The Problem of Writing Faster… You Get Better…

I mentioned this in yesterday’s post and it went right past most everyone. So I figured I would tap dance on this concept a little to see if it would help a few people.

What is Writing Fast?

As I said yesterday, writing fast doesn’t mean you write sloppy or type faster. Or take shortcuts with plotting or story.

Writing faster is simply spending more time in the chair telling stories.

That’s it.

Every moment you are in the chair writing you are doing the best you can. You just spend more moments in a day and a week is all.

An example… If you write one hour per day, five days per week, for 50 weeks per year and write 1,000 words per hour, you create 250,000 words. If you write 25 of those weeks with original words and 25 of those weeks rewriting as English teachers tell you that you must do, you create 125,000 words of original fiction in one year.

Many who believe in all the myths, including the rewriting myth, would be happy to get that many words in a year. (And they will have their family and friends conned into thinking they have worked hard on “the” novel.)

That many words is one or so novels a year and you are considered “golden” by all the people who believe in the myths of writing. You have struggled for your art as everyone thinks any good artist should do.

Now, what happens if you followed Heinlein’s Rules, didn’t rewrite, and spent three hours telling stories every day, 5 days per week, 50 weeks per year???

3 hours per day at 1,000 words per hour.

15,000 words per week times 50 weeks.

Instead of creating 125,000 words the other way, you would create 750,000 original words. Finished stories. Stories that if you followed Heinlein’s Rules, you would have out for readers to buy.

But here is the problem:  At that rate you would be considered a fast writer and have to put up with the shit I put up with.

That’s right. You practice more, just spend more time writing, and you get known as being a fast writer. Oh, oh…

Then the critics, the myth-believers, don’t think you have struggled for your art. And they will actively work to slow you down.

And just suppose you do that for decades as I have done and you’ll end up having around twenty-one million of your books in print as I do. That number might be higher. I think Kevin J. Anderson is up around 28 million now and he and I started about the same time. No telling how many books some of the real modern pulp writers have sold.

I had one guy write me privately yesterday telling me how I was wrong about writing fast, about rewriting and that my sales proved it. I guess he looked at a few of my books on Amazon or something silly like that. He was all proud that he had just hit 100,000 of his books sold and I should listen to him. I just laughed.

I shouldn’t have laughed, but I did. He should be proud of selling that many books as a baby writer. Imagine how proud he’s going to be when he’s sold a million copies. (He won’t get there with that attitude, but I’m not telling him that.)

So Writing Fast Makes You a Better Writer

So many aspects of writing is training. You have to keep learning and studying how-to-write books and in workshops and more importantly from other writers’ works. You have to keep reading for pleasure.

Creating stories, coming up with the ideas, is just training. You can’t do it when only doing one or two stories a year. But do a dozen novels or thirty short stories and the idea muscle starts to kick in.

There is a really stupid commercial on television at the moment of someone going into a gym, doing one sit-up and leaving and thinking that’s enough to stay healthy and in shape. The commercial is done to show the stupidity of such thinking.

Yet that is the same silly thinking writers have about this topic exactly.

Two hours a week will make them rich with their writing, make them a bestseller. Uhhh, no.

By spending more time, storytelling gets easier. And you get better at it. And readers buy more of your books.

This is called practice, folks. That’s twice I have used that dirty word in two days, but alas, practice is as important to writers as any other artist or athlete.

More Evil Math…

Look back at your last year. How many words did you produce last year?

Figure out how fast you write (how much you write in an hour) and divide that into the number of words.

That gives you the number of hours you practiced last year.

If you finished that 120,000 words and wrote at 1,000 words per hour, in an entire year you practiced 120 hours. Or about 10 hours per month. Or just over 2 hours a week.

Your family is thankful at that amount of practice you are not trying to learn the violin, let me tell you.

An example… Let’s take one of my normal to good years in writing as an example. Say I did 1 million words of fiction. About what I call Pulp Speed One.

I write around 1,000 words an hour. So at that rate I practiced about 1,000 hours to get that million words. (Remember I write clean finished copy at that rate.)

That’s about 84 hours per month. Or about 20 hours per week.

That means I am practicing ten times more every week than someone writing at what critics think of as a normal speed.

I am learning ten times more as well.

I am also producing more product to sell and my storytelling skills, since I also keep studying, are getting better.

So you practice two hours a week at your violin, I practice 20 hours a week. Who is quickly more talented?

Any wonder I have over 21 million of my books in print?

It Never Ends…

Back when I started off following Heinlein’s Rules in 1982, I printed out that saying “It Never Ends” and I framed it under glass in a frame that was easy to get into. Then, as I sold a story, I opened up the frame and wrote the name of the story and the magazine or anthology I sold it to on that sign.

I kept that sign on my wall until there was no longer room to write any more of my sales on it.

I did that to remind myself that the learning never ends. Following Heinlein’s Rules never ends.

I now have over 150 novels sold and four or five hundred short stories sold. I have made my living at this business of writing fiction since 1988. And I focus every day on learning something about the business and the craft.

And as writers we fight a two-front battle. We fight the battle of getting better and practicing as a storyteller. And we face the mental battles that stop us from reaching that potential.

One of the great mental battles is the belief that spending too many hours writing is a bad thing. Writers really believe that if you practice too much, you might hurt yourself.

One of the really stupid aspects of this craft, but a real one.

Good luck in the battle. I hope you get to the point in your writing when other writers are telling you to slow down.

Don’t do it. They are just trying to pull you down to their level.

And remember to have fun.