I’ve been forcibly reminded, lately, of just how fast I write. And just how fast everyone else writes.
I’ve been spending some time mixing with real live writers (as opposed to hanging out on-line), and that is where the reminders have popped up. The inevitable question that is raised, when mixing with writers, is “and how many books do you have published?”
My usual answer is “One hundred and sixty-five titles…no, one hundred and sixty-six…wait, what date is it?” Then I have to check my release dates and tote up the bottom line.
I often think it would be easier to simply say: “Oh, a few,” and leave it at that. Only, someone will take me literally, and when I’m the woman up the front, advising other writers, that’s not a good perception to hand out.
Anyway, my point is, every time I get into the how many/how fast discussion with writers, there is invariably a point where they raise their brows, or drop their jaws, or whistle…or on one memorable occasion, the poor man choked over his sandwich, then sprayed it over the writers next to him.
This spectrum of astonishment has reminded me once more that many writers think I’m a super-humanly fast writer. Also, that I want *everyone* to write in top gear, cranking out books as quickly as possible.
That’s actually wrong on both counts.
If you monitor my weekly log posts–or worse, if you’ve stopped monitoring them because they depress the shit out of you and/or make you feel inadequate, then you definitely should keep reading.
See, I’m not the fastest writer out there. Not by a long chalk.
I can easily think of a dozen other genre fiction writers who make me feel inadequate and wistful about “if only…”
Kevin J. Anderson (writes, hikes, and produces books by the cartload)
Dean Wesley Smith (a book a week)
Jonathan Green (4,000 words an hour)
Chris Fox (5,000 words an hour)
Everyone at Sterling & Stone (10K days are normal for them).
Rachel Aaron (also a 10k/day’er)
Barbara Cartland (who wrote 23 books a year).
There are many more writers, most of them too busy writing to stand up and be counted, whose output makes me blanche. I run into them often in writing groups, whenever the discussion about prolificacy raises its head. Some of the daily word counts and publication rates range from awe-inspiring to nausea-inducing (because I’ll never come close to their output and green is both the color of envy and wretchedness).
It makes my measly 1,300 words an hour look pedestrian.
The only way I manage to look productive is because I keep my ass in the chair, day after day, which makes up for the snail’s pace.
Then there’s the flip-side.
There are just as many writers who write less/produce less than me.
There are just as many writers who write less/produce less than you.
No matter where you are on the spectrum of speed/publishing rate, there is someone (possibly a great many people) who write/publish more slowly than you and there are also numbers of writers who write & produce more quickly than you.
So getting depressed or letting your spirits deflate is counter-productive. If anything, you should use the output of faster writers as inspiration.
Even more critical, you should use their output as a statement of the possible: If even one writer has written 23 books in a single year, then it is not impossible, and any other writer could do it, too, if they really wanted to.
It all comes down to two things, one of them being: What writing speed do you want to reach?
And the other is:
Speedy writing is not maxed-out writing
The same writers who drop their jaws when I mention my speed are, I am sure, forming visions in their head of me sweating at my desk, my fingers flying, with no time for thoughtful composition. These writers are heading into the “fast = crap” territory I loathe, but they can’t help it. Whenever you envisage a writer who produces faster than you, you instinctively assume they must be at full tilt, pedal floored, chassis rattling and wingnuts flying off.
But that is not the way I encourage anyone to write. That isn’t the speed you should be shooting for. That is the speed I call “going to the mattresses” speed: When a can’t-miss deadline is looming and you have to drop into mega-word gear and let ‘er rip.
No, that sort of speed is not sustainable. By anyone.
The mega-super-prolific authors I envy are writing at the exact same speed as me.
They’re writing not at top speed, but at a brisk speed that lets them drop into Flow, and sustain their creativity for hours at a time, if they want to. When you write in Flow, you are writing super-fast, and the words pour from you, while you lose complete track of time.
The difference between them and me is that Flow-producing speed is higher for them than it is for me. If I put in some serious practice, including becoming far more efficient with dictation, plus employ all the strategies to increase per-hour word rates, including sprints and more, then I could nudge my Flow-producing speed higher, too.
So can you.
And that is the ideal I encourage every writer to shoot for: The best, fastest speed for you, that keeps you happily producing as many books as you want to produce, and able to slide into flow on a daily basis, where writing becomes not just fun, but addictive.