Writing — Write Even Faster


Awhile back, AJ wrote an excellent post on writing fast.  I’m here today to tell you, you’ve got to write even faster.

For some lucky few, this will never apply.  They’ll hit it big from the start, put out one book a year, and just watch the money roll in.  But for the majority of us, we have to produce a lot each year in order to keep up with demand and make some decent money.

Let’s look at demand.  I’m an avid reader.  I can get through 3-4 books a month.  Some of you will far outshine that small number, I’m sure.  But let’s say the average reader only reads one book a month (note I wrote average reader not person).  Heck, let’s make it worse and say one book every two months.  So, this poor fellow only reads six books a year.

Now, at my absolute fastest writing speed that does not suffer the quality too greatly, I can produce maybe 4 books in a year.  Keep in mind that I’m grossly over-estimating my abilities to make the point.  The fact is I probably would be lucky to put out 3 books.  But even at 4 — even at 5 — I still cannot meet the demand of just one, slow reader.  In other words, one slow reader can read more than one fast writer can produce.  Those of you worried about selling books can relax a tiny bit — there is, mathematically speaking, an infinite demand for books in relation to supply. Of course there are numerous other factors regarding the sales (or lack there of) of books, but when it comes to readers wanting material, we writers are in good shape.

That’s one reason we have to write faster.  Because if you don’t write the books, somebody else will.  Demand is high, and as e-readers continue to proliferate, the expectation of readers to get what they want NOW is growing.  If readers buy your book and like it, you’ll want to have more for them to enjoy.  Especially because according to the 2010 Book Buyer’s Habits survey, the #1 way people choose to buy a book is author recognition — they know your name, your work, and want more. In the world of indie-publishing and small press, this speed factor is even more important because one huge difference from the big pubs is that ebooks are forever — the long-tail can work for you since your backlist will never get pulled from the shelves (unless the internet ceases to exist).

Obviously we don’t want to hurt the quality of our writing.  I’d rather put out 1-2 excellent stories than put out 4 crappy titles.  But by training ourselves to write faster, we can work towards 2-3 excellent books a year or more.  Believe me, it’s possible.

When I first started writing, I was happy to get one page done in a day.  That’s about 250 words.  But much of writing is habit.  Over the years I’ve trained my body and my brain so that now I produce 1,000 words a day.  My goal is to get to 2,000 words a day.  After that, I’ll set a new goal.

The nice thing for those of us who have been doing this for awhile is that not only have we already been training ourselves, but we have a backlist to draw from.  So, not only did I put out 10 Bits of My Brain but I’ve been releasing individual short stories little by little.  Three are already up (that’s why the covers are in this post!).

Today’s big press market is ridiculously tight.  I’ve been getting agent rejections saying that under former circumstances they’d happily take me on, but not under the present conditions.  That’s becoming frighteningly common.

Back in the good ol’ days, you’d write your book and while you sent out queries and collected rejections, you worked on the next one.  I did it that way for years.  Now, you write your queries, collect your rejections, work on the next one, publish the old ones, work on the sequels that new fans are demanding, write the blog post, keep up with social networking, blah, blah, blah.  It all boils down to this — write even faster.

And don’t be surprised if every few months I’ve got more material to post here.  It’ll take awhile until I catch up to my current WIP.


17 comments to Writing — Write Even Faster

  • This is a great way to think of the problem, Stuart, thanks. I completely agree that with things as tight as they are the best route to success is constant honing of your craft through doing and regular generation of product. In a market where writers are going to see a lot of rejection it’s pyschologically self-protective to have multiple projects in the hopper, so that when one gets rejected, you move on tot eh next instead of spiraling into the black pit of despair.

  • Spiraling down into depression over failure in the publishing market is soooo easy to do. But there are so many other markets to find a nitch in these days, that it seems silly not to utilize them. I have a never-before-published book coming out in the AKA’s name late this fall, with a small press. It will be interesting to see if I can make it work!

  • Okay, another fast writing thing I gotta read. Seems the day for fast writing posts. Rachel Aaron just posted her method today as well.

    Somewhere within her method, Stuart’s, and AJ’s there may just be the key to mine. 😉

  • wookiee

    Favorite excerpt from Daniel’s link:
    “If I had scenes that were boring enough that I didn’t want to write them, then there was no way in hell anyone would want to read them. This was my novel, after all. If I didn’t love it, no one would.”

  • AJ — I agree with your agreement! And, as you say, having multiple things going “protects” you a bit from rejection doldrums. Especially because as the market continues to tighten, good work will be rejected more often than ever before.

    Faith — Interesting indeed. I read one of your AKAs books awhile back and enjoyed it much. So, keep us posted on the new “old” one. I look forward to it.

    Daniel — Thanks for the link. She has some wonderful ideas which I think I’ll start trying today!

    wookiee — That really does say it all.

  • I learned last year that I can finish a first draft in about 35-40 days, working at around 2k words per day. Revising for me tends to take longer, but I try to push for a chapter a day, but that’s not always possible. My work (I teach and direct a resource center) slows that down during the semester, but I think that if I get my schedule worked out well, I can probably complete 3 manuscripts a year.

    I’ve kind of slacked this summer, squandered too much of my time, and I’m paying for it by not having a second manuscript finished. You’re right, though–I need to write even faster.

  • Shawna

    Thanks for the link, Daniel! Excellent timing too- I’m starting a new book in a couple of days, and pulling a higher word count is always relevant to my interests. On a good day I might manage 1,000 words, which would be nothing to sneeze at if I could manage it consistently, but that’s usually not the case.

  • No matter how much coffee I drink, I think I’ve maxed out. Must be that day job. Ok, I’m going rather slow on my revisions, but that’s probably because I’m over thinking it.

  • Hey Folks, don’t let all this talk of writing fast get you worried. It’s meant to motivate you to write creatively and worry less about every little word. It’s meant to help you produce work that you can sell. But if all you can manage is 500 words a day whether because of a day job or children or that’s as much thinking as you can do or all of these or something else, than that’s what you can do. Even just 1 word a day is better than zero. So, chin up, deep breath, and just do your best.

  • My main limiter to writing fast is my lack of keyboarding skill. I can get pretty high with just the two finger method, especially when I’m in the zone, but I’ve never been able to get the hang of having all my fingers on the keys. As someone else mentioned on MW as well, my biggest problem is keeping off the internet while writing. I always found I could write more if I could keep away from the distraction of the net. However, I didn’t come anywhere close to 7-10k for a day’s writing on the previous novel. Looking at my blog, I think the highest I got was around 5,400. Respectable, but I think I wrote pretty much all day too and we had fast food that night.

    By comparison, the current WIP isn’t coming along near as fast. I think I’ve got too much distraction and not enough focus.

  • Thank you so much for the link, Daniel. I just had to add Rachel’s blog to my RSS feed.

    I already do most of the things she talked about (time tracking, writing during most productive hours, pre-planning scenes and getting excited about writing them), but her way of presenting her method really brought everything into focus for me. I love the triangle!

    One of the best things is that I feel much better about my progress now. I usually only get an hour to 90 minutes of writing time each day (can you say “day job”?), and I usually produce something between 500 and 1,000 words. Like Rachel said, the majority of those words happen in the last half of my writing time. If I am ever successful enough to become a full-time writer, I feel more confident that I can reach respectable word counts (5,000 a day would make me perfectly happy).

  • I find that — atleast for draft, though i do go back and edit — short stories if I write them faster, it is easier to finish the story. I am a pantser with a secret yearning for plotter tendencies. Though, juggling multiple project helps keep my ADHD at bay.

    On a side note, though, the fact that no one author can keep up with a readers love of their stories, it makes it okay for readers to love and adore several series and many writers and styles.

  • I read an interview with John Locke, a self published author, where he said one of his keys to being successful (beyond writing books people wanted to read) was being prolific. He didn’t start making good sales until he had published five novels and was about to publish his sixth. When asked why write the fifth book when the first four weren’t going anywhere he said something like: “When people do find me, they’ll have five books to buy and read, not just one.”
    I think this goes along with what you’re saying Stuart in that the more books you have, the more chance you have of getting a bite and when you get that bite, the more your readers can read without jumping to another author.
    I try to write as fast as I can, but like others, my revision is slower. Turns out it is easy to write a lot, harder to write well 🙂

  • It’s true that a reader can read way more than a writer can produce, but there is the backlist and more than one reader can read the same book, so we’re in okay shape, but not as good as your post suggests.

    But I so agree that there are lots of reasons to write faster. Especially with sequels. Not all of us can be GRRM and still make crazy huge sales writing a book every few years. Unfortunately. 🙁

    Scion also makes a fantastic point about giving the reader more gateways into your work. Something I’ve learned from blogging is that even the smallest dead air in a series of writings can lose you readers.

  • […] Writing speed matters.  Writing is like a raffle.  The more entries you have in the hat, the better chance you’ll […]

  • All good points, folks.

    Scion — You’re right about giving the reader more ways to find you, but it goes beyond that. The #1 way a reader chooses a book purchase is by author recognition — either they know your name or they’ve read your work. If readers buy your book and like it, they’ll go looking for more by you — and if you don’t have anything, you’ve lost that sale (which may take a long time to come back your way). I’ve seen it with 10 Bits of My Brain. Several people have bought the book, enjoyed it, and gone on to buy the individual short stories I’ve put up.

    Atsiko — It is true that readers have all the backlist of the world to enjoy and that cuts in to my simplified mathematics; however, the majority of readers won’t read that far back in the world’s backlist. In fact, most of the world’s backlist is not even in print anymore. Hemingway and Steinbeck still get put in print, but the majority of the writers from the early- to mid-twentieth century are difficult, if not impossible to find. The further back in history you go, the less available the material is. So, while my specific numbers may not stand, I still think you’ll find there is infinite demand for new material.

  • […] started thinking about writing efficiency after reading a post on Magical Words about Writing Even Faster, and tips from Rachel Aaron on how she went from writing 2000 words a day to 10,000 words per […]