Writing At The Speed Of Light

I’m a slow writer. One of my primary goals this year is to increase my writing speed. Last year I released four titles – three shorts and two full-length books. About 170,000 words total.

That sounds pretty impressive until you factor in that two of those shorts were written in 2010, and I had been writing the historical novel over a period of many years – it only had to be rewritten last year. Subtracting both of those, and adding in new text added to the novel, leaves me with maybe 90,000 new words written and published last year.

It could be worse, I suppose, but there is a huge amount of room for improvement – especially when I break it down.

The bulk of those new words written and published were for my short story Transfection and my how-to Let’s Get Digital. I wrote the short in a few days and it only needed a small amount of revision before it was published. Let’s Get Digital took around three weeks. With revising time, back-and-forth with my editor etc., you could probably add another couple of weeks.

I know I can write fast when I put my mind to it. I’ve done 4,000 word days (on very rare occasions). But I lack discipline and focus. I’m a poor planner. I work on whatever I feel like working on. That’s fine, but the obvious corollary is that I will cast something aside when I don’t feel like working on it (as attested by the innumerable half-written shorts, novel outlines, and story ideas on my hard-drive).

A Storm Hits Valparaiso took five-and-a-half years. But a lot of that time I wasn’t working on the book. The first draft took three years and three months. I remember because the first half of the book took me three years, and the second half only three months!

The first half took so long because I was researching as I was writing, I was traveling around the world while working on the book, and I walked away from it at some point in the middle and didn’t write a word for maybe nine months. Plus I was still learning the craft, of course.

But there was another reason why the second half went much quicker: I had a deadline.

It was summer and I was living in the Czech countryside in a small town east of Prague. I was writing full-time and the beer was very, very cheap. But the real world loomed; I was moving back to Dublin in September, and would have to look for (paying) work. I didn’t know when I would get another three-month window like this, so I put the pedal to the metal and got the job done.

Similarly, I started the final rewrite last August. I circled it for a while, working on small parts when I felt like it (which wasn’t that often). Let’s Get Digital was selling like crazy, so it was all too easy to get pulled into guest blogs and interviews (and checking those sales numbers). I went on holidays in September and spent two glorious weeks away from the internet, and did a lot of thinking about the weaknesses in my novel, and how to improve it.

But even on my return, progress was slow – that is, until my crowdfunding initiative and the limited availability of my editor forced a deadline upon me. Again, I pulled my socks up and got the job done.

I can give a million excuses for being a slow writer. I write longhand (i.e. with pen and paper). I write primarily in a genre which requires more research than most (historical fiction). And I’m still pretty inexperienced – I haven’t developed a good sense yet of which ideas are going to last the pace, I still write myself into a lot of dead-ends, and I get stuck lots, for all sorts of reasons.

But, I’m done with excuses.

I know that Zoe Winters used to be a slower writer, but now she is able to pull off 10,000 words a day (sometimes). Now, she writes straight-to-keyboard, and I don’t think it’s any slight to suggest that paranormal romance might require a little less research. However, I know that Courtney Milan can write 4,000 words a day (when the day job allows), and she writes longhand. She also writes historical romance, which probably requires a similar level of research to my stuff.

Purists might claim that quality can’t be written at that speed, but I think that’s a ridiculous notion, and the sales and reviews of the two above writers would argue otherwise. Let me give you some more examples, though.

Sebastian Faulks is not known as a fast writer. However, when he was asked by Ian Fleming’s literary estate to pen a new Bond novel, Faulks decided to copy Fleming’s six-week time-frame, and pulled it off.

However, Fleming and Faulks were not unique. Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in six weeks. Graham Green spent the same amount of time writing The Confidential Agent in the mornings, while writing The Power And The Glory in the evenings!

Anthony Burgess said A Clockwork Orange was “knocked off for money in three weeks.” Mickey Spillane wrote one of his Mike Hammer novels in nine days (which sold millions of copies). And Steven King dashed off The Running Man in three nights.

So we know it’s theoretically possible, without quality having to suffer. Armed with that knowledge, all I need is some kind of deadline.

I wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo last year, but I was in the middle of the rewrite for A Storm Hits Valparaiso. But on Saturday night, I stumbled across this thread on KindleBoards where Michael Wallace (author of the bestselling Righteous series) was proposing an informal February writing challenge: 60,000 words by the end of the month.

There were a few takers already who have been fiendishly outlining for the last few weeks. I’m a little behind, but I decided to jump aboard.

Immediately, I could think of a million excuses. But, as I said, I’m done with excuses.

I’ve got two days to outline… something. Well, it’s more about deciding which project to work on. Initially, I thought the dystopian novella that has been kicking around in my head for months would be a perfect fit, as very little research would be required.

I spent some time yesterday trying to come up with a very vague outline, but realized it’s still at the “half idea” stage, and needs something else before it’s ready to go.

Instead, I’m going to try and write the first draft of a historical novel. This might seem like a crazy idea – and it is – especially considering that I’ve only done half the research needed. And also because I promised my poor, battered brain that I would work on something else, anything else, before attempting another historical.

Sorry, brain. I published 170,000 words last year and most of that wasn’t new stuff. I wrote around 200,000 words on my blog. There’s something wrong with that picture. Something has to change radically, and I don’t want to stop blogging – I enjoy it too much.

The working title of the book I am going to attempt is Bananas for Christmas. It’s set in New Orleans and Honduras at the beginning of the 20th century and follows the story of a guy called Lee Christmas – a color-blind railroad engineer who fled the US and got mixed up in several Central American revolutions, often at the behest of a certain American fruit company – someone who was quite famous one hundred years ago, but whom most people seem to have forgotten.

I have a bullet point outline of the first half of the book, and a (very) rough blurb:

Lee Christmas falls asleep at the throttle of his locomotive, dead drunk, driving straight into an oncoming train. His life in tatters, he boards a steamer to Honduras, hoping for a fresh start. But when civil war breaks out, he is forced to choose sides.

Bananas for Christmas is the story of America as it moves from The Gilded Age to a new era of Imperialism, of a revolution born in a New Orleans brothel, and the nation’s most famous soldier of fortune, a color-blind railroad engineer who becomes the head of the Honduran Army.

I need to outline the second half – and digest a biography and re-skim a history book (pictured above) – in the next two days.

I don’t expect to have a publishable novel at the end of this. Or even something ready for beta readers (let alone an editor). But I would like to have a good first draft, or at the very least, a good chunk of it done.

This is going to be tough – especially for a slow writer like me, who has never even attempted something like this before. And announcing my participation in the challenge here isn’t particularly smart, considering the overwhelming likelihood of failure.

But I also remember that my father used this same trick. When he was considering whether to run a marathon, he went around and told everyone he met that he was going to do it – which then forced him to run the bloody thing.

And he did it (and in a good time too). In fact, he’s run three of them. He’s in his sixties now – still running half-marathons – and he’s twice as fit as me.

I need to do my own writing marathon, and hopefully it will break some of my bad habits (irregular binge writing, general lack of discipline and focus), and teach me some good habits which I can carry through my writing life.

This challenge is 60,000 words in 29 days. Just over 2,000 words a day. Anyone else game?

About David Gaughran

David Gaughran is Irish, living in Prague, and the author of Mercenary, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, Let's Get Digital, Let's Get Visible, and this here blog.
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120 Responses to Writing At The Speed Of Light

  1. jnfr says:

    I’ve tried NaNo a couple of times, and while I never hit that 50k mark, I did write more than I usually manage, so it was useful that way. Hope your challenge goes well, David!

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  2. I really should have mentioned this post by Dean Wesley Smith on writing speed: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=4360

    And this other post on the same topic by Zoe Winters is well worth reading too: http://zoewinters.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/the-10000-word-day/

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    • Well, thank God you mentioned Dean Wesley Smith because I was going to send you there. Thanks for the post! I’ve got a deadline in my own head for a project I’m working on, but I’m there with you (here or there) in the spirit of it all.

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  3. Bethany says:

    I have a million excuses too… maybe a million and one. But, maybe I do the same. Even with rewrites for my non-technical book due, and the day job, and kids… and….

    I’ll try if you try. And we can maybe fail together. Or maybe just be successful.

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  4. WiseMona says:

    I would love to jump in and do the February challenge with you but am too tied up with school this year. I wrote all but 60,000 words from September 2011 – December 2011.
    Can’s say it is great writing – but it is on the page and now at the ‘edit and move it around’ stage. The last thing I wrote ‘long hand’ was my Leaving Cert exam a million years ago. All tapping on the keys for me. Definitely speeds things up – but I am a fast typist too. Good luck with the challenge!

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    • I’m a very fast typist. I can easily do 80 words per minute when copy typing, a little less obviously when it’s “fresh” stuff, but still fast. I wrote most of “Let’s Get Digital” straight on my laptop, but new creative stuff – fiction – doesn’t work for me like that. I find it’s very dry, and lacks any music in the prose. I wish I could write fiction at the same level without resorting to pen and paper, but it’s never worked for me.

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      • I made the transition by using fonts that somewhat resemble handwriting. It’s less intimidating. With the standard fonts, I felt this need for absolute perfection that got me hung up on spelling and grammar and broke my attention away from the idea before it got to the page. Using Papyrus, or something similar, I start out more relaxed and can get the words on the page.

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  5. Sean McGuire says:

    I hate speed writing. When I make a grammatical mistake, or lay down a phrase that doesn’t quite capture when I’m getting at, I feel a strong compulsion to go back and fix it. If I have the luxury to write slow, I do it every time. I do think that the extra time to mull over words is not entirely impractical. I also think the market you’re working in doesn’t give you that time. Good luck!

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  6. ursula says:

    Go for it.
    Dickens was motivated to produce lots of words, didn’t he get paid per word? And still to churn it out in 6 weeks? Wow.

    I think you can do what you set your mind to do. If you can travel the world living on your wits, beer and words then I bet you’ve got the ability inside you as well to speed up your process without missing a necessary beat.

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  7. Jaye says:

    Great post, David.

    I hear ya about the writing speed. The real problem is not that some writers are fast, while others are slow. The real problem is how intimidated and disheartened and disappointed slow writers can make themselves feel when they compare themselves to fast writers. I can write mass quantities when I’m “feeling” it. When I’m not “feeling” it, I can still write mass quantities, but it’s all crap and I hate it and that leads to resentment and that leads to me acting like an idiot in various and sundry ways.

    It is one thing to develop discipline and organization. It’s another to try to force it based on other peoples’ standards because the muse doesn’t like being forced. Forced muses have a tendency to develop bad habits as a response. The trick, I think, is to figure out what kind of writer you are and that takes some self-examination and honest assessment. Once you figure that out, then you work on developing the discipline and organization to be the best writer YOU can be.

    I mean, seriously, if you’re a dog, it’s foolishness to beat yourself up because you don’t do what elephants do.

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    • I hear that.

      I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m sure I can write faster. I’ve written 4,000 in a day a few times (but all too rare). I’ve had a two month period where I consistently averaged 1,000 to 1,500 a day (but that was the downhill race towards the finish line of a novel where I knew what every scene – more or less – was going to be).

      I also wrote Let’s Get Digital very quickly, but that was non-fiction, around 15k of that was contributions from other authors, and a good chunk of the book was rewritten blog posts.

      I think the blocks (for me) are largely mental. It’s more about using the time I have well, than finding the time. I’m the worst procrastinator. I spend way too much time online. But once I get going, when I get the bit between my teeth (usually when I have a deadline), I always surprise myself at my output (and there is no difference in quality between the stuff I write slow and the stuff I write fast).

      If I fail, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. But I’m going to go for it. I’m under no illusions about how challenging this is going to be. I don’t even know if an artificial deadline will work as well as a real one. I can only try. And it’s certainly worth trying.

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  8. Gary Ponzo says:

    The other way to speed up the process, David, is to think about your story while doing other tasks, like driving around doing chores, walking the dog. Also, anytime you can listen to music instead of talk radio, it can inspire your imagination . . . I’m sure you have a pad and pencil with you at all times, so when inspiration comes you can strike fast, then transfer your notes to your manuscript. It works for me.

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    • I’m always thinking about the story, that’s not a problem! I listen to music while I work – always have done. It becomes like wallpaper after a while, and forms a kind of sonic shield, protecting me from any other noises in the house. I listen to a lot of music, lately mostly a radio station out of New Orleans called WWOZ. It’s listener supported, so there are no ads. It’s great: http://wwoz.org/

      The internet is the biggest distraction. When I want to get some real work done, I often go to a bar or cafe, and just sit in the corner and scribble. After a tip from another writer, I downloaded a trial version of Freedom, which blocks the internet for whatever time you set (and you can only unblock it by going through the hassle of rebooting). It’s $10, and I’ll probably spring for it. I just want to test it first. It’s here if anyone is interested (and works on a PC or Mac): http://macfreedom.com/

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      • J.A. Jernay says:

        Freedom is great. The best ten dollars I ever spent.

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      • Hi David, Have you tried this? Every day, it is writing first thing, internet last thing. The internet becomes more enjoyable as it is a reward. If you catch yourself saying “a short time on the Internet, then down to writing”, you know you are close to relapsing and you just say no.

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  9. Does anyone else reach the point where you feel as if your mind is completely emptied of words and you have to take a break to let it fill back up again? My current goal is 1,000 to 1,500 a day and when I reach that I’m thrilled. Best of luck with your speed-writing, David. I know it works for a lot of people but I think everyone’s brain works a little differently. Mine is kinda slow.

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    • Mine is kinda slow too. And I can think of all sorts of arguments to defend my slowness and everything else. But I want to change, so I might as well try something that I summarily dismissed before as unsuitable for me. After all, following my own advice got me into this mess!

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    • I’m also champing at the bit to write new stuff. I haven’t worked on something new for months (aside from scribbles here and there). The last book I released was a big rewrite project. And I have some extra time for writing next month. The planets are aligning…

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  10. I’m gearing up for the challenge as we speak. The good thing is I already have a solid outline for my WIP. Bad news is I have prior commitments already planned for the first two weeks of the challenge. Might be tricky balancing the two, but like you said: no excuses.

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  11. Jaye says:

    Ah ha! I found it (So there, DD1, being a hoarder isn’t all bad)
    I just dug through some old binders and found a handout from a workshop I attended over twenty years ago. “Good Habits, Good Writers” Unfortunately, the name of the presenter isn’t on the sheet and I can’t remember who taught it. Here goes:

    “Learn your discipline point” (in my scribbled notes, this is about making sure you stick to your regimen–Like exercise, you want to be able to keep at it)

    Week One: At the same time, every day, write 100 words. No more, no less.
    Week Two: Same time, every day, write 250 words.
    Week Three: Write 500 words.
    (the experiment is supposed to take a month, the theory being that’s how long it takes to make a good habit stick–bad habits, taking about 14 minutes, ya know?)

    The goal is to find the sweet spot between “I can do this with my eyes closed” and “This is no fun and it’s too hard, maybe I should clean the bathrooms or see what’s happening on Twitter.”

    Hmm. Might be worth a shot.

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  12. However, I know that Courtney Milan regularly writes 4,000 words a day, and she writes longhand. She also writes historical romance, which probably requires a similar level of research to my stuff.

    Sadly, no, I don’t. I can write 4,000 words on a day when I do not have anything else to do for my day job. I’ve done as much as 7,000, and been happy with the quality (I’ve had days when I’ve pushed for more, but it never pays off–at around 9,000 words or so, I’m just putting crap on a page, and I end up rewriting all of it).

    But the day job is pretty intensely all-consuming, and so while my average day probably comes out to about 1,500 words, my median day is 0.

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  13. I love this post. I loved hearing the many different authors who published great work in short amount of time. I’m a firm believer in just putting “in the time”. We each have our writing coins where after each writing session, each hour, they are deposited into our “writing piggy bank.” The more time we do it, the faster it gets filled. It’s just up to us to schedule the times. I know this is “such a writer” thing to do, (or is it more of a planner thing? IDK) but, lately, I’ve been keeping a “writing journal” (sorry I’ll stop using quotation marks ha) and every time I sit down to write, i put the start time, then set my Iphone charger and write 100%. Without the internet and checking random sites which is a huge time waster for me. I’ll at least write for an hour. Then I’ll break and go on to other things. I find that my writing piggy bank starts to get pretty full quickly. Then I will put another fresh hour in.

    I tried the whole write one huge draft then edit and it doesn’t work for me. So, I’ve found for me, writing in scenes and skipping over the scenes I’m not sure yet, really helps me. I’d love to join you all with Feb’s challenege. I am outlining my 3rd chick lit book and was planning on having the 1st draft finished in 3 weeks anyway. (a 42-50k book). So, what are you guys calling the challenge and do we get a button? JK.🙂 Do you mind posting the link where the thread is up on the writer’s cafe? If not, i’ll search for it. Anyway, great post as always and cheers to writing more fiction words. Just like with your dad’s story with his running, you’ll find the inspiration with more words down since you have so many writer friends!

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  14. Catana says:

    More than two or three thousand words a day is physically difficult for me, but I had little trouble writing 74,000 words during last year’s NaNoWriMo. Of course, I spent several months beforehand, thinking about it, making notes, and developing an outline. I’ve also added another 20,000 words and worked through four drafts since then. The total time from first word to final formatting — three months. I’ll never be a speed demon, but I proved to myself that even a slow thinker and typist can write a publishable novel in a very short time. I don’t know if I can improve much beyond that, but I’m currently working out another novel for the June Camp NanoWriMo.

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  15. rmv says:

    i’m up for that challenge because today is the first day of my “new” career – which really means i’m retired from teaching. which really means it’s time to get serious about writing. i just finished outlining a novel about plane crash survivors,and i’m ready to get it started.

    after reading some of your blog entries, i decided to put two older titles through epublish. one is with amazon/kindle and one through b&n nook. although i liked what amazon had to offer better, i wanted to try each and see what happens. after going through the amazon/kindle/createspace process however, i think that might have been a better route for both titles.

    Q: is there much of an emarket for short stories? packaging four or five stories into one book? the good thing about these e-options is it usualy doesn’t cost anything, so what the hell?

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    • I have posted on this before. The conventional wisdom is there is little market for short stories. But today’s heresy is tomorrow’s orthodoxy. I believe technology and lifestyle align for a outburst of demand. Why not try to establish yourself before the possible boom. You say there is little cost, but the questions of cover and editing do not go away just because it is a collection of five shorts. I have an idea you are welcome to adapt if you think it has merit. If you can write 20-25 shorts, why not publish five at a time with a generic cover that is tweaked enough for each new release to allow people to readily know it is a newbie. If you think the project is not gathering traction, you can move on elsewhere.
      Good luck and I for one would be interested to know how people are going with shorts. (Hint at possible new post for you, David)

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  16. Dan Meadows says:

    I can reasonably put out 5-6 k words in a day if I really latch on to something, but I can never predict when or on what subject that’s going to happen. Last week, I really started working on a project I’d been thrashing about in my head for months, and I wrote for parts of four of the seven days in spurts of a few hours at a time and cranked out close to 20k words.

    I often have to manufacture deadlines because pressure has always brought out my best. That was great when I worked for magazines where we had deadlines once every two weeks, not so much now where I can always find an excuse to put something off with no consequences.

    As for writing by hand, I’ve always done that, as well, for a couple of reasons. My brain runs faster than my typing skills and pen on paper is my only chance to keep up. Secondly, I’ve developed a process where later transcribing the handwritten to computer is a crucial stage that allows me to do a slow, thorough edit of the work, much more in depth than simply reading through an already typed file. It works great for me. Besides, I absolutely love the sound of a pen tip scratching away furiously across a blank sheet of paper. Clickings of a keyboard simply do not compare. Best of luck to you on the 60k February quest.

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    • I do the exact same thing when I type up my handwritten notes. Works very well. With my last novel, I used to type up the notes in the morning, editing as I went, and checking up any bits of research that I had just bracketed off so I wouldn’t interrupt my flow. Then I would break for lunch, and spend the afternoon writing new stuff. That was a good system, and produced for me.

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  17. MGalloway says:

    Sounds like a great idea for a challenge. Hope it goes well for you.

    I more or less started on a similar idea a couple weeks ago: I decided to sit down and write (longhand) as many short stories as I could over a period of a month or two in order to generate tons of raw material, which will be sorted through later. The secondary goal has been to increase my writing speed again…which seems to be happening but only because I’m not outlining anything ahead of time. Of course it also means a few more dead-ends and wandering story lines…

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  18. I would love to do this. Since I already have one public challenge going (learning Swahili) and am struggling to keep up with it, I’m not sure I want another…I know, no excuses. I’m definitely going to check it out. I may not broadcast my decision to take it on to the whole world, but definitely going to check it out! Thanks for this post.

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    • You lose nothing by broadcasting to the whole world, and you gain an additional motivator.

      I think part of writing is learning how to accept when you fail to meet a goal you’ve set. If you make your goals every time you set them, you’re not trying hard enough to push your limits.

      So go ahead and embrace the challenge, and push yourself. Tell people you’re trying. You’d be surprised at the motivation those people in your life who are interested in your progress can give you.

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      • Thanks for the encouragement. I agree completely, that’s why I set up the Swahili Challenge. I know if I don’t have accountability, I will never learn it!🙂 Writing is similar. I’ve roped a friend into this writing endeavor. We’re getting together Wednesday to start, though it may be a modified version. “Pushing” is not something I have a problem with, setting high goals is not a problem; over-committing on the other hand…well, now there’s a problem! I’ve been wanting to do this for a couple of months now, so I’m going to give it my best shot. I just can’t let it overrun the other six or eight major projects that have to be done by the beginning of June. So, here goes…

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      • Thanks again for the encouragement. I didn’t “go public”, but my friend and I kept each other going. I’m not sure how she did yet, but I was actually very surprised at the outcome on my end. This month was a bit overwhelming with the loss of a family member, ten days in the car traveling to and from the memorial service and all of the emotion that goes with loss. So, when I did my word count last night I was shocked. I worked on two re-writes because that’s where I am right now. Between the two, my total count was 58,066 words, of which a huge percentage, probably well over half, were new. Swahili, on the other hand…well, I just don’t think my family would have appreciated me repeating “Tafadhali, niletee matunda” over and over during our 4000 mile trip.🙂

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      • Congratulations!

        I hit 54,400 myself. Just shy of the target, but the main thing is, I finished the first draft of BANANAS FOR CHRISTMAS (turned out shorter than planned).

        And that was the real target. I’m so delighted! I’ve never come close to writing at this speed before. I wrote 20k in the last week alone! If I hadn’t ran out of story, I’m sure I would have hit the target.

        On top of all that, I’m pretty sure I learned some new habits which will stand to me in the future.

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      • 20k the last week! Wow! That’s pretty exciting! Congrats on finishing the first draft!

        I completely agree about new habits, just having a daily goal helps. My friend and I have decided to keep going. Those daily text messages saying “Hey, this is where I am. How did you do yesterday?”, are very motivational!

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  19. I did Nanowrimo this past November. On the way up to the Night of Writing Dangerously on the train we had a contest (there were about 10 of us from SoCal headed up) to see who could write the most words. I was also behind on my count because I wanted to finish that weekend (20 days in) and needed to put words down.

    I won the contest, clearing 10,000 words. Now, that took me the better part of the trip, so I was averaging less than 1000 words an hours. But if you put in the hours, amazing things can happen. Like finishing a 50,000 word count “novel” in 20 days when you’ve never written anything like it before that.

    Now, that work has been chucked into the pile of work to be revisited some day because my approach was not so fabulous. But it did prove to me that I can, when I need to, write a great deal. In fact, my normal days tended to be large word-count ones. I routinely had 3-5k words. I just wrote sporadicly.

    The rate at which I have written my current WIP is much slower. One reason is because I am writing for quality, sure. But another is because I am dedicating less time to actually writing it. I have some good reasons for that. I also have some poor excuses mixed in as well.

    So this week I’m hoping for MANY GOOD WORDS. I have Friday and Saturday completely to myself. I am hoping to double my current word count and get deep into the novel this week. So we’ll see how that goes . . .

    Best of luck David. I am positive that if you set the goal you can make it.

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  20. josephine wade says:

    I don’t think I can join you on this because I have already designated my weekends for editing a previous work. But I will try to get some writing done every weekday to keep in the spirit.

    I just started a YA novel with NO paranormal aspects whatsoever! No major research involved, no major world building –ahhh! What’s the saying, oh yeah, ‘Luxury!’. I am writing with a stupid grin on my face. Not that I don’t love paranormal world building, but it is nice to take a break as I am sure you can appreciate with all your research. Also, this is a one off — I hope — so no sequels.

    I hope to have the bones down over the next month and a half.

    Good luck, I’ll be rooting for you!

    On a purely selfish note — does this mean less blog posts? Which considering my overly fondness for blogs might be a good thing for my writing.

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    • It might mean less blog posts, yes, but just for Feb. At the moment, I’m posting about three times a week, but there’s no set schedule. Even still, that’s around 5,000 words – words I may need for this challenge. We’ll see. I need far less energy to write a blog post than fiction, so hopefully I will be able to keep up a reasonably regular schedule. I probably won’t be able to do the big research-heavy posts that take hours, but I should be able to post the more normal stuff when I can.

      Ok. Need to duck out of comments now and get back to outlining this monster. The outline is basically a matchstick man (me) in the middle of a map with “Here Be Wolves” in all directions.

      Like

      • Deep breath. Whenever I have monsters in my life I name them ‘Puddin (southern for Pudding). No monster is intimidating with the name ‘Puddin.

        And now I need to duck out too. As I have a word count to get started.

        Like

  21. James says:

    On the other hand, David, you’ve got the epic mustache going for you (saw the interview at creativepenn.com). Twirling it pensively surely adds at least 500 words/day to your efforts.

    Like

  22. I am a slow writer, too, and it is the bane of my existence. The novel I published, Cel &Anna, originated as a NanoWriMo entry, and I did succeed in writing 50,000 words in a month. The catch: only about 110 of those 50,000 words survived.

    Fast and good is the combination that eludes me. I have also “creative dyslexia” — a positive genius for writing the right thing and putting it in the wrong place.

    Like

  23. Good luck. I’d always considered myself a slow writer too — but reading DWS’s posts and the way he broke down the math made me realize that usually, I just wasn’t putting in the time. I still don’t respond very well to daily word quotas, but just getting into the habit of sitting down and writing every day instead of whenever I felt like it improved my output a lot. (200-500 words a day as a bare minimum is not at all difficult — and that adds up. And generally I get something closer to 1000-1500 words a day — still working my way up.)

    Have you seen this blog post, by the way? http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-i-went-from-writing-2000-words-day.html

    Like

  24. rasputin42 says:

    Reblogged this on Tales From The Mad Monk and commented:
    Yeah, I’m in.

    I have a different scenario but the same root problems–excuses–and I too, have had it with myself.

    My wife and I have a seasonal business enterprise that will be picking up speed in the middle of March. I want to get two novels written before fall. If I want to accomplish that and publish something every two weeks then I really need to make some hay with the time I have before then.

    And well, that boils down to the next six weeks. Can I, a complete neophyte produce a novel that is worth reading in six weeks? Perhaps not, and I suppose I don’t really have to. If I can get the draft of it done by the end of March then I can work on the second novel, which is a continuation of that storyline, for April, May, and June. Spend July fixing up the first one, and August fixing up the second one and aim to get them off to editors and have the first one ready to publish on November 1 and the second on December 1.

    That’s the thought anyway. Can I do it? I dunno, but if I can, it’s going to have to start with getting a bunch of words down in the next four weeks.

    Bring it on.

    Like

  25. ccmackenzie says:

    Great post, David. I’ve always written in longhand in notebooks even though I can touch type. It’s taken me two years to trust work I now type directly to the page. Like you I felt it was stilted, I felt it didn’t flow, lacked timing and rhythm. You’re Irish (I’m Scots/Irish) we have rapid thought patterns along the gift of the gab and can tell a story. This is a key point to remember – tell the story – everything else can be fixed.

    Also, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with working on four or five projects at once. I have writer friends who shudder at the tought, but we’re all different. I jump between genres to keep writing fresh, a bit like a Busman’s holiday. Recently a prolific romance author died, Penny Jordan, and her output was unbelievable. Over 200 books. She wrote between genres and worked on up to five stories at the same time. All were in different stages of development. A certain Nora Roberts does the same thing – and I believe she’s Irish/Scottish. There you go, you have the genetic footprint.

    I listen to music too. My output can be anything up to 4,000 words per day in creative mode. But not every word is created equally. Some days I can rock the story in four/five hours. Other days it can take me eight and it’s like wading through treacle. Our brain needs downtime or it burns out. Writing creatively is exhausting. I know of one Irish writer who is back in the saddle after a two year break, this is a serious issue and something to think about when squeezing the dark recesses of the mind.

    Like

  26. When you break it down 2,000 words a day isn’t too bad. The problem is the every day part.

    When it comes to writing if i’m not ‘feeling’ it then i tend to just walk away for the day. Sometimes i write like a fiend and do thousands. Over days it’s a few hundred at a crawling pace, and then others i simply don’t. I’m not sure if the writing muse would be on my side for 29 whole days ha.

    I do envy people who can commit to so many words in a month. I do plan on attempting nano one day (and most likely failing). Seen as i’m still on book number one though (and like you it’s been an off and on project of several years) i think i’d need to be working on something new.

    Good luck with the 60,000 though. I’m gunning for ya🙂

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    Like

  27. Daniel says:

    I have always thought November was about the worst possible month of the year to hold NaNoWriMo. Unfortunately I’m in the middle of rewrites for something which has already missed a couple of my own self-imposed deadlines, otherwise I’d be up for it. I think it would be cool if NaNo or someone like them would just run the thing every month, or every other month, so people could slot in to a month that worked for them.

    Like

  28. chris says:

    Okay, I’m gonna jump in on this Irish bastard’s desperate attempt to avoid admitting laziness isn’t his dominant character trait!😉

    I only have a rewrite to do on a ten year old piece of idiocy but I’m the worst bloody procrastinator and I have the innate ability to write a fuck load of incoherent sentences seemingly with ease, so I need all the motivation to get to the end of my current 60,0000 word self-indulgence.

    So bring it on, I say, and we’ll see you online at the end of February 60,000 word celebration, kids. You’ll recognise me by my inebriated walk, lack of wit and offensive manner … failing that, I’ll more than likely be clutching an incomplete manuscript.

    BTW: Great posts by Karin the other day, Dave. I knew Miss Cox from a previous life. Before I was a decent human being and before she was ‘famous’!

    Her ‘Cage Life’ is actually a beautiful piece of prose.

    Like

  29. wo3lf says:

    Ive wanted to be a writer since I was 13, and while in school wrote a lot (and read a lot). After school not so much writing. I would start something and then get embarrassed by it. Now 20 years later Ive decided to take the plunge and write. It is excruciating – like being dragged across sandpaper naked. To make matters worse, English isn’t even my native tongue, which means it takes me longer to write. I am out of practice and feel stunted by creative inactivity, but at least I’m writing. I’m a genre whore. I like anything from fantasy to historical novels, but Ive chosen a fantasy short as my first project, the idea of it percolating now for a year or so. Apart from prolonged inactivity, another reason is that I keep second guessing my writing. Ive drafted about 6000 words so far, but I keep editing it, instead of just allowing it to flow naturally and then deal with the finished product as a whole. Its frustrating, but I have never been more happy. When the writing does go well and the words flow, I am in my own little heaven. At the end of the day I just need to keep at it, and if all goes well, my writing will improve (and believe me it needs improvement), and I will write faster, which is something I am aiming at. After all, I have to make up for 20 years of no writing.

    Like

  30. My problem is less excuses than that I just plain do not write fast. It has to do with being something close to a perfectionist, not that my first drafts don’t have typos but I HAVE to find the right word or I just can’t write it down.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t write every day or darn close. I admit that I tell myself you don’t have to have a huge daily out put to manage a fairly decent yearly output. Even 500 words a day can get you up close to 200,000 words but that really isn’t enough. If I can manage 300,000 this year I’ll be pretty happy and to start on that goal I decided to join you in Michael Wallace’s challenge as well.

    Like

  31. Achievable maths of the first draft of a novel are 1000 words a day over 90 days. If you set a daily deadline of 1000 words, you will do it Some days you will write 2000 words but do not excuse yourself from the next day’s 1000 words, as inevitably a few days will produce zero.
    David, you would have to be happy with 90-120,000 fresh words a year, wouldn’t you?
    I wonder how much self-editing the top guns of popular fiction do. An editor can probably tell us but I suspect the answer is: “äs much as they want”
    What works for me is I write without any corrections with the aim of having it finished. I don’t outline. I usually do not know how the story will end. When there is a murder I usually don’t know who did it. In other words I am experiencing the story as the reader would. (Hey, I stand up and laugh when I write something funny). Half-way though a murder sub-plot, or the full-story, the ending will come to me.
    I think writing to an outline and editing as you go along slow you down. To paraphrase Kenny Rogers: “There’s time enough for editin’ when the writin’s done.”
    As I say, my method is not for everyone but it will work for some.
    David, I am a bit worried 2000 words a day in your challenge is too much, if you a trying to create a habit you will keep up. You might achieve the 60, 000 words but will you remember it as your longest writing binge?.

    Like

  32. J.D.Hughes says:

    The stuff below is not advice. It is my experience as a novice novel writer, but also as an ex-professional commercial writer. It may or may not strike a chord, ring a bell, paint a picture, fire the odd neuron, stimulate a thought or otherwise employ a cliche.

    Until last year, I was writing around 5 words a day. On some days the total might be 20 or so, but those days were rare. At the end of two or three weeks I would send my words – or occasionally deliver them – and a month or two later receive a cheque. The cheque was usually quite big because I had been writing my few words for a long time and some people liked them.

    I mention this because if my words were not delivered on time I didn’t get a cheque; my family, my dog and I starved. It was a wonderful way of encouraging discipline.

    Of course, it is simple to write 5 words a day. As long as they are the right words. And that’s the nub of the matter. It is simple to write 10,000 words a day, as long as they are the right words. There is little point in writing the wrong words unless you need to. Writing 10,000 wrong words is the same as writing 5 wrong words, and may take the same time.

    Whatever, the words are still wrong, the time is wasted, the soul debilitated.

    Every writer with whom I have had contact has had a natural rhythm, a natural pace. If your pace is 1000 good words a day then be happy, that is 995 more than my 5 good words as a succesful copywriter.

    So, the question is: how does one write the right words in the right amount every day?

    I am writing around 2000 words a day. Of that 2000 about half are redundant in some way by virtue of self-editing. I write my 2000 by imagining that someone is paying me for those words and at 4.30 pm ‘someone’ will call to collect my words and if they are self-indulgent tripe or not written, I will not get paid.

    Now it could be that my 2000 words ARE self-indulgent tripe and I am deceiving myself to believe otherwise, but for now I have a mental construction that allows me to write at my natural pace for prose.

    This method won’t work for everyone, but it is adaptable. Find the one ‘thing’ that is important to you. In my case it was my family and my old dog. Imagine that if you do not write the right amount of words that ‘thing’ will be denied to you. Tell your subconscious this is true. Do this every working day as you wake.

    The only factor preventing writing at a natural pace is how a writer’s beliefs are structured.
    The only factor preventing writing at a natural pace is how a writer’s beliefs are structured.
    It was worth repeating. I believe the idea without any doubts whatsoever.

    A writer without discipline is playing at it. A writer who allows distraction is playing at it. A writer not in control of his or her mind is playing at it.

    My belief system tells me to enjoy it, as well. And I do.

    I had 180,000 words in my forthcoming novel. 50,000 were bad words, but I needed to write them to get at the good ones. Released from 5 words a day I went a little stir-crazy. The novel is now 130,000, but will be less, hopefully not 129, 995 less.

    So, none of this is advice, since I have not sold a single novel, but it might be worth an experiment for those bursting with ideas, but worrying about getting the words onto the page.
    You have to stick at it. The subconscious needs repeated instructions to change behaviour.

    If the above doesn’t work, then start at 5 words and work up.🙂

    JD

    Like

  33. Despite what I just said, I will be in it. I will write a draft of my new musical, based on Romeo and Juliet, as well as a dramaturgy on ‘Romeo and Juliet modernised’.
    I was actually going to start today (January 31, so thanks for giving me the day off, David.
    Just reading where J. R. wants to publish 300,000 words a year, maybe some people do not consider around the 200K mark.

    Like

  34. Dave says:

    I accept your challenge Sir.

    Now if only we were in a bar together, we could slap each other with white gloves. 60k should be about what I need for my “short that I’ll polish up right quick and e-pub just to see what happens” that has mutated into a novel since last fall.

    And don’t get me started on bad, unproductive writing habits. I’m completely sympathetic to your plight. Konrath blogged about a writer he knew that passed away last summer. I was stunned because I actually knew her back in college. I never stayed in touch with her but looked up her info: 40 novels since her first in 1996! That’s a novel every three months for ten years!

    My output since then: a dozen rightfully aborted novels and screenplays. Looking at turning 40 this summer and feeling pathetic. Let’s get going.

    Dave

    Like

  35. wo3lf says:

    Thanks for that insight JD. I think you have given some context to my context. lol

    Like

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Cheers wo3lf. I notice that you said in another post that you had to ‘make up for twenty years of no-writing’. Great! Think of all the stories you haven’t yet told. It’s like your own private bank.🙂

      Like

  36. Cora says:

    What helped me to boost my productivity was getting into the habit of writing every single day (rather than in bursts when I felt like it) and tracking my daily wordcount in Excel. I’m still not a fast writer by any means, but my daily average is over 1000 words per day now and going up.

    Anyway, good luck for the challenge, David.

    Like

  37. Pingback: you must stay drunk on writing. « fayebooks

  38. Glad to see you on board, David!

    Like

  39. Pull the plug, Dave – for one month:

    Don’t blog. Don’t do anything of that sort.

    Just write.

    If you absolutely *have* to blog, then at least just do short posts on your progress here.

    Find your power-time of the day, get up and do it. Mine is the first hour in the morning, before all the other distractions set in.

    In the beginning it will be hard, but after the first week or so you will become ‘un-frozen’. I’ve used a program called ‘Write or Die’ myself to help me through that phase – it’s great for overcoming the perfectionism that may seep into that early draft and spoil progress (*grin*). (You can google it up.)

    Anyway, I take time out in periods to do just that – ‘unfreeze myself’. For example I wrote 5 flash fiction stories (approx 1000 words each) during 5 days in Christmas, after I had felt stuck for awhile with the actual production. None of those stories are mature enough yet to be published on the market, but at least they are produced – the very first step, eh?

    My personal challenge during X-mas was to write a finished story each day. That motivated me. I love finished pieces, no matter how small they are. But it could just as well have been scenes or chapters in a larger story.

    Do it.

    Like

  40. Yeah… I’m up for it.
    :0)

    Like

  41. Hi everyone. I’m outlining like a madman today, so I don’t have time to respond to all the comments individually – hopefully tonight – but I just wanted to say thank you for all the support, and it’s great to hear some of you are joining in too.

    I’ve dug out all my notes on this book. It was the one I was outlining just before I decided to start self-publishing – so I haven’t worked on this idea since March last year. Reading over my notes now – little experiments trying to nail the voice, vague structure outlines, character notes, historical events I want to work in – and I’m very excited about this. I’ve had to hold myself back from starting today; I’m really raring to go. I feel good about this challenge. Failure may be likely – probable even – but I’m going to give it a shot and just blitz this sucker!

    Later!

    Like

  42. P.S.

    UK readers: “If You Go Into The Woods” finally went free in the UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004YTI01Y

    It’s not going to be free long, so grab it while you can!

    Like

  43. WOW Looks like you have a lot of support. I can’t participate in the challenge, as I’ve got loads of editing to do right now. But I’m sure you can do it! And I hope you’ll be keeping us posted on your progresss. I’ll cheer you on! *grin*

    :} Cathryn

    Like

  44. LKWatts says:

    Hi David,

    I’m a slow writer, I write with pen and paper as well. But I do write everyday. Always. At least 5 days a week – usually it’s 6. I read a blog post the other day about slow writing but found it inspiring. It said that if you just write 300 words a day five days a week you will have an average length novel in 9 months. That doesn’t sound too long, does it?

    I aim for at least 500 words a day. Sometimes I can write a 1,000. Sometimes I struggle to write a 100. But I make myself write every day even when I don’t feel like it. If I didn’t write everyday I think it would take me years to write just one book.

    So maybe that’s something to consider. Maybe it’s not how much you write in one go but the frequency of your writing sessions.

    I’ll try and find that post and bring it back to you.

    Like

  45. asraidevin says:

    I skimmed through the comments and didn’t find this link (I may have missed i though) http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-i-went-from-writing-2000-words-day.html

    How one author went from writing 2000 to 10,000 words a day. She has 3 simple tips that work for her.

    Like

  46. LKWatts says:

    http://writetodone.com/2012/01/23/writing-secrets-of-prolific-authors/

    It wasn’t this post but it does mention the timing issue of writing books and how many words you have to do… etc. I think it might be worth a read.

    Like

  47. J S says:

    Writing 4,000 words a day seems to be the popular target.
    Why is that? And not 2,000 or 10,000?

    I’ve set up my treadmill as a walking desk – and ‘stepped up’ my writing challenge.
    During December I did my 50k .. walking. At about a thousand words a mile.
    So I figure my last novel took me on a 75 mile journey to finish it.

    .

    Like

  48. I need to write more…words.

    Like

  49. I’ve been in a slump since the end of NaNo myself. The excuses that magically became less demanding during November swamped back in after the last day and the 50k mark. I haven’t even come close to finding the end of my characters. I am even finding more to them and their history. I even started my own blog to try and kick myself in the butt to finish.

    So I agree to your challenge of 60k words in 29 days. Whether I make it or not, I relish the idea of having that daily challenge once more to meet or to be left behind.

    Like

  50. John Hooper says:

    Hi David.

    I hope you pull off the Lee Christmas novel. Sounds like an intriguing guy–judging by his Wikipedia page. I would love to read more historical novels about Central America. I know and love the whole area and I find its history fascinating. Good luck.

    Like

  51. Well Dave, it’s 1st February!
    Game on, mate.
    And if you’re reading this, you probably shouldn’t be… get back to work :0)
    Tony

    Like

  52. Dave says:

    Duh

    29 days…Feb. We’re starting tonight. Ah well, will consider last nights healthy output a warm up. Always work your way up to strenuous activities.

    Off and running here.

    Like

  53. Melissa says:

    You’ve written more words than that, Dave. You’re not taking into account your blog.

    Like

  54. My top three days writing to date were about 20,000 words, about 25,000 words, and about 24,000 words respectively. And yes, those were November 30th of 2009, 2010, and 2011, why do you ask?😉

    Writing lots of words is nothing special. It is quite literally just a matter of sitting down at the keyboard (or pen and paper, if you prefer) for a really, really, REALLY long time and putting words down. Each of those days represented twelve-sixteen hours of writing.

    Come on, you never put in a double shift at work? It’s tough, but we all do it sometimes. Sixteen hours at the keyboard isn’t any more stressful than sixteen hours as a nurse taking care of acute patients, I promise you!

    My main issue is similar to yours, David – I’m inconsistent, and don’t work well enough yet with self imposed deadlines. And I have three young children who make writing very difficult most of the time.😉

    This year I’m in school full time, working part time, taking care of kids age 5, 5, and 3, AND trying to write 366,000 new words. It’s going to be an interesting year.

    I’ll hop on board for this February thing. I need to; I’m behind for the year on my word count target, and 60k words in Feb would catch me up and then some.

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  55. Pingback: 60,000 words in two months « Paris Franz

  56. Logging in. Of course Australia is ahead of America and Europe. (I mean that in the nicest possible way). When I stopped at 8.30pm, I had done 1785 words. I do not know how I would have gone with my usual writing. Today, I finished re-writing ACT I Romeo and Juliet, set it in an Australian rural town, circa 1920. Looking forward to reading other reports tomorrow. Good luck, all.

    Like

  57. I’ll try and respond to all the comments later, but here’s quick update on the challenge.

    1,000 words done already, I’ll knock out the next 1,000 after a short break. In the spirit of “Opposite George” I’m attempting to write straight-to-laptop and it’s working well – so far at least – mostly thanks to the Freedom program blocking internet access for me (it’s really great).

    I did about an hour of prep work (research, bullet points on the chapter I’m about to write, notes for future chapters etc.), then it took about 80 minutes to write those 1,000 words, which is a great pace for me.

    I’ll take a 20 minute break now and work on the second half of this chapter, which should bring me to just over 2,000 words for today. If I still feel good after that, I’ll try and crack on a little more, but I think I have a good bit of research to do for the next chapter first.

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  58. Congratulations on going for 2000 a day. I agree with many of the other writers that often we let our lives get in the way of getting the writing done. Still, for myself, I will set a goal of doubling my daily word count and be cheering for all the rest going for the brass ring. All the best!

    Like

  59. Ben Banks says:

    David,
    I have had the pleasure of 2 and 3k word writing days ove the last couple of years. Now that I’m rewriting a manuscript and writing 2 blogs, I always do at least 3 pages a day solid. That can range between 1000-1500 words for the day and I believe that if you at least maintain that goal line each day, when you have moments of inspiration and it translates to more than your usual output, those are the high points to cherish. Striving to write more words just to reach a nimber sacrifices the quality that can be the foundation of your text when it comes to the point to do rewrites.
    In writing, quality over quantity wins every time.

    Like

    • Not exactly, Ben.

      Quality wins, yes. But quantity doesn’t imply a lack of quality. Or to put it another way – if a book is going to take 200 hours to write and revise WELL, the quality is not impacted by the time in months it takes to get those 200 hours done. (The 200 hours just for an example, not to imply that’s the “right time” for writing a given book.)

      The key to writing more quantity while retaining quality? Spend more hours writing.

      Unfortunately, easier said than done, a lot of the time.😉

      Like

      • Ben Banks says:

        Well, I’m sure you have more years of experience and know your limits when it comes to producing good work. For me, I psychically shut down after 2k or 2.5k words, especially when using adaptive recall. I find that chasing a higher number (though I would love to write 5k a day) becomes the goal if I’m having a weak day.
        Thanks for the reply though!

        Like

      • I totally hear that, Ben, and I definitely didn’t mean any offense. Yes, I’ve been writing a long time. For me, “pushing” means putting in a 20k word day. Which I can do. And I’m usually wiped out for days afterward, creatively spent. (So I don’t do it often, since it’s really not worthwhile in terms of overall output.)

        My feeling is that writing is a lot like running. When you start out, you get tired early. But if you keep running say a mile a day (hard but not impossible for most folks), over time that run gets easier. And eventually you realize you still have something left at the end of the mile. In fact, you can do another mile. Train long enough at two miles, and you’ll find you can do five.

        Likewise, writing for *more hours* is just a matter of training your mind to endure the effort involved. Write that thousand words a day, every day. After some time, add to it. You’ll find you can. I know folks who started at 1k a day and today they can put in 10k days, if they can free up enough hours in the day.

        Anyway, keep plugging, and keep challenging yourself. 😉

        Like

      • Ben Banks says:

        Absolutely. I agree with everything you say.
        Cheers

        Like

  60. Ben Banks says:

    and I didn’t even edit…shame on me!

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  61. J. R. Nova says:

    I agree, quality and quantity don’t always equal out, especially on a first draft. Just because you wrote 500 words instead of 5,000 doesn’t mean the 500 will be better. I’d rather get a bigger total so I have more to work with later on in the editing process. That’s when words are made good, that’s when quality comes in. On a rough draft I want to write as much crap as I possibly can and see what happens.

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  62. Dave says:

    J.R.

    That’s me as well, got my 2k done last night, looked over it this morning. Rough and not entirely concise (to anyone but me)? Yup. Carppy even? Maybe? But I have my 2k word mound of clay to start shaving and beating into some kinda shape which beats an empty slate anyday.

    Like

  63. Yesterday was easy.

    Today was a momentous struggle. But I clocked in at 2,673 words in the end. I was really surprised when I checked the word count – I wasn’t sure if I was even close to the target – it was like pulling teeth all day.

    But it’s words in the bank, and puts me a little ahead of target, which is nice.

    Like

  64. Dave says:

    2500-2600-ish words; I told myself that would be the daily goal. Get ahead and stay ahead instead of lagging and saying I’ll just do an extra 500 the next day. I put my in my work in the evenings after the kids are asleep and the wife relinquishes the laptop. Last night was easy, all bright eyed and full of energy. Tonight will suck but as you said, no more excuses.

    Thank God for outlining. Just follow the map kids, follow the map.

    Dave

    Like

  65. Best of luck with your writing challenge! I finally motivated myself to start walking 5 miles per day and am working on increasing that, but my writing has fallen behind after completing my last novel.😦 Maybe I’ll try to semi-participate in the February Writing Challenge on the Kindle Boards, meaning see if I can make the daily amount while knowing that right now I can’t do that every day.

    Like

  66. Oh, and good luck specifically with writing BANANAS FOR CHRISTMAS. Sounds like a fascinating book!🙂

    Like

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  69. I have a theory: slow writers require less rewriting. Am I right? (I can’t say, seeing as I’m of the rapid type. No pun intended. ;))

    Like

    • I don’t know about anyone else, but, last year, the stuff I wrote quickest was the stuff that needed the least rewriting.

      Like

      • Kevin O. McLaughlin says:

        That tends to match my own experience. When I produce more hours work per day, I notice a sharp increase in quality and a sharp decrease in changes suggested by my editor.

        Like

  70. Char says:

    “The first draft took three years and three months. I remember because the first half of the book took me three years, and the second half only three months!”

    I have a similar story on the 1st draft of my novel – 2 years for the first half; 11 months for the 2nd half. I’m hoping that’s a sign that I’m picking up speed. I’m just starting revisions, hoping I can turn the piece over to betas in about 3 months.

    Thanks for the links to Dean’s and Zoe’s posts. I need all the inspiration and tips I can find. I don’t want to spend 3 years writing novel #2.

    Good luck on your 60,000 words. I’ll be watching & cheering along with everyone else.

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  71. Pingback: Writing, Motivation, and Exercise « the dog ate my novel

    • I’m not sure I buy the arguments given there. 😉

      1) You get to enjoy the process.
      Yes, you do. But if you enjoy the process, won’t you enjoy it just as much doing it 20 hours a week as you do one hour a week? Writing “faster” simply means spending more hours writing. If writing is already fun for you, isn’t that a win-win?

      2) It sets you up for success.
      There’s zero evidence of any connection between writing less hours per week and higher quality writing. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. Write more hours, and because you’re working more at something, your work tends to improve faster. More good work out the door per year sets you up for success better than anything else can, in writing.

      3) It releases some of the pressure.
      Agreed. If you’re writing very part time, like the writer of the essay (one book taking over two years is VERY part time), then obviously that will have less pressure than if you’re treating writing like a serious full time job, or even a serious part-time job. Hobbies are low stress things, generally speaking. There is a distinct difference between a hobby writer and a professional – most of it focused around how many of their waking hours are spent writing.

      4) It let’s (sic) you make sure life doesn’t “pass you by” in the process.
      Yes and no. I don’t write full time. I spend time, instead, working another job. I don’t really have a choice to just “jump” to writing full time. Most of us don’t – those nasty “bill” things.😉 But assuming your goal is writing as a career (it’s not, for all writers), then the more time you can commit to the endeavor, the faster you will reach that goal. Full time writers “miss out” on less than most of us do, because they’re just doing their full time writing job, whereas we must work another job, and still fit in writing as well.

      5) It let’s (sic) you honor your purpose.
      That aside, I don’t see how it honors one’s purpose more to write only a book every two years instead of writing four a year. The author implies that writing slowly means writing better quality, but as pointed out repeatedly in this comment thread, there’s no evidence of that. Generally, writing “slower” simply means you’re not working as many hours at the process. Working less hours per week at something does not improve the quality of the end result. Working less hours per week also doesn’t seem to me to honor the purpose more than working more hours per week; if anything, I think the reverse is true.

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  73. gigipense says:

    I love this post! Sometimes I feel so guilty for not being able to get the words out, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone! I’ve got to get 70,000 by the end of the month, so I’m definitely feeling the need for speed.

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  74. Rebecca Fyfe says:

    I have the same problem. I procrastinate if I don’t have a deadline. Last NaNoWriMo, I write 50,000 words in 14 days and completed 75,180 words by the end of the month (having taken it a little bit easier in the last two weeks of the month to preserve my sanity). I know my novel could be complete by now. I could have several novels complete by now. But I have taken on a lot of other projects which seem to get in the way.

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  75. Lene says:

    I simply can’t – I have a chronic illness and disability and the pain levels and varying ability levels of each day force me to be a lot more flexible in terms of what I expect of myself. However, I am (still) editing my book and have a bad habit of letting everything else take precedence. Probably because editing can make you feel like you’re a shite writer. I need to get this done and stop getting sidetracked (so I can get back to writing, which I miss terribly). I’m not quite sure what parameters to set around this, but your goal – challenge? – Is motivation to figure it out. And then maybe be public about it.

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    • J.D.Hughes says:

      It’s not the amount that matters, Lene. We all have a natural speed and whilst it is a good idea to employ discipline in one’s writing, setting targets can mean mining three thousand lumps of coal per day, instead of five hundred diamonds. Is it preferable to write a novel in three weeks and then spend six months editing it? Or vice versa?

      Editing? It’s the way the devil punishes a writer for daring to seek truth and beauty🙂

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      • Lene says:

        several years ago, when things were much worse for me than they are now, my goal was to do something that involve writing for a half an hour a day. Reading about writing counted, as did thinking about writing. I’m better now, but when I get frustrated, I remind myself that it took Laura Hillenbrand (who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) 10 years to write Seabiscuit. Not that I’m in her league, but y’know… persistence. Head down, blinders on, one step at a time. You’ll get there.

        And that line about editing is effin’ brilliant. Plan to quote you extensively.😉

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  77. Pingback: Writers on Writing: I Guest Blog on Kathleen Valentine’s Site « matthew iden

  78. Reblogged this on My Cozy Little House and commented:
    In the spirit of NaNoWriMo…

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