You know what the speed of light is, right? It’s 186,000 miles per second. PER SECOND. That’s pretty damn fast. Still, even at that speed, it takes the light from distant stars thousands upon thousands of years to travel to where you see it in the night sky.
So why I am nattering about the speed of light? I’m a writer, not a scientist, right? Right. But I do love me some science (the bits I understand, anyway, and that’s one of them). I digress.
No, the reason I’m writing about speed is because, increasingly, I am seeing writers worried about the speed with which they write. Those who write super fast seem to be the ideal, right?
Maybe. Maybe not.
It’s true that writing a book fast doesn’t make it a bad book. It’s also true that it doesn’t make it a good book. What makes a book good or bad is what the readers think. Sorry, but an author doesn’t get to say that she wrote her book in only 2 weeks and it’s a damn good book because she only writes damn good books. (Same thing if it took her 2 years, btw.)
Only the readers get to say that. If the majority of readers say it’s a damn good book, then guess what? It probably is. If there are a lot of comments about “light,” “fluffy,” “shallow,” “could have used more thought,” well, guess what again? That author might have lost an opportunity to make an okay book great because she was in such a rush.
It’s not about writing lots and lots of words and telling everyone how fast you are. Ten thousand word days aren’t necessary in order to have a career at this. Remember the tortoise and the hare?
I’m gonna tell you a little story about that. First, I am generally a pretty fast writer. I’ve written a complete category romance in as little as 3 weeks. (I still think that book could have benefited from more time, btw, but I am a bit of a perfectionist.) I usually write a category romance in 5 or 6 weeks. I like at least that much time. That’s still pretty fast, all things considered. At that pace, if I started one right after the other, I could write eight books a year — and that’s assuming I take a full 6 weeks to write them. Less time means more books, right?
Now here’s the story. I was doing 1K1Hr on Twitter with another author a few months ago. We both had 50K word books due, though her deadline was a couple of months after mine. I started the book with 5 weeks to go until D-day. So we were doing 1K1Hr together, several times a day.
Every time, she’d come back with huge word counts: 1200, 1500, 2000 words while I was lucky in that one hour to hit 1K — and often didn’t. I started to feel depressed at the end of the day that she’d written 5 to 7K and I’d been lucky to get 3K.
But guess what happened? Slow (if you call a book in 5 weeks slow) and steady won the race. I finished my book and turned it in, and while she’d racked up huge word counts, she was a rewriter. Meaning she wrote the book all the way through, fast, and then threw most of it away and started over.
That’s no way to work — or at least not for me. (If rewriting is your process, and it works for you, great. It does not work for me.)
All I am telling you is this: if you’re on Twitter or Facebook and you keep seeing writers talking about their huge days with 5K or 7K written and you’re getting depressed with your measly 1K (or less) and you’re thinking about hanging up the keyboard because clearly you can’t keep up and only the super fast writers are successful these days, I’m telling you to think again.
Speed doesn’t equal quality. It also doesn’t NOT equal quality. All it means is the book takes as long as it takes. I’ve read books where I knew the author wrote it fast and been blown away. I’ve also read books where they wrote it fast and it was clear, to me at least, that another hard look at the story would have resulted in a deeper, more rounded book that touched me rather than irritated me with the shoddiness of the work.
You do not have to write fast to succeed. You need to write an awesome book. And then another and another and another. That’s how you succeed. Sit down and write your book. 1K a day will get you a 90K book in 3 months. If you take weekends off, it’ll take a little longer. But that’s nothing to sneeze at, folks.
Do NOT let the idea that you have to write fast stop you from writing at all. If you keep seeing all these writers racking up terrific word counts and it makes you depressed, stop looking at their stats. Just log off of social media altogether for a while. No, you probably shouldn’t spend two years rewriting the same 50K words, but you also shouldn’t be depressed because you need four months to write those 50K words.
Write the book. It takes as long as it takes. Some take longer, some go faster. But if you aren’t writing 5K a day, don’t sweat it. It’s perfectly fine. The goal is to write a good book, not to write a fast book (which is not to say those two are mutually exclusive). And the more consistently you work, the more often you put your butt in the chair, you might just find yourself getting faster as certain aspects of your process start to make themselves more recognizable to you.
Write the darn book, y’all. Don’t worry about the fact Suzie Q. Author wrote her latest novel in one booze and chocolate fueled weekend. You aren’t her. She’s not you. And there’s room enough for you both. Now get your butt in the chair!