Sometimes story comes in a torrent and your fingers have trouble keeping up. This was my experience with the last 20,000 words of my novel A Beautiful Fiction. Sometimes story comes in drips. This is my experience with February’s short story (which, it so happens, I started only a couple weeks in to January). This story is dripping from my brain in a slow but fairly methodical fashion, I manage a paragraph or two every few days. So I suppose it’s a good thing I started early.
What do you do when your story resists being told? Do you rush it, force it out? Do you hold to stringent word count goals and so daily fill up pages with stuff you know you will trash later? Or do you change your writing goals to fit the pace of your inspiration?
If you’re writing on a publisher’s deadline, you may not be able to take a leisurely approach to story creation. You take X number of days to write and fill each day with Y number of words in hopes that you will have Z by the time your work needs to be handed over to an editor. The benefit of this method of writing, of course, is that you are generally more productive, are probably better paid for your work, and you can more quickly move on to the next project/contract/royalty payment. You can get yourself out from under a story that was difficult. You can see the end of the struggle.
If you write as a hobby or are publishing your own work independently, you may allow yourself more leeway. You can let your story out slowly, savor the process a bit more, perhaps. You don’t have to worry so much about those times when the next step your character must take is unclear. You can simply wait for the next drip.
Since I have imposed my own arbitrary deadlines for short story creation this year, and since I’m ahead of the game at the moment, I’m not terribly worried at this point about the slow drip. And I know that once things reach a critical point the stream of words will begin to flow more easily as I come to the end. For the moment, anyway, each drip-drop of a sentence onto the page is satisfying to me. My bucket is about halfway full now–and I feel that the tipping point may be coming soon.