This is a four-part post that I honestly did not intend to be quite this long. Apparently, there is more to the subject that even I realized.
This week is a wind-up to all the other parts of the diatribe multi-part post.
Speed has no relationship to quality.
I’ve actually hit this point multiple ways throughout the other three parts, but want to iterate the logic one last time.
If you’re a weak writer, you’re going to produce weak writing no matter how fast you write it.
Are there crappy books out there that were written fast? Yes. There are just as many, perhaps even more, books written slowly that are equally bad.
Genre fiction readers are more interested in story than they are in perfect prose. All the speed in the world (or none of it) makes not a single difference to a badly or well constructed story. It’s comparing lemons and giraffes.
On the other hand, if you’re writing bad books quickly, then you will improve much faster than someone producing bad books at a pace of one a year.
Practice makes [getting closer to] perfect, even in the writing biz.
Why you should work to off-load the myth
1. More Practice=better writing
I have already mentioned this above, but it’s one of the benefits of working to adjust your mindset, so I’m repeating it here.
2. So you can get to flow
This is related to, but not the same, as improving through practice, and it is the core benefit of fast writing.
Your mindset will absolutely stop you from reaching a flow state, if you’re hanging on to the myth in any way. You can’t get to flow if you think gearing up will result in poor work.
Which is a pity, because you need a degree of speed to switch off your internal editor. Once he/she/they/it is muted, you can reach flow.
When you are in flow, you write very well indeed. You’ll surprise yourself with some of the prose you get down when you are in this state. You won’t remember writing it.
The aim of writing fast should not be to crank out books at a speed where the boiler is stoked to maximum pressure, bolts are rattlings loose and the wheels are just barely holding onto the tracks. At this speed, you’re gripping too tight. You’re maintaining speed at the sake of everything else, including quality.
This high sprint speed is not sustainable. You’re white-knuckling your way through it.
The point of writing fast is to reach flow. That’s the only conscious effort you need to make. Once you’re in flow, you will be writing faster than you ever thought possible and you won’t be aware of the speed at all. You’ll be watching your story unfold, instead. No white knuckles, no over-clocked engine. You’ll actually be very calm. Speed is a by-product of the state of flow, not the goal.
3. So you can produce more stories.
Why you should aim to write more stories is the subject of a different set of posts. You can find the first one here.
The benefits of having written a great many stories are legion. You can’t produce stories quickly, though, if you’re bogged down in the myth that you’ll produce crap if you write fast.
Serving the reader.
By writing to market, writing well structured stories and providing them as quickly as possible, you’re serving the reader—especially this century’s readers, who consume books like locusts go through a corn field.
Think of your own story-consuming habits. If a new-to-you and fantastic author has many books out, even if they’re not in the same series, you’re thrilled.
It’s not just the number of stories that serve your readers. It is also your growing expertise in telling stories that gives them better and better stories each time. You’re also providing readers with the intangible experience that comes from the power of stories, over and over again.
Try it yourself.
I’m a firm believer in testing and tweaking, as everyone’s mileage varies in this business. So, don’t take my word for anything you’ve read so far.
Try it for yourself.
But make it a serious trial. Give yourself a month in which you try, at every writing session, to write faster each time. There are a large number of techniques to help you develop your speed—sprints, Pomodoros, distraction free writing, just to start–I’ll put some resources below.
For the month’s trial, keep a log of your word counts, and also keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings as you move through the month. The journal helps you capture the intangible benefits of a faster writing process.
A trial of this sort is not the same as NaNoWriMo, where the goal is 50,000 words no matter what it takes. You still want to maintain speed and be producing coherent sentences at the same time. You’re training yourself to reach a flow state.
At the end of the month, analyze the results. I think you’ll find them interesting.
The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer’s Block , Hillary Rettig — good for clearing mental blocks.
1600 Words An Hour: How To Write Faster, Better & More Polished Books For Kindle Using The QC System, Jim Driver & Jack Davies
The Fiction Factory, William Wallace Cook/John Milton Edwards – not a technical how-to, but an inspiring discussion about speed from one of the fastest writers of the classical pulp era.
Million Dollar Productivity, Kevin J. Anderson – not just fast writing, but efficient everything is covered.
2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, Rachel Aaron. A best selling treatise on writing fast.
These are just a few of the many texts dealing with writing and producing books quickly.