.

    I’m one of those sloppy first draft writers. I do have a minimal outline, but the first draft is always getting it on the paper, the second one I do the slow way. Take some time, polish the diamond. =)

    Great post today Avery!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | February 20, 2012, 8:34 am
  4. Avery – You know I have a hard time slowing down. I only function at a breakneck speed and juggling about 6 balls at one time.

    I have started giving myself the weekends off with wordcount optional. it gives me breathing space and I think it has made me a better writer on Monday.

    Thanks for being here today!

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | February 20, 2012, 9:05 am
  5. Hi Avery,

    I got stuck on daily word count. I heard about people churning out 1,000 plus. My little paragraph looked lame. Then I realized I was a ponderer. It takes longer, but it works for me.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | February 20, 2012, 9:19 am
  6. Hi Avery! I must admit, I often fly through the first draft, or at least try to. It’s the second draft where I take my time to cogitate on plot, character arcs and nasty details like writing passively and overusing words.

    I’ve definitely been taking more time with my current rewrites/revisions, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Time will tell!

    Thanks for a thought-provoking blog!

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | February 20, 2012, 9:22 am
  7. Avery, thanks for this post. It makes me feel better about the way I write. I’m a pantser, and I can’t whiz through a first draft to save my life. Because I love the editing process, I fix and edit as I’m going–which means I take longer to write a book (the one I’m ready to submit now took me just over ten months), but it gives me time to ponder the plot and my first draft ends up being fairly polished.

    I still make plenty of changes in the revision round, but they’re usually just tweaks to the plot and wording, not major rewrites.

    Sometimes I wondered if there was something wrong with my writing process when I saw how many (good) books other writers can knock out quickly. Now I know I’m just slowing down and enjoying the journey, LOL!

    Linda

    Posted by Linda | February 20, 2012, 9:52 am
  8. Hi Avery,

    Praise the Lord and pass the herbal tea!

    What a wonderful antidote to the high-pressure, “what’s your daily word count?” culture that seems to dominate romance fic, perhaps genre fic overall.

    NaNO and Book in a Week (a week!) serve their purpose, of course, and I know writers for whom turning up the pressure valve made all the difference between having a completed first draft (emphasis on draft) versus talking about writing a book for yet another year. For me, though, these programs just don’t appeal.
    I feel sufficiently pressed for time in my Real Life without having to impose artificial deadlines. :)

    That said, while I am working on slowing down, savoring and such–and I believe it will probably always require some level of conscious effort from me–I am also working on being more productive during those hours when I’m supposed to be working. Disciplining myself to get in even a few hours of writing or line editing *before* checking email, FB, Twitter, writers loops etc., has been a big help.

    Posted by Hope Tarr | February 20, 2012, 10:05 am
  9. Hi, Avery –

    We’re so happy to have you in the spotlight slot here at RU!

    This “slowing down” message is fabulous for a Monday, especially because that’s when we all tend to gear up to attack the week. I know my Monday to-do list is always the longest of the week :-).

    I’ve recently reduced myself to one cup of (caffeinated) coffee a day and switch to tea afterward. I do still drink black tea, but I found it was the dairy/coffee combo that was killing my stomach.

    I’d love to start off my day on the fiction, but have found I can’t concentrate well when some of my admin stuff is lurking over me. I get that out of the way first.

    My tip is one that should seem obvious…actually put the writing on your to-do list along with all that admin crapola – LOL.

    Kels

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | February 20, 2012, 10:32 am
  10. Avery,
    Self-imposed deadlines can really mess with your head. If the ideas aren’t there yet, what words are being written? LOL.
    Sometimes I take days to just think about a scene. To wonder whether that character would actually act or react that way or do I just want them to?
    I’ve learned to slow things down, too. I realized that since I was writing I wasn’t reading anymore. That actually depressed me. Seriously. I MISSED reading, and so now I got back to that and realize that I’m happier when I’m reading. And then that makes me happier when I’m writing.
    Love your post, but you’re never going to get me to give up coffee. Ever.
    Kim

    Posted by Kimberly MacCarron | February 20, 2012, 11:00 am
  11. Hi AVery,
    I loved this post. I recently gave up coffee as well because my stomach decided coffee was no longer welcome. And it’s about the hradest thing I’ve ever done. And to the point about slowing down–I agree completely. A few years ago I did a BIAW and I swear all those 30K words I wrote ended up being so wrong that the revisions took me longer than if I’d just taken the time to write with intention. Now I decide what to write the night before, take notes, and prepare mentally before sitting down. And making a cup (or a pot) has become more a slowing-down ritual than a grumble-fest about how much I miss my coffee.

    Posted by Sharon Wray | February 20, 2012, 11:54 am
  12. Hi Avery,

    This advice comes just in time. The first three chapters are the hardest for me. I’m kind of odd in that I know what comes in between so I have no problems letting the words flow. It’s the nitpicking that I do over the first three chapters and the last few that causes me to stall. There’s only one shot at making a first impression. Sometimes I feel like a really bad author because I can’t seem to fly through the first half of the story like most authors who seem to pump out books at the speed of lightning. Even tonight when I write, I will remember your advice. S-l-o-w. D-o-w-n.

    Ambrielle :)

    Posted by Ambrielle Kirk | February 20, 2012, 12:01 pm
  13. Hello Avery!

    I hear what you’re saying, but I’m been a caffeine addict for way too long to give up my joe. :)

    I have stepped away from my ms at times to recharge. However, I dream about my story. There seems to be no escape from that.

    I still write every day. Sometimes it’s a page for another ms or a different scene later in the current ms and doing so makes me feel less guilty about the lack of progress.

    Thanks for being with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | February 20, 2012, 3:30 pm
    • I am jealous of your coffee fix. Seriously jealous. I cheated the other day and had three cups in about two hours (now do you see the depths of my addiction?) and was like: Yes! This is how I should be. :)
      Great idea to work on another project when you need to take a mental break.

      Posted by Avery Flynn | February 20, 2012, 7:12 pm
  14. I totally agree with you, Avery. I edit as I go & sucked at Nano. I’m also a write. If a scene is not working, it’s usually because I need to backtrack and go in another direction. I wish I could write faster. I thought it was because I’m not clever enough to roll through scenes. I’m so glad to hear you feel the same.

    And so glad to see you on Romance U! You rock! Love you on KOD! I wish I had your energy.

    Posted by Larissa Hoffman | February 20, 2012, 3:39 pm
  15. Hello to the hotness! You, your books, your new appreciation for the time tea requires us to give ourselves. Love this post and all the writers’ comments. Can’t wait to see you again! Happy Tuesday as I’ve slowed down so much this month, I missed Monday completely!

    Posted by Carlene Love Flores | February 21, 2012, 8:25 am
  16. I’m a ponderer (but still drinking coffee). I’m trying to learn to be more efficient in the first draft, but even that I can’t hurry along. The best parts of my stories come from the pondering process, and every story seems to need time to brew and stew.

    Thanks for a comforting blog…

    Posted by Barbara Monajem | February 21, 2012, 12:22 pm
  17. This is a great post especially in a virtual environment of produce as fast as you can and then kill yourself trying to fix it as best as you can! Thanks for your humor and insight.

    Posted by Kelly Wolf | February 21, 2012, 1:57 pm
  18. music to my ears! i took my time on the first draft until about 3/4 of the way and then I raced (er, stumbled) like a desert straggler nearing an oasis. Now that I’m editing I feel the compulsion to hurry! send off! publish for glory! but then I take a deep breath and see more editing work is needed on Chapter Four…(pounds head on table, gets off blog and back to work).

    thanks for the post!

    Posted by Lila Gillard | February 24, 2012, 12:34 am

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