The Need for Speed

Another blogger tweeted a link to an old Dean Wesley Smith post: New World of Publishing – Speed. Smith compared traditional and self-publishing and their relevance to the number of books a writer puts out. His conclusion was that if you write one book every couple of years, it’s probably a good idea to go with traditional publishing. I won’t rehash his reasons here. It’s a good read, although there are parts worth skipping because they’re income projections–always a dangerous practice.

The day before reading that post, I came across one that talked about finally being on the third revision of a story that the writer had been working on for the last couple of years. How long was the story? Less than 20,000 words. There are all sorts of reasons why someone would spend that much time on one piece of work, but it reminded me that I had read several similar tales.

Another thing that Smith discussed in his post is the idea that slow writing is good, and fast writing is bad. That’s based on the old division between literature and what was considered pulp–books for the unwashed masses. Fairly recently, a couple of bloggers who are also authors talked about upping their writing speed, to as much as 10,000 words a day. Not that 10,000 was to be maintained every day, of course. So the whole question of writing faster has been around for a long time, and it pops up with fair regularity.

Having “won” three NaNoWriMos in a row, I know it’s possible to write much faster than I normally do. But as Smith points out, that doesn’t have to mean making your fingers fly over the keyboard faster. After all, there’s a limit to how much anyone can improve their typing speed. More realistically, it means putting more time into your writing. That’s why NaNo was important for me. It proved that I could be writing much more than I’d once thought was possible.

Last year, I wrote and published two novels and a short story. A basic fact about self-publishing is that the more product you have out there for readers to find, the better your chance of being found. Two books a year is traditionally the domain of the good midlist writer. More than that, and you’d be accused of being a hack. So there’s a conflict between traditional views and what the current state of publishing actually requires. I plan to publish three novels this year, and as many novellas and short stories as I can squeeze in. Does that make me a hack? Granted, the three novels are already written, during NaNoWriMo, and only require completion in two instances, and revisions for all of them. But in combination with several other works, some of which are barely started, that’s still a lot of writing. And I plan to write another complete novel during the June Camp NaNoWriMo.

Two things make this feasible without my having to turn into a hack. The first is learning. I write better first drafts now than when I started out, so it takes less work to turn them into finished and polished stories. I’m better at seeing and correcting the problems. Privileged Lives is now down to a final proofreading. From putting the first words down on the screen to publication, three months–unless I goof off with formatting, cover design, etc.

The second is the amount of time I’m devoting to writing, including revising and editing. That little quote up in the right hand corner of this blog is my guideline. “If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” I’ve proved to myself that I can write a book in a month. I’ve proved that three months is a reasonable time scale for the production of a new book. I couldn’t have done that when I first started writing fiction. In this new world of self-publishing speed is good. And it’s attainable without having to become a hack.



2 thoughts on “The Need for Speed

  1. I only write what I’m inspired to write. Fortunately this has caused me to write a lot since the year 2000 – a novella, a short story, and four finished novels, plus another novel that I couldn’t finish that was excessive in length (equivalent to about four novels) (that one I do plan to get something out of ultimately). I have one more in my head that I must write because it completes a tetralogy; after that, I have two in my head that I would love to write, plus at least two more ideas. That’s why I decided I couldn’t wait for a publisher to show interest! As it is, I probably won’t live long to complete everything I just detailed!
    (And no more epigraphs that use copyrighted material – although I might make one or two exceptions to that rule for one of the unwritten books!)

    1. I’m slipping behind again. Meant to reply the day you posted this comment. Time is not on my side, so that’s a big part of why I’m pushing myself the way I am. Like you, I have material that will probably take years to get through. Gotta hurry.

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