Shortly after her novel Ten Thousand Saints came out in early 2011, Eleanor Henderson answered a question at a book reading held at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca. When asked how long it took her to write the novel, Henderson said nine years. Nine years.

She explained that the first version didn’t even include several of the central characters in the final version. It made the New York Times 2011 Top 100 Notable Books, has since come out in paperback, and filming ended March 3, 2014, for the 2015 movie starring Asa Butterfield, Ethan Hawke, Hailee Steinfeld, Emile Hirsch and Julianne Nicholson.

What if she’d rushed that first version into print? She had an agent interested in her writing, but he didn’t think he could sell that manuscript as is. Working with him as a developmental editor, Eleanor Henderson continued to improve the manuscript instead of putting it away in a desk drawer.

Good writing takes time. Don’t be in a rush.

Daniel Kahneman wrote about two different modes of thought in his bestselling book Thinking, Fast and Slow. The first is automatic, emotional and erupts from the subconscious. Thinking fast serves writers very well in the creative process. Reasoning is intuitive and inductive. The second system is slow, deliberative, and logical. Thinking slow is what distinguishes writers from authors. Deductive reasoning results in strategy. Thinking through all of the various options, weighing the costs and benefits, plotting out eighteen steps in advance and weighing the ramifications of each choice – well, that takes time, perspective, and hypothetical deductive reasoning. To become an author, slow down and think strategically.

 

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