How Fast Must You Write To Be A Successful Author?

How to Write Faster (and Why Maybe You Shouldn’t)

How Fast Must You Write To Be A Successful Author?

Today, I’m going to be contradictory: first, I’m going to show you how to master a killer skill (namely, how to write faster)–and then I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t use it.

There are two reasons you might be interested in learning how to write faster:

1. Your daily word count is abysmal and you’re having trouble creating any kind of forward momentum in your daily writing sessions.

2. You want to write faster in order to finish and publish more books more quickly, in order to meet the demands and take advantage of the opportunities provided by today’s book market.

The first reason is pretty self-explanatory. But let’s take just a minute to look more closely at the second.

The 3-Step Formula for Being a Successful Author

Did you know there is a (not-so-)secret formula for succeeding as an author these days? It’s a three-part formula:

1. Write awesome books (preferably genre and preferably in a series).

2. Learn a few important marketing hacks.

3. Write at least one book a year.

If you want to make a living in the Wild West of today’s independent digital gold rush, then this is the formula that represents just about every novelist who’s made it work for them.

This presents a tremendous opportunity for talented, determined writers. It also puts a lot of pressure on young, hungry authors to write fast and churn out books. There are both pros and cons to that realization.

(Probable) Benefits to Writing Faster

  • More books/more earnings
  • Good writing habits of discipline, focus, and drive
  • Compounded writing experience (the more books you write, the more you learn about the process)

(Potential) Drawbacks to Writing Faster

  • Lower quality of story and prose
  • Less enjoyment in the process
  • More stress
  • Muddied priorities

All of these considerations should give you pause for thought (both excited and cautious), since every single one will affect your writing, your career, and even your life. In weighing these considerations, what it all comes down to is your personal priorities–which we’re going to talk about more in just a sec. But, first, the practicalities of how you can learn to write like the wind!

Write Like the Wind Bullseye

How to Write Faster in 3 Steps

I’m not the fastest writer on the planet, but neither am I the slowest. For me, 1,500 (good) words an hour isn’t unusual. This isn’t anywhere close to, say, Chris Fox’s impressive 5,000 words an hour. But it was enough to have one guy insist I either had to be lying or writing the sloppiest first draft of the century.

I consider this rate neither slow nor super-speedy. It’s a rate I’m quite happy with. I have to push myself a little to achieve it, but I don’t have to sacrifice quality, hurt my wrists, or feel stressed out by this pace.

Please note, this is only a guideline idea against which to measure your own pace. I’m not saying this is the right pace: I’m saying this is my pace.

Here’s how to write faster and achieve your optimal writing pace:

1. Plan

Achieving success begins and ends with having a realistic goal. How many words do you want to write in an hour? Once you know that, you can start breaking your overall goal down into bite-sized chunks. I divide my hour into quarters. My goal is to write 300 words every 15 minutes (a goal I often surpass by 100 words or so).

I know this is an achievable goal for me, since this is a rate at which I can easily write without unnecessarily pushing myself, as long as I don’t let myself stop.

To start with, figure out a pace at which you’re comfortable right now. This isn’t necessarily the pace you want to be at, but you have to start where you’re at. Don’t make things unnecessarily difficult for yourself in the beginning. Start within your comfort zone. As you accustom yourself to your new habits, you can raise your goals,

2. Practice

The idea of writing faster can be intimidating at first. It’s a muscle you must build, like any other. Start with something easy: say, 100 words per 15 minutes. If you achieve that easily, up it to 200 words, then 300, until you find your ceiling.

Find a pattern that’s comfortable. I’ll write for 15 minutes, check my word count, take a drink of water, eat a piece of chocolate, whatever, then start the next 15-minute cycle. You could get up from the computer, stretch, fold the laundry–whatever feels right after your first 15 minutes.

As soon as you’re comfortable with your current mini-goal, up it just a little bit–but nothing too overwhelming. All you need to do is take baby steps, one at a time, until you reach the top of the mountain. You don’t have to climb it all in one day.

3. Prioritize

Writing quickly requires absolute focus. This means eliminating distractions. Go to the bathroom, put your earbuds in, lock the dog outside, and for heaven’s sakes turn off the Internet. You need 15 minutes to hour an of uninterrupted writing time.

If you want to achieve quality writing right out of the gate–the kind that doesn’t require twice as much time to edit afterwards–you also need to have a clear understanding of what you will be writing today. I couldn’t achieve the word counts, the quality first drafts, or the intensity of focus I do without my detailed outlines. Because I already have my story plotted and my scenes choreographed, I don’t have to stop and think about what happens next: I can simply write.

Speed vs. Stamina: They’re Not the Same Thing

See? Writing fast is actually very easy. The hardest thing about it is just sitting down to do it. In fact, this intense amount of required discipline is probably the single greatest benefit you’ll gain from learning how to write faster. That acquired discipline is also the reason I would never discourage a writer who wants to learn how to write faster.

In short, as Rachel Aaron talks about in her book 2,000 to 10,000, stamina is by far the more valuable asset than is the speed itself. Stamina/discipline is arguably the single greatest quality of any successful writer.

In 5000 Words Per Hour, Chris Fox teaches you how to write faster.I often talk about how finishing novels is one of the most important habits any author can establish. In 5,000 Words Per Hour, Chris Fox astutely points out that:

The vast majority of writers will never finish a short story, much less a novel…. Completing projects teaches characterization, plotting, pacing, and a whole host of other parts to your craft. You complete entire novels by cranking out thousands of words each and every day. As of this writing I’ve written seven novels. Every last one has massively improved my skills, and I now crank out better novels faster than ever.

Learning to write faster teaches you to write with stamina. Sitting down for an hour to write 1,500 (or more) words is not the same as sitting down for an hour to write 300 words. This isn’t to say those hard-fought, carefully-considered 300 words aren’t useful and important, but grinding out 5 words a minute–with lots of thinking, tinkering, hemming, hawing, and (probably) hair-pulling mixed in–doesn’t instill the same powerful habits of stamina and discipline as does writing 20 or more words per minute.

However (big however here): stamina and speed are not the same thing. Don’t feel you can achieve admirable stamina only by writing a gazillion words per hour. Stamina is stamina. Focus is focus. Discipline is discipline. When you’ve gained these habits, you’ll know it–and it’s no knock on your accomplishment if you’re not writing thousands of words to the hour.

That brings to me to my entire reason for sharing this post.

Why I Refuse to Write Faster

You see it everywhere these days: the demand for speed. We all want to be successful writers, and if the hack for achieving that success is to write faster and produce more books, then how can we help feeling the pressure to reach that goal?

I feel that pressure–perhaps more than most, since my fiction defies the common-sense marketing formula in just about every way possible: I don’t write genre fiction, I don’t even write the same genre every time, I don’t write series (yet), and I publish only one novel every three years.

Whenever I sit down to brainstorm marketing techniques for my fiction, I see the biggest answer staring me right in the face: write for the market. Write faster, churn out a couple books a year–heck maybe even one every other month. (And, shoot, why not just go ahead and start writing romance or thrillers while I’m at it?) I have absolutely zero doubt that if I were to do this, my fiction sales would easily double or triple within the first year.

Believe me. I feel the pressure.

And I fight it.

I fight it for two reasons. The first reason is, simply, that I don’t feel I could maintain the same level of quality in my books if I were to rush the overall process. (And that’s just me: there are certainly writers out there who can write an awesome book in a month.)

The second reason is, by far, the more important. It’s the trump card. It’s what reins in my marketing brain’s enthusiasm every single time. The second reason is this:

If I were to force myself to write any faster, I would lose something precious.

Learning how to write faster isn't always a good thing for your happiness as a writer.

Simply put, I don’t want to write my novels any faster. I enjoy the fact that a first draft generally takes me about a year to write. I love getting to spend that amount of time on one story. I love that each story gets to have a sense of weight within my life. Indeed, each book gets to be an entire chapter in my life–rather than a TV serial on binge-watch, quickly conceived, quickly enjoyed, quickly discarded.

I feel very blessed to be able to write full-time, but that experience has also made me aware of how easy it is to lose your passion and joy in something once you try to start monetizing it. I have to make it a conscious priority every single day not to let the obvious path to a dollar dictate to my art–not to let it overwhelm or destroy what is the heart of it all, the reason for it all.

I write because I love it. I would write if I never earned a dollar, if I were never read. That is why I do not make choices for my fiction based on what is best for the market. That is why I choose (at this stage in my life anyway) not to write any faster than I already do.

That’s my priority.

Who’s Dictating Your Writing Speed: You or the Market?

If you haven’t figured this out already, let me say it point-blank: There’s no right speed at which to write your novel. There is only the right speed for you based on your personal priorities.

Should You Be Writing Faster Infographic Helping Writers Become Authors K.M. Weiland

What’s most important for you is figuring out what those priorities are. Ask yourself:

  • Do you have trouble finishing novels?
  • Do you have trouble mustering daily discipline or regular word counts?
  • Do you have trouble focusing during your writing session?
  • Do you struggle to stop tinkering with your unfinished first draft?

Then you will undoubtedly find answers and personal improvement in following the above tips for learning how to write faster.

  • Do you want to be able to take advantage of more marketing tricks for your fiction?
  • Do you want to sell more books?
  • Do you want to build your audience faster?

Then, very likely, writing faster and publishing more frequently will help you accomplish that. (By the way, this is a totally legitimate quest. I’m in no way suggesting you’re selling out, if this what you desire and this is the route you decide to take. Just make sure you’re taking it for the right reasons and with a full awareness of what you may be sacrificing.)

  • Are you already a consistent writer with a steady, disciplined daily pace?
  • Do you enjoy the pace at which you’re currently writing?
  • If you had to choose between selling more books and following your own artistic preferences, would you choose the latter?
  • Do you believe you would compromise the quality of your writing if you produced faster?

If so, don’t pressure yourself into feeling you must double, triple, or quadruple your daily word count. If you choose this route, will you, too, be called upon to make sacrifices? Absolutely. Will you sell as many books and make as much money as authors who are writing faster? Impossible to say for certain, but it does lower the odds.

No answer to any of these questions is the wrong answer. None of these is a wrong choice. But make sure you understand your priorities, your goals, and the pros and cons of each decision you make as a writer.

Not too long ago, as I was just beginning to contemplate this post, I received an email from Patrick Hart, who wrote:

I just finished listening to an episode [of your podcast] in which you discussed how fast one should write their novel. It is nice to know there are others out there like myself that take the tortoise route…. So thank you for the renewed faith in my work ethic.

Learning how to be a successful writer is a goal we all share. But I think we can all agree that learning to be a happy writer is even more important. Finding the right pace for your writing can help you balance both success and happiness. Here’s to that!

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Do you feel that learning how to write faster would help or hinder your writing process at this point? Tell me why in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes).

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. Splendid post here with good tips on being a happy writer as well as productive. Being a new writer there is pressure that have to get your story out fast and furious. Writing for the market as a slave.

    A few of the most helpful things to me are:
    1. Committed to learning the craft- James S. Bell
    2. Spend time to learn the craft first- Jerry Jenkins
    3. Writing process of KM Weiland – quality vs quantity. Taking the time to produce the best work.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Steven Pressfield had a really nice point in his book The War of Art. He paraphrased Robert McKee in saying that a hack is someone who “doesn’t ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for.” The sweet spot is when the market just happens to want what’s in your heart.

  2. I have that book and can’t wait to read it. Unfortunately I’ve only got one set of eyeballs to work with. Kind of frustrating actually.

    The writing tis were great. Since I have some momentum I’m only sticking to a time duration. Ad I progress Ill add a mimium wordcount and so forth. Stamina, being a happy writer is a very healthy word to hear. I’m finding that a ton of writers never finish their work for various reasons. Having an idea a quite easy, but completing a novel takes character, discipline, execution, and good ol’ fashioned elbow grease. Er maybe finger grease.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I went through a period where I loathed word-count goals. For most of my career, I’ve written to timed goals instead and had good success with that. It’s definitely important not to get sucked into pressuring yourself unnecessarily with word-count goals. They work for some people; they don’t work for others.

  3. Colin McCallister says:

    Yeah, I really need to get a better writing habit. I had prom on Thursday so both Thursday and Friday were basically days off because no one shows up; I had a 4 day long weekend. I spent most of the weekend playing video games. I did do some brainstorming though! =). At the same time, you’re a full-time author, and I’m a grade 12 approaching exam time. I kinda need good marks to get into University so writing isn’t my top priority. The problem I have is that I’m too tired to write after school and homework. I think if I devoted time to write after I wake up in the morning, I can actually get some words down.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Priorities are important–and as much as authors harp on writing needing to be the top priority, it won’t always be so. Sometimes work, family, school, and other real-life demands, take precedence. Still, it’s amazing how a little forethought and scheduling can find you some consistent writing time amidst all your other responsibilities. Writing early in the morning is a solid plan that works for many, many people.

  4. Good points. I think 1500 words an hour is great. Some days I only get an hour or two to work on my fiction, and if I walk away with 1-3000 words more than I started with, I am ecstatic! Probably for te same reasons. I don’t want to rush and have an end product that needs too much editing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      For me, too, I find that rushing too much during the process just saps the enjoyment out of it. I’d rather go a little slower, make a little less money–and enjoy what I’m doing to the hilt every day.

  5. “I enjoy the fact that a first draft generally takes me about a year to write. I love getting to spend that amount of time on one story. I love that each story gets to have a sense of weight within my life. Indeed, each book gets to be an entire chapter in my life–rather than a TV serial on binge-watch, quickly conceived, quickly enjoyed, quickly discarded.”

    I love that! Having spent 10 years so far revising my trilogy, I DO like that it’s taken this long, because I’ve gotten to know the characters and world so deeply, and it’s such a huge part of my heart and imagination. Now, moving on after this may be a trick, 😉 but ultimately the time spent has brought huge value to the story itself.

    I can’t exactly speed ahead in my writing, at my stage of life (parenting 4 kids ages 5 and under!) but I can write about 1,000 words in 3 or 4 15 minute sprints, when I’m focused. That’s a pretty good day’s work for me. 🙂 I can knock out one new chapter a week, roughly. Going faster would probably hamper my creative process because I like to put out fairly polished work, and like to have time to process what I just wrote, get feedback from writer friends, tweak as necessary, and gear up for the next scene. I don’t typically write more than one short chapter at a time, at this point. I write one, let it simmer a few days, then come back for more. 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      We live in such a commercialized society. It wants to emphasize making a living in everything we do. And 99% of writers *do* want to make a living off their writing; but we also have to be careful that the pursuit of speed and productivity doesn’t at some point cross that line into sacrificing our passion for our art into a bottom-line pursuit of success and money.

      Sometimes it’s a nice when you have other priorities–e.g., a family–to slow you down and keep you focused on what’s really important.

  6. My writing is best when I write in 30-minute sprints two or three times a day, and usually produce 1,200 words per sprint. But while I have the speed, I lack a lot of the stamina. I get distracted insanely easily, and pretty much NEED the accountability of something to keep me on track for those 30 minutes. Then as I reach the end of a book, I need something closer to a miracle to get me to finish. I’m putting off the last 7,000 words or so of my WIP just because the storyline I’m trying to wrap up isn’t well-built, so I feel like I have to decide how to build it as I end it, instead of just getting SOMETHING down, moving on to the climax, and letting the story sit so I can revise later. (And I love revision.)

    On a macro level, I’ve kept up a pace of a book a year for three years (well, technically two years as I’m only 6 months into book 3), and it seems to work well for me. It’s fast enough that I have to write often, but slow enough that I can take my time when I need to as well.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Sometimes we tend to think that “flaws,” such as lacking stamina are a bad thing. I see them as a neutral thing. Or just “a thing.” We’re all constantly struggling to improve. It’s no slight on any of us that we *have* room for improvement. Hacking the problem by getting an accountability buddy is what matters, not that you *need* an accountability buddy. Good for you for finding your process and making it work!

  7. This post is very timely. I’ve been thinking along the same lines for a while. Another point that fast writers make is that you should still the voice of your internal editor and, while I think this can be a pitfall, I sometimes enjoy pausing for a moment and trying to find that perfect word or rich metaphor. If it doesn’t come, then I put in a line of xxxs and push on. I don’t lose momentum this way, but still retain that joy of writing. I can probably do 1,000 to 1,200 words an hour this way. My problem is usually pulling myself away to spend time on marketing, editing or audio narrating. Occasionally, I allow myself the luxury of staying in ‘the zone’ and putting in four or more hours (with breaks of course.)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I’ve grown to very much enjoy the marketing/business side of writing, but the pitfall I routinely find myself encountering is the temptation to let that side take over. The business side always seems so much more *pressing,* to the point that it’s far too easy to shrug off the writing to do other tasks. I’ve had to create very strict systems and schedules to protect my daily writing time. I have to protect it from myself far more than I have to protect it from others!

  8. Skyline says:

    Hooly, 5k Words per hour? That’s 83 WPM (words per minute) just mechanically and we are not talking about any think-breaks. I can write 60 WPM comfortably if I don’t have to think in the meantime.

    What I’m trying to say is that when people claim they are going fast they are often monsters in the mechanical department (fast fingers) and it’s often not feasible to look up to them. Your 300 words every 15 minutes (20 WPM) sounds very healthy to me and even people with slower fingers can reach that.

    I like that you advocate for writing in a COMFORTABLE speed. Nobody should worry about the quantity when the quality is going to take a hit. When I don’t know where I’m going I might be writing a sentence every five to ten minutes and then think “where am I going?” However when I know exactly where I’m heading I can feel how I’m entering “the zone” and the only thing that’s limiting me then are my fingers.

    I believe that, just as you said, planning and practicing makes for faster writing, but going 5k words per hour is not achievable by just mental progress. That one involves alot of stubborn mechanical practice just to make your fingers faster. If that’s something one wants it’s fine but one shouldn’t be afraid or discouraged just because they plateau at 2k-3k/h due to body limitations. Being that fast and doing it forced and wrong CAN come with injuries (carpal tunnel shenanigans).

    Short: I fully support your vow to take it slowly and/or as fast as it feels natural. There are more important things to improve on than speed. (I read a book yesterday where the climax felt as if somebody was slamming the breaks just to keep up the tension forcefully. It was awful!)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I should point out here that advocates of super-speed, such as Chris Fox, are also generally proponents of dictation–so they’re not necessarily *typing* 5k an hour. I use dictation software for transcribing outlining and research notes, and it really is a great piece of technology. Saves a lot of wear and tear on the ol’ wrists!

      • Skyline says:

        Is dictation really that great? I mean every time I try speech-to-text I have to manually correct alot, but then I don’t know whether there is that certain piece of software that I don’t know about. Or maybe I’m just mumbling. 😉

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          I use Dragon Naturally Speaking, and I’m a big fan. Is it perfect? Definitely not. But it’s fast and it saves wear on my beat-up wrists. I’ve never used it for actual writing–only for transcribing something that’s already written, either my own notes, or other people’s. However, you hear lots of big names these days (Joanna Penn, Chris Fox, Rochelle Melander, to name a few) who are finding great success with it these days. It’s just one of those things that has a relatively steep learning curve.

  9. Publishing a book per year would be impossible for me, since I don’t have enough time to write, revise and edit that fast. What I’m planning though is to prepare the four books of my series to editing point before I publish the first one. Than I could publish one after the other in short intervals and this way take advantage of marketing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Totally agree. People often ask me how I get so much done, but even as a full-time writer, there’s no way I could maintain a production schedule like that. Makes me want to collapse on the hammock with a iced-over glass of lemonade just thinking about it. :p

  10. Excellent advice. I am in the stage of my process where I don’t know the sweet spot myself. But tweaking with different methods might be the only way to figure out. I like your point about loving to spend at least one year with a story. After all, if one goes into mad rush of sprinting draft after draft, there will be a decent chance of not having time to actually enjoy your own work. I will keep that in mind.
    And I really need to try the Pomodoro method myself!
    I am wanting to do that for such a long time, I am the worst.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the sweet spot seems to evolve. What’s right in the beginning may be different in a few years and different again after that. It’s important to stay flexible and always be aware of what feels right creatively and personally.

  11. The next step for me is to insist on writing everyday. I’m have good success writing 1,600 words an hour and I have two hours (broken up with life duties) every weekday morning to write. Things pop up and schedules change and I’m okay if I miss one of those hours, but missing both I tend to right off the whole days production. The story and characters keep developing in my mind and I need to get them on the page…but I push it off until tomorrow. BTW – I’m a pastor and need to have a fluid schedule to meet with people. My nights are often full.

    What advice do you have for me to motivate myself? I want the book ready for sale this November. I wish I had a month to finish up the final draft. I have two weeks next month.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      My first bit of advice, in all honesty, would be not to rush into publication so soon after the first draft. Give yourself some time to polish the book and seek objective feedback from readers and perhaps even hire a freelance editor if possible (particularly if it’s fiction).

      As for writing daily, personally, I find there are two factors.

      The first is scheduling: juggling and prioritizing all the day’s tasks to allow for a consistent chunk of writing time. It doesn’t have to be a big chunk. Even a half-hour every day can be significant. If possible, I also like to try to get the writing in early, before other, more “pressing” responsibilities have a chance to shove it aside.

      The second factor is, simply, willpower. Sometimes there’s no easier answer than gritting your teeth and making it happen.

  12. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to streamline my writing process so i can produce books faster. Probably my two biggest obstacles are 7.5 & 5.5 years old and I gave birth to them. Love them dearly, but I’d have to give up my commitment to homeschooling them to produce faster. (Which I sort of feel like I’m doing since we’re starting the video program for my oldest this fall for school.)

    Anyway, when I am writing, it’s not uncommon for me to hit 2500 – 3000 words in an hour or an hour and a half. Which to me is awesome. I feel that’s about as fast as I can write and still be comfortable without shifting to dictation (which, with my lifestyle is implausible at this point, and it also seems very unnatural to speak a novel.) Multiply this by 2 – 5 hours a day, depending on my day, and I can whip out a novel pretty quickly (unless they turn into a 170k monstrosity!) But one of my goals is to always write my first drafts as though it’s never going to be edited. (Of course, it will be, but it gives me a better first draft to work with, in general.) I don’t piecemeal things together, and I try to get as much into the first draft as I can, though I usually have to go back and add description. (Getting better at this, but it’s still difficult sometimes!)

    Mostly, when I get asked by writers how I write so fast, I remind them that they have to find what works for them.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Like you, I prefer to write my first drafts as tightly as possible. This doesn’t mean obsessing over every word choice (which gets counter-productive *really* fast). But it does mean giving myself permission to keep things straightened up and on track. Keeps me sane during the first draft and saves so much time and hassle on the other end.

  13. I think the main thing is you should write at your own pace, whether that’s slow or fast. Focus and dedication are more important than speed. My pace is usually between 2,000 and 3,000 words an hour (depending on how well planned a scene is). If something’s very well planned, usually the climax, I can pump out more than 3,000 words an hour. Then again there are some scenes where I slow down to 1,000 or less, and when I tried writing comedy last November, it was slower than that. Writing straight comedy is hard.

    I’ve met some people through Nanowrimo who, when they start getting desperate to win, they write so fast that it’s word salad instead of an actual story. That’s why people shouldn’t write faster than their natural pace, whether it’s 500 words an hour or 5,000.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Totally agree. Writing, for all that it follows certain forms and conventions, is ultimately a very personal experience. The key for any of us is discovering and tapping the process that is best for us and our creativity and productivity.

      I’m a big fan of NaNo. I think it offers the opportunity for authors to learn all kinds of great habits, including discipline and consistency. But the “word salad” tendency you mention is definitely one of the potential pitfalls. Speed, for speed’s sake, is never a good thing.

  14. One of the reasons I keep returning to this blog is it’s one of the very few that focus entirely on prose. Others make writing into a popularity contest where the quality of your novels takes a backseat to building your “platform”; turning writing into a business; and throwing 2, 3, 4 darts at a board every year until one of them gets close to the bullseye.

    I hope you always stay true to yourself. That is why your readers respect you and admire your work. It’s what makes your advice so invaluable.

    Since I have the stamina to work 6+ hours a day, 6 days a week, I don’t mind writing dreadfully slowly. Being thoughtful and weighing every word keep me happy. Hopefully at some point I can reduce my hours, but for now my learning curve remains steep (my first story in 10 years, in a completely different genre, written in my third language). I look back at my WIP’s first draft, which I wrote blazingly fast, and it was so bad I simply threw away the entire thing.

    Sure, I can increase my odds of making a living by cranking out more books, but then, do I see myself as an assembly line worker, or do I respect myself as an artist? The true masters do NOT publish 3 novels a year.

    If I wanted to make a good income, with easy hours and superb benefits, I have kept my job as a software architect. But I chose this life for a reason.

    • I totally agree about this blog. It is really the only writing blog I read regularly, and that’s because every single article has useful advice about stuff I really need to know. The advice on platform, etc., does have it’s place, though, as I’m sure I’ll appreciate more when I have completed work that I really want people to read.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      It’s definitely a balancing act. The marketing/business side *is* important. Being responsible to the business side is something I’m always aware of. And there is nothing whatsoever wrong with being a writer who hits that sweet spot of rapid production within the marketplace–but only if you’re in alignment with it. I don’t wish to encourage writers to remain passively in habits that aren’t optimal for the market. What I *do* want is for all of us to be aware of the available choices, what our personal goals truly are, and what we’re gaining and sacrificing no matter what we choose.

  15. I so much appreciate your perspective on this topic. I often read advice on marketing books, and it’s all very helpful, and I have so much admiration for writers who can support themselves entirely through writing. However, it doesn’t make much sense to get _so_ wrapped up in marketing that you forget why you are trying to make money by _writing_ instead of something else. There are a lot of easier ways to make money than writing. But we write for deeper reasons.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I have to admit–as you’ve probably already gathered from the post itself–that I do struggle with the cycle of getting too wrapped up in the marketing. I enjoy the marketing. It’s much more challenging, interesting, and rewarding than most writers realize when they’re starting out. But it can become all-engrossing so quickly. And it’s so easy to play head games with the numbers–your sales, your earnings, your rankings–until those things become your ultimate end goal. Those things *are* important, but I never want to let them clutter up what’s truly important in my life: which is an artistic process that brings me the maximum amount of joy and personal rewards.

      • It’s so understandable, and I can see myself doing that, too. (I see this from the legal practice angle, where there’s a definite conflict between maximizing billable hours and doing your absolute best work.)

        The care and joy you put into your stories really shows, and I feel it and appreciate it as a reader. It seems to me that it would be hard to write something readers will truly love unless you love it yourself. And I don’t know how much a writer can love a story she’s lived with only a few months. (For someone with a different temperament from me, maybe quite a lot!)

        It may depend a lot on what kind of story you’re writing, too — I rarely read thrillers, but sometimes I do (at airports), and I’m reading them for a different kind of pleasure from what I get from more heart-filled stories. I absolutely devour detective stories, and I love them regardless of whether they have a lot of depth (as some do) or are just fun puzzles. I think Agatha Christie really cranked them out, and I’m so glad she did.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          I do think it depends on the type of story to some extent. For example, short story writers–who obviously spend less time on a story and write it much faster than someone would a novel–aren’t shortchanging themselves at all by spending so little time in the presence of their characters. I like to say that every story is its own adventure, and that certainly applies to the time and speed factors when writing something.

  16. Max Woldhek says:

    I can do a thousand words an hour if I don’t get distracted. On a break right now to avoid burnout, but I did 44.000 words of first draft in precisely four weeks. First ten days or so I did a thousand a day to ease into it, then amped up to two thousand per day. If that’s enough for Stephen King it’s enough for me. 😛

    More than two thousand a day and I get really tired in the head. Don’t know for sure if it has anything to do with my asperger’s, but from what I’ve read we get fatigued easier than other people, so it might be a factor.

    • As an introvert, I have a similar experience with fatigue. I like to think it’s because I pour myself more intensely into whatever I’m doing. In any event, I’m still trying to learn not to beat myself up about metrics, and instead to focus on doing exemplary work.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Whoa, you’re rockin’ it! Good for you. It’s good to pay attention to mental fatigue. Although we, as writers, need to discipline ourselves to work through distraction and difficulties, there’s also no point in writing past the point where you’re able to maintain quality in your work.

  17. Quality over quantity. Preach, Katie.

  18. For me it depends on how the chapter is going. Some days I can only squeeze out 200 or so words other days I’m cranking out 7 thousand or more, and that’s wirh checking for typos. The big count days I’m up late. I don’t care about the market. :p

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yes, every day–and every story–is its own adventure. Never know what we’re getting ourselves into! :p

  19. Yes, every day–and every story–is its own adventure Some days I can only squeeze out 200 or so words other days I’m cranking out 7 thousand or more, and that’s wirh checking for typos.

  20. Darcy Lockhart says:

    Working with an outline on index cards, a comfortable output for me per day would be five pages at 250 words per page; or 1,250 words.

    This produces 37,500 in 30 days; 75,000 in 60 days; and 112,500 in 90 days.

    Print out those pages, so you can see your accomplishment daily.

    I found if I sometimes wrote 10 or 15 pages in a day, my output for the following two or three days was reduced.

    I had “pre-programmed” my brain with a self-hypnosis technique to create five pages per day. Once those pages were completed, whether in a hour or three or four hours, I was “free” until the next day.

    Like Tom above, I didn’t try to find the perfect nouns, adjectives or verbs, but just put in a string of *** to remind me to work on it later.

    The first draft is fun. With each subsequent draft, I find that I am more and more an editor/secretary and less a creator.

  21. A.P. Lambert says:

    Thanks for another fantastic article!
    I consider myself a relatively slow writer and I know I need to pick up my pace. Your words encourage me toward that end. Still, it’s useful to know speed and quality aren’t the only things to take into consideration. Stamina is also important and something I hadn’t really thought about as much.

    I appreciate how honest and up-front you are about your own approach and convictions for the writing craft. There’s more important things than just making money for your work. Yet another reason I hold you in high respect.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I’m a firm believer in priorities. If we don’t know what we hold most important in our pursuits, it’s very easy to get knocked off track. Keep on keepin’ on!

      • Agreed.

        So I timed myself at around 270 words in 15 minutes while writing at a natural pace, which is better than I expected. Now to work on the consistency bit…

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          Which is nice! That’s about what I do. Now just put four 15 minute slots together!

  22. One of the things I love about you above many (I won’t say most, but plenty) other authors who teach about writing is that you don’t rely on absolutes. I’ve seen writers insist that if you don’t outline, you will never finish your book; if you don’t sit down at the computer every single day and write xxx amount, you’ll never finish your book; if you don’t spend x amount of time writing and y amount editing, you’ll never finish your book; if you don’t hold to this standard or that standard, etc., you’ll never finish your book. (Replace “never finish your book” with “only create sub-par work” on occasion.) I think I even remember a writer saying something along the lines of, think of how devastated you would feel if you could only complete one book a year– or worse! (I dunno, YOU don’t look too devastated to me, but I could be wrong. I honestly thought that was standard among most novelists.) And yet, there have been writers out there who have, time and time again, proven otherwise quite successfully.

    Mind you, most of these writers I’m talking about aren’t wrong about things all the time– they often provide pure goldmines for the pre-published author. But those absolutes sound so condescending sometimes. Either that, or willfully ignorant of the way the world works sometimes (and so far have not interfered with THEIR processes of writing).

    I think recently you mentioned that even pantsers can still benefit from outlining occasionally, and that’s just about the best advice I’ve seen about pantsers vs. outliners– just figure out your method, and be ready to adjust it if and when it’s necessary, and be open-minded and even curious about many different methods.

    🙂

    • “Mind you, most of these writers I’m talking about aren’t wrong about things all the time– they often provide pure goldmines in other areas of their teaching for the pre-published author. ”

      Missed a few words first time. Sorry.

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

        Only the Sith believe in absolutes. 😉

        Actually, I totally *do* believe in absolutes for *everything* about writing, but mostly in the sense that every cause has an equal effect. The thing is: not every writer is in pursuit of the same effect. This is why it’s so important for each of us to understand ourselves and our personal priorities–so we’ll know how best to achieve that. For some of us that means writing six books a year, for some of us that means pantsing, for some of us that means being traditionally published.

        None are wrong answers. They’re just different ends that require different roads to get there.

  23. I should definitely work on my writing, but not so much I don’t spend time with my family. Connections are important, yes, and family and friends are part of them as well as positive people. I should spend time with people that love me. Not sit on the computer too much.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Good balance! It’s so important for us to understand and respect the priorities that are important to us.

Trackbacks

  1. […] never wanted “IN” on that.  I so very much never wanted IN, that seeing this post by KM Weiland just made the world feel sane and happy again.  Or at least a place where I can stay sane, which […]

  2. […] How To Write Faster (And Why Maybe You Shouldn’t) (K.M. Weiland) – K.M. Weiland presents a typical formula for becoming a bestseller, and then explains why the formula might be a good or bad idea for you to follow. […]

  3. […] Source: How to Write Faster (and Why Maybe You Shouldn’t) | Helping Writers Become Authors […]

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