I get lots of questions about writing fast and how I do it? Often the question goes something like this: “How do you put out so many books?” Or more bluntly, “I wish I could write as fast as you, how do you do it?” Or they hear I have sold over 90 novels and just shake their heads in disbelief.
They often treat me like I have some secret. Nope, no secret. I just plant my butt in my chair longer than most writers. Nothing more.
Actually, I am what is known as a sprint writer, while my wife, Kris, is a steady writer. We both type about the same number of words per hour when going, anywhere from a page to three pages an hour, maybe four when a story is really moving. But she works a set amount per day, while I tend to take large chunks of time off playing around with other things, then when I write, I do long sessions, day after day, often late into the night.
I do that because I discovered that is what works best for me. I wish I could be more like Kris, but it seems my brain likes to work hard and fast and long, then take long breaks off.
So how do I write so fast? Answer, I don’t. But I am a professional writer, so I report for work, and when I report for work, I work. Of course, that answer never really makes anyone happy, so I tell the person asking to go ahead and just do the math.
One page per day, a simple 250 words, more than likely an amount shorter than this post, will get a writer to finish a 90,000 word plus novel in one year. Fred Pohl, a grandmaster of science fiction, wrote four pages every day no matter what. And he did that for decades and decades. He often wouldn’t allow himself to do anything else until his four pages were done. That turns into three or four novels a year.
I am like almost every other writer I have ever talked to. I struggle with openings, I have to often drag myself through the middle, and I write like a mad man when nearing the end of a book. I can spend days trying to figure out an opening on a novel, writing drafts and tossing them away, until I get the right opening. I can spend chunks of a book writing one or two pages an hour, and other chunks of the same book writing three or four pages per hour.
So, back to doing the math. Let’s say I can manage an average of 500 words per hour on a novel. Let’s say I am under an extreme deadline for a publisher, so I work ten hours a day, not counting taking time off for lunch, a nap, dinner, another nap. So I do that, I manage 5,000 words a day at the pace of two pages an hour. Actually, on days like that I tend to get about 7,000 words.
At that pace, I always have down days or bad days, so figure one of those every five days or so. That means I am writing about 40,000 words a week, a novel in about three weeks, give or take. But that’s under pressure when I have been paid to write fast.
Really, I am lazy. (Remember, I do nothing else but write.) So most of the time I manage, when under an easier deadline, to get about four hours a day in. That produces about 2,500 words a day. That pace takes me about seven to eight weeks to write a book. Then, of course, because I worked so hard at 4 hours a day, I have to take a month or so off and just play around. <g>
That still produces four or five books a year and causes me to get all those questions about how I write so fast. But the reality is just simple math. Put one page on your novel every day and in a year you have a finished book. Put two pages and it will take you six months to write a book and you will be considered very fast.
Write four pages a day and you write about four books a year and you have to write under pen names or in romance, where they like that pace for their authors. It is just math, nothing more. No great secret.
Of course, there are very few of us on this planet who can do what I think is simple. Everyone has their excuses and reasons why they don’t write, why they can’t make it to the computer to write 500 words, but yet can write huge blogs like this one, and a ton of e-mail. I call these excuses the “myths” of writing, and there are a ton of them. We spend a lot of time in the workshops we teach helping writers through the myths.
Professional writers who get to the computer and finish books regularly have worked through or over or around most of the myths of fiction writing. Me, I just follow Heinlein’s Rules and keep going. They worked for him and hundreds of other professional writers, and they work for me just fine. In fact, without those rules, I doubt I would be a professional writer, and I doubt I would be known as a fast writer.
So, to answer the question about how to write fast one last time (I wish). Simply put your butt in the chair and type regularly until the book is done, then repeat on the next book and then repeat again on the next book. Beyond that, there is no right way, just the way that works for you. But until you plant the butt and type, nothing else matters.