Are You Writing Your Novel Too Fast?

Are you writing your novel too fast? How fast should a novel be written? Is there some kind of guideline to which all authors should conform? Are faster writers better than slow writers—or vice versa?

As a reader, I often cringe at the notion of authors churning out a book (or more) a year. Not that some authors can’t balance consistent excellence with speed, but too often quality is sacrificed for quantity.

When it comes to writing, I admit I’m a tortoise. I spend roughly a year outlining and researching, a year writing the first draft, and as much as five years editing the thing. I deliberately plan three years between each of my publications, and I’m always a book ahead of myself (when Dreamlander comes out this December, I will already be up to my elbows in the second or third draft of the next book, which isn’t scheduled for publication until 2015).

I could churn out a book every year. I could publish a book every year. And perhaps I’d sell more books as a result. But would my writing be the better for it? In a recent post on her blog, author and editor Roz Morris posited “Some novels should be written slowly”:

Not all novels can—or should—be written fast…. Although we do aim to finish our books, not fiddle forever, I worry that we are too obsessed by speed…. My writing pace isn’t unusual; I recently finished reading The Lessons by Naomi Alderman and was heartened to see a four-year gap between novel 1 and novel 2. She marinates even longer than I do.

Authors under contract to publishers who demand a book or more a year may have little choice in their speed. But if you’ve yet to be published, now is a good time to consider the benefits of pacing yourself. In her article “9 Writing Mistakes That Just Won’t Quit” (The Writer, April 2012), Susan Breen, a teacher at Gotham Writers’ Workshop, shared a lesson about getting ahead of ourselves:

One of the very first things I did as a writer, when I had written no more than about three paragraphs of my first story was look through a reference book for places that might publish it. My list had more words in it than my story. And I’m embarrassed to say that the minute I finished the first draft, I sent the story out. To 20 places. Each of them rejected me with a form letter.

With that in mind, consider a few reasons why slowing down can benefit every aspect of the writing process:

Outline.

As the formative stage of your writing, the outline (should you choose to take advantage of it) shapes everything that follows. When you rush through it to get to the “fun stuff,” you risk building your story on a wobbly foundation. Take your time when outlining to ensure you’re able to write a story that’s solid from beginning to end—and to prevent excruciating edits down the line.

Research.

A commitment to research is what separates the professionals from the wannabes. If we’re willing to spend necessary time learning about our story’s factual basis, we’ll be much more likely to craft a story that makes factual sense—rather than learning the facts later (or, even, too late) and trying to warp our already-written story to fit the truth.

First Draft.

Sometimes our stories just come boiling out of us. To slow them down might risk pushing us out of the Zone. If that’s so, write away! But keep in mind that the more patiently and thoughtfully we approach the first draft, the less rewriting we’re likely to have to do later on.

Edits.

This step, more than any other, is the one we like to rush through. The story’s finished, and we’re flying high on the wings of our accomplishments. It’s wonderful, it’s marvelous, it’s wunderbar! Why not just send it out into the world right now, while the glow’s still fresh? But editing is something that must never be rushed. Take the time to let your story sit. Approach it with a fresh eye, identify the problems, and start again. Few stories can be edited to optimal quality in less time than a few years.

Querying/Publishing.

And so we come to the end of our journey! This is a step that should never be approached lightly. Whether you’re taking the traditional route and knocking on agents’ doors or taking matters into your own hands and publishing independently, you never want to rush into this decision. Once you’ve queried and been turned down or published and been read, you can never take back what’s been done. Your story—in all its preparedness or unpreparedness—is out there for the world to see and to judge the amount of time and effort you’ve given it.

If you’re a speedy rabbit of a writer, that’s great. Keep hopping! But don’t let yourself get ahead of what’s best for your story. Take whatever time is necessary to perfect each step of the process, so you can end up with a story that is the absolute best you can make it.

Tell me your opinion: Have you ever rushed a novel and regretted it?

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. I’ve only regretted rushing my first story.. but there wasn’t much I could do anyways, because I had exactly a week to finish it before the contest.

  2. Is there anything slower than a tortoise?

    To be fair, the first draft had no planning whatsoever; the second draft had a little bit, but not much; this draft is starting from scratch using yWriter. But let’s do some math:

    1st draft: Start, Dec. 2001. Finish, August 2005.
    2nd draft: Start, Jan. 2011. Finish, June 2011.
    3rd draft: Start, June 2012.

    So did I rush it? I would say yes: I wrote it too young, before I’d learned really anything outside of reading a lot. Now I’m trying to shatter the window pane and reassemble it properly. As it’s book one in a somewhat lengthy series, I can’t necessarily abandon it (I’ve thought long and hard about it, and even tried once. But it kind of needs to come first). The good news is, I’m only 26, and I have a soon-to-be-wife who critiques me honestly (“that’s really bad, hun; you can do better”). And I have yWriter ^_^

  3. Thank you. I feel better now. I’ve been working on my WIP for over a year and was beginning to think myself too slow. This is encouraging. 😉

  4. Not to disagree with you, but there’s this one blogger that says that it’s a myth that a written piece of work that has been worked on for a long time is better than a piece of work written within a short amount of time.

    His reasoning is that his faster writing is closer to his natural voice, and “writing faster” is more about using your time more productively.

  5. @Gideon: Depending on your personality and the project, deadlines can either be a very good thing or a very bad thing. Something putting a rush on ourselves is just the ticket for making sure we get things done, but sometimes the story suffers as a result.

    @Daniel: A wife and yWriter – sounds like just the thing! Rushing *into* a project is a whole ‘nother aspect of this pitfall
    If we enter a story before it’s truly ready, we’re like to end up with a lot of extra work in the Iong run – as you’ve discovered.

    @Lorna: No such thing as writing a story too slowly. We all have to find the speed that works best for our lifestyles and stories.

    @Chihuahua: There’s certainly some truth to this. But for most writers, particularly new ones, the time spent on editing is crucial: what’s going to rush out in the beginning isn’t likely go be anywhere publishable. Some veterans will be able to to churn out near-perfect stories but they’re the exception. That said, it *is* true that we don’t want to over-edit our work. That can happen and it does kill the natural voice. But most of us will never reach the over-edited stage.

  6. hahaheeheehoohoo -wipes away tears-

    Yes, that’s my problem–I’m writing too fast! Feel more like I’m wading through molasses lately.

    But seriously, I can see your point. After the 5,000 word outline I did (with the help of your book), my first draft is feeling very much like I’m merely fleshing out the outline. There are some good patches of banter and dialogue in there, but otherwise it feels a lot like “okay, this needs to happen next, and I need to plant a clue here” and so on. In rewrites, I will definitely need to make it flow better as a story, but so far this is working for me.

  7. Hmmm, very interesting, being a pantser with a plot twist, I find it helpful to write my book in a short amount of time. When I didn’t have as much work I could get a book done in about 3 months, now that I am working most of the time, I tend to take a lot longer – my poor beloved writing suffering from a very demanding and inconsistent schedule and it is certainly taking longer for things to come about. Though I agree that books must be lovingly taken care of and edited thoroughly, I like to get through the book quickly and then go back to fix things – but that is just probably more my pantsing tendency than anything else.

    Thanks for the thoughts!

    Jessica

  8. I have written entire posts (usually using the ghost of Ernest Hemingway) chiding those who engage in the June and November endeavors of churning out a novel in a month. I feel they reinforce bad writing habits and waste a month that they could be carefully constructing a novel worth reading. I don’t want to live in a house hurriedly thrown together, nor do I want to spend time reading a novel written in the same way. Great post as usual, Roland

  9. @Angelica: Sometimes ideas just come too fast. If we don’t get them down quickly enough, they disappear. In those instances, we’re almost always better off letting them come and then going back and slowing down for the rewrite.

    @Jessica: Although I, personally, find I produce much better work if I write the first draft slowly, this really isn’t so much a matter of how quickly that first draft comes out. It’s more a problem of slinging out “finished” books that really needed more time and patience to be properly polished.

    @Roland: I have never participated in NaNoWriMo and never intend to, since the whole notion of churning out a 50k works in a month goes against the processes I know work best for me as an author. But I’m actually a very big fan of NaNo. It gives writers the impetus to start writing and to get some serious word counts under their belts. And in a creative endeavor as scary as writing, that can be invaluable. However, I would never recommend authors make a habit of writing that quickly. There are benefits to it, but also innumerable pitfalls.

  10. Wow KM…it’s like you read my mind. I literally just posted on my blog, maybe an hour ago, about the pace of writing my first manuscript to get it out there…FINALLY…but the process is arduous. I needed to read this! Thank you!

  11. I have found that measuring how long it takes to write a novel in terms of months and years isn’t very helpful, unless you also know roughly how many hours per day were spent writing. There’s a huge difference in the amount of time available to writers who have a day job and those who don’t. As Kevin J. Anderson once pointed out, a writer working part time during evenings and weekends might write a novel in a year, but a full-time writer should, without stretching things too far, be able to write two or three times as much, if they honestly work full time and have a good work ethic. I wish more writers kept this important factor in mind when talking about how long it takes them to write. It’s as much about hours as it is about days, months, or years.

  12. I think some of that depends on the writer. I think that Charles Dickens churned out work with amazing speed. So can it be done? Yes. Should most writers do it? Possibly not. It depends on you and what you write.

  13. @Dawn: Great minds, you know! 😉 I’ll have to pop by your blog and read your post.

    @Ben: That’s definitely a factor. However, one thing to consider is that “brew” time doesn’t necessarily factor in the actual hours spent writing. One of the most important steps in any story is setting it aside in order to gain some objectivity. For me, that brew time couldn’t happen properly in less than a few years. I need that long to reach the the next stage of my growth as a writer, so I can edit the story from a place of knowledge greater than that in which I wrote it. Not all authors will need that much time, but we each have to find the balance that works best for us.

  14. @Beth: As with everything in writing, this is *not* a hard and fast rule. More than anything, this is simply my observation as both a writer and a reader. Successfully speedy writers should feel no more need to fit themselves into the successfully slow writers mold than the slow writers should feel pressure to speed up. Take this as a little food for thought, chew on it, and then do whatever works for *you.*

  15. Anonymous says

    I agree totally. I’m sorry but I do have to say that it plays on my nerves to see writers just writing as many words they can per day. They are racing against themselves. Maybe, some writers are talented and can delivery quantity and quality at the same time. But I do believe that many times they exchange quantity for quality.
    You don’t see Francine Rivers publishing a book a year. Did you wonder why her each story is unique. That’s what is missing in Christian market. Everything feels the same. I do admit that I get tired of reading some works by the same writers because their work feels the same way as the last.

    I have been plotting for over a year now. Now, I’m getting closer to the end. I need to form a clear plot and theme of the story, putting everything in chronological order. I’m getting closer, but I do believe that I might ready to write by fall. I can’t rush it. I want to deliver the best I can. For me, quality always surpasses quantity.

    Blessings,

    Anna Labno

  16. I think a lot of this depends on the writer and the situation. I’m on a two book plus one novella a year schedule right now. It’s a lot. I’m not a naturally speedy writer, so I have to push to get myself working at this rate. But as a debut author, my publisher wants to build my name and doing one book a year is not going to do that in my genre (romance). I obviously don’t want to sacrifice quality, so it’s meant being a lot more disciplined with my time so that I give myself the time to write the kind of story I’m proud of. It’d be nice to only have to do one a year, but until you’re a runaway bestseller, it’s pretty impossible to make a living on one book a year.

  17. @Anna: Not all authors are going to have the same goal. We each need to know what we’re trying to accomplish with our writing and plan the course that’s going to get us there in the best shape.

    @Roni: This post was in no way meant to be a guilt trip for authors who need (or want) to push books out quickly. We each have to do what’s right for us, and when we’re starting out, we often have to sacrifice a few things to get our foot firmly in the door. I’m reminded of the band Switchfoot, which churned out music like crazy in its early days before it had established itself. Now that they *are* established, they have slowed album productive to a pace that suits their artistic needs. It’s always a balance, no matter what you do!

  18. I like writing slowly overall, but when I am in the mode I’ve been known to get about 50,000 words in about two weeks at times. (Incidentally, November seems to be my best writing month in terms of speed which is convenient for NaNoWriMo.) In terms of quality? The Summer months tend to be the best in that department. My best work has usually occurred in the parts I wrote during those months. Last November however, I managed both the quality and the speed, and I loved the result of it.

    Sure enough, I’m happy with the way my writing quality is going this Summer, it’s almost predictable, not that I don’t try to write as well in January as in July, but as a general rule, Summer is my best writing season for quality.

    I tend to like to go with the overall rhythm of the year as I write, I don’t fret too badly that I tend to get stuck in January, February, and March. After that is when almost without fail, from Late May at the latest, I come up with something brilliant or other. It has pretty much followed that pattern for seven years. Even so, I do watch myself to make sure that rhythm hasn’t changed. 🙂

  19. I find that really interesting. What do you credit it to? The busyness of summer/the dreariness of winter? I’ve learned I’m usually better off not beginning a first draft in January, simply because the double threat of those always difficult and frustrating first fifty pages paired with the grayness of my least favorite month can turn me into a very cranky person!

  20. If you write it has to be everyday, no ifs, and’s or buts about it. 2,000 words per day should be enough for any writer to finish a novel within 3-6 months, no matter the length.

  21. Good one, Katie (Course I enjoy all your posts).

    I think we all rush, or are tempted to rush, way too much these days.

    I did revise my novel a while back and plowed through it at a daily pace to get the revision done. And realized that in the rushing I didn’t do a thorough enough job with the re-write. But now I am going slower. What’s frustrating is that I keep getting good ideas, which discourages me from getting going full-on with my current rewrite. I want to make this 3rd re-write a lot closer to finish.

    My current game-plan is to re-write, taking a week for each chapter (total about 56 of them now), and plan and re-outline each chapter, being careful to include all my notes and going through Donald Maass’s “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook”–all my highlighted portions– every time, then rewriting thoughtfully.

  22. Good to see you like to take your time. I just wrote my first book last year, but I intend to work on it for a good 2 more years. With the speed of everything around me, it does feel slow, but I have to work at my own pace. I just started, so I’m still learning a lot, and I know I have a lot of work to do.

  23. This is such a good post! Thanks for this!

    And yes – I finished the first draft of my WiP in a MONTH. Needless to say, it wasn’t very good…I’ve since been taking my time. It’s much better already. 🙂

  24. This comes at a perfect time for me. I’m working through a tough revision, and I feel like I am sooooo sloooooow. But I need to remember to take however much time it takes to get it right. Thank you!

  25. Looking at the comments, it depends what you mean by finish a novel. Does this mean your first draft or from spark of an idea to a project you want to share with an editor/self pub.

    And it all depends on what needs to be done in terms of research, if you are a plotter or panster (pantser here, cannot do a plot, never works out).

  26. Yes, I’ve written 2 novels and I regretted it. Now, I just finished revising the whole book 1 because a lot of ideas come into my mind after years of letting it the stories rest…

    Thank you for this post. 😉 It’s good to know I’m in the right process.

  27. Great post. I wrote 3 novels in 3 Novembers, but this was to learn my craft. Best way. Now I’m going back, starting at my first novel, applying some of what I’ve learnt, to see if it’s worth the rewrite. I like all my stories but I think structure is the main weakness.

    I always notice how the second and third novels of well-known authors are so much weaker than novel no 1 that they had years to write. Pity them the rush.

    Denise

  28. Thanks very much, K.M. Weiland, for such a valuable blog. Your are virtuous to share such wisdom honestly. I agree with you about quality over quantity. There are so many thousands, millions, billions of books being written all over the world all the time, why contribute mediocre stuff to this huge pool? Rather add one drop of the most potent perfume. I have always sort of liked Cyril Connolly’s quote: “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

  29. I’m delighted that you’ve found the speed that works for you! However, if I had to write at your speed, I would have to quit the endeavor altogether, because I would be tortured to death by the agony of my slowness long before the book was completed (or more likely, not).

    Speed is one of those issues that I see writers often trying to hang their hats on, I think because it appears measurable (even though it is not; your year may involve 1000 hours of writing and mine may involve 2000). The most important thing is quality, and one of the (many) discoveries I’ve found along the way is that quality is not related to speed in any way (except possibly in the extremes of fast or slow). Just because someone has spent 10 years on the same novel does not mean it is brilliant (more likely, it is because they cannot move on to the next story). Just because someone dashes out a story in a day (as Isaac Asimov did The Bicentennial Man, which I just recently reread), doesn’t mean it’s anything short of brilliant.

    Find what works for you, and constantly try to improve that – this is what I think all writers should do. 🙂

  30. Great post. Being on my 3rd WIP, I can attest to the benefit of letting a story sit and going back to it with fresh eyes. But I also find that I’m writing faster and self-editing better along the way as my writing improves. My crit partners can barely find anything to mark this time around. I can see how a seasoned writer would reach a place where the process was more automatic, where they wouldn’t have to think out each little step.

    As a reader, I’m torn. I want the story to be good, but I don’t like waiting a long time for sequels. 🙂

  31. I think it’s not always a bad idea to write a draft in a short amount of time, like in Nanowrimo, but you’d need a well thought out plot ahead of time and plotting is something that it takes time to learn. So Nanowrimo might be better suited to folks who’ve got one novel already written. Alternately one might use the group challenge of Nanowrimo to do a ton of freewriting and experimentation, creating a plot, developing characters, world building and researching, while hitting the word count goal of their choice for this preliminary work.

  32. As far as my post above goes, I’m not sure what I credit it to, other then the need to gather my ideas together, and find new ideas. I generally write better at night or early in the morning, I suppose it’s true of weeks, months, and years as well that they too have rhythms where you tend to work better then other times. I’ve not really thought about it beyond the observation of it. 🙂

  33. @Glenn: Couldn’t agree more with the writing every day stricture. But first drafts are the fast part. Then comes the editing!

    @Bill: Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel is a fab resource.

    @Handy Man: The years we spend on a book *do* feel slow while we’re in the midst of them. And yet every time I reach the end of a project, I find myself looking back and going, “Wow, am I finished already?”

    @Vicki: You know what they say about haste making waste! Getting those words down on paper and typing “the end” is always valuable, no matter the speed at which we write them or their quality when we’re finished. But sometimes it is a lot less frustrating overall to slow down and take a little more time early on.

    @Julie: Great attitude! After all, wouldn’t you rather end your life with a few great books rather a bunch of mediocre ones?

    @comingalive: I encourage thoughtfulness and patience in every aspect of the story, from conception to final draft. The actual writing itself usually goes relatively quickly; it’s the editing and rewriting in which we need to take especial care.

    @bloodrhain: The important thing is to find the process that works for you and stick with it. Everyone works differently, at different speeds, and there’s no reason any of us should feel guilted into doing something we know isn’t going to work for us.

    @Quirina: One of my favorite quotes! And I love your analogy of the drop of perfume.

    @Susan: I agree. Ultimately, that’s the only thing that matters.

    @Melissa: I know what you mean about waiting for those sequels! Whenever possible, I try to start reading series *after* all the books have been published. Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. Currently waiting not so patiently for Patrick Rothfuss’s finale to his trilogy…

    @Connie: NaNo offers a lot of great impetus and opportunities. Although I may not sound like it in this post, I’m actually a huge fan of the encouragement and confidence it offers inexperienced writers. But I do think it’s a poor solution for the long run. As writers mature, they can move past NaNo and find the methods that work best for them on a year-round basis.

  34. @S.J.: It’s still interesting!

  35. I’d like to say thank you for this post! I’ve been really thinking about this the past year, as I’ve been making my goals, etc., and have pushed myself past what I thought was doable. National Novel Writing Month got me on a quicker “may” be better kick, and so that is why I’m testing my limits. However, I really love the advice here. Some novels that I’ve finally written have sat and percolated in my head for 2-5 years; most have yet to be written down on paper. It’s good to know that there are authors out there who suggest slowing down and pacing themselves, to let the work mature before it is submitted to the public. I’m afraid that you are right. We place too much emphasis on speed and quantity.

  36. It’s important for us to know that whatever our process we’re almost certainly not alone. Chances are good there’s at least one other author out there somewhere who has had success in the same measure!

  37. This is really helpful! It is easy to rush through to the parts that will “most” interest the reader instead of taking time to think through and make the whole story something worth reading!! Your posts are most helpful. Thank you.

  38. I rushed my first novel because I was young and after dabbling in short stories and school/college assignments for so long, it felt exciting to be doing The Big One. I had a thin outline but in the rush I created something of a mess with flashes of prose that even today I’m actually proud of. It’s odd that it turned out quite inconsistent despite being pulled together in the span of two or three months. I knew that was my first draft, though, and threw it on the back-burner before doing the exact same thing with my second novel.

    The second time actually worked – I had already learned so much from the first book and from reading more about the craft – so I was ok with churning out what was obviously a first draft, essentially a skeleton. My outline was a bit more robust as well. I did finish this in about three months as well, but though I did it quickly I was not rushing, which led to a pretty cohesive piece that I have redrafted into something just about complete.

    The point of this rambling is simply that yes, you can write too fast, but sometimes you get good results when writing quickly if you avoid the sloppiness of rushing. A question though – do any of the folk here find themselves pretty slow when it comes to querying and submitting?

  39. @Kayleen: I like to think that I write the first draft for me, so I’m at liberty to do whatever I want with it, write it as fast or slow as want, etc. But the revisions are for my readers – to make certain they’ll be able to enjoy the story as much as I do. And I can’t rush that!

    @John: Every project is different – in my experience, to the extent that writing each book is sort of like learning to write all over again! As for queries, they certainly take comparatively longer for the amount of words they contain.

  40. My editing is going slower than expected right now, and sometimes that’s really discouraging. Thanks for the reminder that it’s more important to do my best than to rush things.

  41. Hang in there! You’ll be done before you know it, and then you’ll be sorry to be finished with the story.

  42. I’m working on my second novel, and am finding that slowing my pace and thinking more between writing spurts is leading to better quality writing. I’m pretty sure doing so will make my revision process MUCH faster this time around. (Knocks on desk ;)) Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  43. That has definitely been my experience. The more thoughtful care I spend on the earlier stages, the more benefits I reap in the long run!

  44. I’ve never rushed a novel, but it sometimes feels a little lonely out there as some other authors churn out a fourth or fifth book (while I’m still wrapping up #2 of my trilogy after almost a year). It’s good to know that there’s a place for pacing!

  45. I have a very different approach. Whenever I have an idea, I like getting carried away in that whirlwind. I want to sit and write until it’s done whether that takes me ten days, weeks or months. I enjoy working under pressure so I tend to set deadlines for myself and blast out content that way. Editing for me is a pleasure. I love having the framework of a first draft to build on. Editing that first draft is what takes me the longest, during which I will fact check, complete more thorough research etc. Editing is never a rush, it’s a pleasure.

  46. @Alesha: Don’t feel lonely! You’re in good company just among the commenters on this post – not to mention hordes of classic and bestselling authors.

    @Xan: If you can embrace the editing process, instead of resenting it as so many authors are prone to do, you’re not only ahead of the ballgame on the writing process itself, you’re also likely to be a much happier writer!

  47. This is so great!! It comes out at a time when I needed to hear it. I know that I’ve read recently a lot of agents/publishers are trying to push the 2 books a year rule to establish authors. Not sure I can keep up with that, so it’s nice to hear there are others willing to work with you if you’re slower and wanting to put out the best product available.

  48. Great post! Sometimes I wonder this myself. One author I like was pressed by a deadline, and thus, the next book he put out was somewhat disappointing, mainly because it wasn’t polished. It should have been in revision longer than it was, but the publisher wanted to hurry up and get to publication.

    However, I think outlining often requires much more “marinating time”, as opposed to the seat-of-pants novel. The novel I’m currently writing has been “marinating” for a good three months. But now my outline is finished and ready to go. Writing begins soon! (Three months in brainstorming and planning is a lot for me; I normally spend a lot more time writing than I do planning, as a panster.) During that time, however, I wrote over thirty thousand words in short stories and poems – if I don’t keep busy, I go crazy! I don’t think I’d be able to stand researching and outlining for a whole year.

    I think a key aspect to writing is to write at the pace of the story. NaNoWriMo is infamous for having desperate writers founder and churn out junk near the end of the month; that’s because they’re trying to write faster than the story will let them. When the story is rushing along with me and I’m carried in the flood, I can write at two thousand words an hour. Why? Not because I’m forcing it. I simply can’t stop. And the prose that I’m writing is actually good, not junk.

    (I am a fan of NaNoWriMo, however. I’ve done it twice now and plan on doing it again this year. While it makes for a lot of revisions afterward, it stimulates creativity and discipline like nothing else.)

    While quality work is, in some respects, related to the time it takes to write it, it always depends on the story and the writer. Bryan Davis, a Christian writer I respect, writes three thousand words a day when he’s working on a novel, and his books are among the most polished and well-written I know. He takes around nine months for the whole process, if I recall correctly; three for the novel, six for revision. Then he’s done, and he never compromises his quality. (And on top of that, he NEVER outlines.)

    And rushing when you’re too young isn’t always a bad thing. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I was what twelve when I finished my first novel, which was around a hundred pages. It was junk, but it set me ahead. By the time I actually reached the point where I could find a good story and tell it, my prose was getting better and better.

    There are pros and cons to “marinating”, just as there are to writing your novel quickly. But I think each writer should explore them and find out which one suits their writing. Just as with outlining & seat-of-pants writing, one is not necessarily better than the other, but is different for each writer. 🙂

  49. This is definitely something to consider before you sign on with an agent or editor. If you don’t want to push out two books a year, you need to consider holding off for a publishing contract that will better suit your needs. But, at the same time, it’s important to realize that making that decision could severely limit your publication opportunities.

  50. @Jake: It’s interesting that you’d say outlines take longer to marinate than pantsed stories. I hadn’t considered that before, and I don’t know that it’s necessarily true (you can sit down and rip off an outline without any forethought, just as you would a first draft). But I do think it’s quite possible that those writers who are more inclined to outline are also more inclined to marinate. I know that’s certainly true of me.

  51. Oh, Katie, this is so true. I know my two strongest MSs have been hanging around for two years going through edits and revisions. But I’m worried now with a publishing schedule that says Book 1 by Christmas, Book 2 next spring, and Book 3 Christmas 2013. :p At least Book 1 is one of those that’s been hanging around. Unfortunately 2-3 are still WIPs. What’s a writer to do?

    But this is a true, true post~ <3

  52. Sometimes we don’t have a choice in our speed. In those cases, it’s important to at least *think* slow. We can achieve the same results (although, in my experience, with more mental stress) if we’ll apply ourselves to deliberate, non-rushed (but still quick) work. I’m sure you’ll pull it all off with flying colors. Congrats on the coming releases!

  53. Great post, Katie! If you are a tortoise then I’m a tardigrade. Not only I write slowly, but sometimes I hybernate my WIP (don’t even touch it for weeks if not months).
    There is a way to write novels quickly if you are a full time writer. A lot of Russian writers mull over plots for years, writing bits and pieces, but then write a book in 2-4 months.

    What they do is they completely isolate themselves from the outside world and just dive into theirnovel’s world.
    I’m like that. My best writing is done during vacations, on everyday basis I can only write small bits here and there. Normally it takes me 2-3 days to get inside my WIP and then I write another week, 2000-3000 thousand words a day. I also use weekends for structural editing and revising, it takes me hours to get back in the mood of novel just for editing. Short stories and novellas are easier for me, so maybe i’m more a short format writer.

  54. The classic Russian authors offer some good examples of how “brewing” for long periods of time can end up producing superior art. On the other hand, I believe Dostoyevsky churned his stuff out pretty quickly in order to pay his bills.

  55. I commented on Roz Morris’s blog, so all I’m going to say here is write however you want to write as long as quality is on the top of your list. If you can produce an outstanding book within one month, that’s great. If it takes you a year … so what? It’ll still be a great book 🙂

  56. In the end, that’s all it comes down to. Rome wasn’t built in a day and most novels aren’t either. But there are always exceptions.

  57. If you cringe when you hear of writers writing a novel a year, you probably
    don’t want to know about the one I wrote in six days. Or that one I finished in
    five days. Or that other one, more recently, I wrote in four days.

    Of course, all of those were strictly for fun, as a part of a race I did with my
    brother, and I never plan to let anyone but my family have a chance to laugh at
    them.

    All the other novels I wrote were for NaNoWriMo, completed under the tight
    deadline of one month (plus another for editing), and I think NaNo is a GREAT
    tool for beginning writers who’ve never finished anything. But in recent years,
    as I’ve grown more serious about my writing, I’ve realized that I do better work
    when I take my time. I’ve learned the discipline of writing every day, so now I
    just need to take the time to craft a publish-worthy gem. And that’s what I’m
    doing. The first draft of my steampunk novel may not be finished for a year,
    longer than I’ve ever taken for a book, and I’m doing a TON of research this
    time, since it takes place in a historical setting.

  58. I agree. NaNo is fabulous for helping authors get past that first terror of having to write thousands of words. But once you’ve got that under your belt, it’s the daily discipline that becomes the important next step.

  59. I write fast, but I don’t rush. Stories just come to me quickly. It’s the edits that take longer, and during these periods I’m plotting a new story as I want to have a project ready to go when I’m finished. The book I’m releasing soon took three months to write, but the edits took a year. I completed my latest manuscript at the end of June, and it took me under two months to write. This time around I cleaned up each chapter after I wrote it, so it won’t be so overwhelming for me when I return for another pass. I’m glad I did that because the book I’m editing now is a nightmare! The publishing schedule I’ve set is ambitious…four well-written books by next July. I don’t think it diminishes quality at all. I think it’s all about knowing your story and how to tell it most effectively.

  60. There’s a big difference between writing quickly and rushing. If relative speed is our natural writing pace, there’s no need to slow that down. The time for caution comes primarily in the moments before we send the book into the world.

  61. Well, my writing pace is 2000 words/hour. The average of my published novels is 120000 words. That means that the actual writing takes 60 hours. The Outlining is usually 5 hours, and editing is only another 10 hours.

    At my pacing, if I took a year per novel, I would only write for 12.3 minutes a day. I usually write 5 – 6 hours a day, so it only takes 2 – 3 weeks per novel.

  62. You’re a Speedy Gonazalez! I congratulate you on being able to maintain such a pace. I think it would kill me. :p

  63. As odd as it sound, I’ve been working on this book for the last three years. I’m wanting to make all the pantsing in changing the outline, to make sure everything fits before I write the draft. Research is important, especially for post apocalyptic, military, and dystopian novels. My aunt told my about this one lady, that took ten years before her first book is published.

  64. Three years isn’t odd at all. Five or six is pretty average for me.

  65. Where on earth does this come from? Writing fast does not automatically mean bad quality. Nor does taking a lot of time writing a novel ensure that it will be good quality. It all depends on the skills the writer has, as well as the strengths and weakness.

    Last time I checked, Ray Bradbury is an award winning writer still read today. His stories have been made into movies. He wrote a story a week. By your standards, he wrote too fast and churned out poor quality as a result of that. There’s something wrong with thinking like that.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      At the end of the day, there’s not a thing wrong with writing either fast or slow. It’s all about finding the rhythm that works for best for each of as individuals and that allows us to tap into our maximum potential for quality writing.

  66. I’ve tried both ways. But find the notion “slow and steady wins the race” ultimate reality. Even though everyone around me these days is making fun of me that my story isn’t been written in such a long time. I keep my turtle pace and use noise cancellation.
    Letting my story breath and grow in its own pace is healthier than rushing the process. All you need is keep working on it. Don’t slack off, just work in a slow and steady pace..

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      We all have to find the pace that works for us. I spend six or more years “brewing” a story sometimes, two years outlining and researching, a year on the first draft, and another three on revisions.

  67. K.m., I am also revising book with my co-author. How do you make sure the novel is not fast paced so it still moves along and the right way? The co-author book has a Mer princess named Leilani who a mermaid. Have you read any mermaid books?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Scene structure is the key to pacing. Just make sure you’re including worthwhile “sequels” to all of your scenes.

  68. K.M. , thank you, good advise. how many books are you working on write now?

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