Writing at the Speed of Thought

I mentioned this blog post (How I Went From Writing 2000 Words a Day to 10,00 Words a Day) by Rachel Aaron in my last entry, but I wanted to explore the idea of writing fast a little further.

I write slow.  And like writers who outline versus those who fly by the seat of their pants, I think speed is something specific to individual writers: you are either fast, or not.  That said, I think we all have the ability to write faster, to a point, but no matter how good I get at slinging words on a page, I doubt I will ever attain 10,000 words a day that Rachel has.  I am just not made that way.

Writing fast is a relatively new concept to me.  Up until a few years ago I thought all writers took a year or so—or at least a few months—to write a novel, but then Joe Konrath noted that he wrote his books rather quickly.  This surprised me, and I took it be an anomaly.  But then Dean Wesley Smith startled me with the admonition that there was no excuse for not writing three novels a year.  His math was infallible: 1,000 words a day equals a 90,000 word novel every three months, leaving a month to revise and edit each one.  This model should give anyone ample time to write three novels a year, especially when he insists that the 1,000 words should only take you an hour, leaving the rest of the day to plot, plan and procrastinate as you see fit.

Dean’s wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in her book The Freelancer’s Survival Guide, also recommends the 1,000 words an hour rate, but—and here is where it falls apart for me—she advocates doing this for hour after hour.  The basis of the blog post by Rachel, “How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day,” centers around that same idea: write fast, then write faster, and do it consistently.

I can, and do, write at the rate of 1,000 words an hour.  Much of my writing is done on the bus commuting to and from work, a trip of, coincidentally, one hour each way.  And in each of those hours, I generally produce about 1,000 words.  So that’s 6,000 words in three days, if I’m feeling inspired and I manage to get a seat.  I do not write that fast during my “writing at home” days, however, for two reasons:

Mainly, I don’t feel the pressure.  When my stop is coming up and I am in the middle of a thought, the words flow fast and free, but when I can wander into the kitchen and make myself a cup of coffee, or enjoy the sunshine out on the balcony with a beverage and a cigar, my daily quota tends to slip.

Dilly-dallying, however, can be overcome with a bit of discipline or a hard deadline, unlike the other reason I don’t write 1,000 words an hour on a continual basis: I lack the stamina.

Banging out between 5 and 6,000 characters on a keyboard every hour amounts to one and a half keystrokes every second, second after second after second for 21,600 seconds in a modest, 6-hour day.  Granted, at the end of that time, you’d have 6,000 words but, in my case (and in many people’s, I suspect) after the first 90 minutes the words wulod lok smoetinhg like tish and, if not totally unintelligible, would read like total shite.

Add to that the fact that I would probably have had a nervous breakdown after hour three and you’ll understand why I am not now, nor ever expect to try, shooting for 10,000 words a day.

But I encourage you, if you want to increase your output, to have a read of Rachel Aaron’s article.  Just don’t kill yourself trying for the impossible.  As for myself, I think I’ll stick with my humble, but manageable 1,000 words a day and count any extra I do as gravy.  As Dean Wesley Smith points out, that’s three novels a year, and that’s a number I can live with.

(This blog post contains 684 words and it took me just over half an hour to type it, and that included going into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.)

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