How Fast Do You Write?

I discovered not too long ago that morning is the best time for me to write. So I started forcing myself to get up at 5:30. Should be 5, but hey, anything before 6 AM is an achievement for me. With the new job closer and starting half an hour later than Medishack, I now have about 45 minutes to write between morning ablutions* and heading out the door. If I’m in the zone, I can bang out about a 1000 words, but I’m happy with 500.
There was a time when I was almost hypergraphic. If I was home, I wrote. If I had a few spare moments, I wrote. When I bought my first laptop, I’d spend hours at Starbucks writing. And I used to write at a pretty good clip.
But was it quality work? While I frequently was what Chuck Wendig calls a “pantser,” my biggest problem was writing so fast, I’d skip a word. Or three. Occasionally a whole paragraph. Even with an outline (which I cannot consistently do despite my best efforts), I write fast. Once, in the story about Himself, I spent an entire weekend just riffing and got 17,000 words for my trouble. Mind you, I was working on something that will never be read (and is up to 250,000 words as of the last thing I wrote in it. Wow!) Doing it for real?
Road Rules is about 55,000 words long. It’s original draft was roughly the same. Wrote it in 13 days.
13 days.
Stephen King wrote The Running Man in 72 hours (and says he’ll never be able to do it again.) Mickey Spillane wrote I, the Jury over a weekend. And yet Jack Kerouac spent months on On the Road. Philip Roth refuses to start a new page until the current page is perfect. Don’t know if he outlines. I’m guessing no, but that has to save a lot of editing time. John Scalzi writes 2000 words a day.
Yet most people can’t devote that time. I admit to being undiagnosed ADHD, which means when I focus on something, I have to seize on it like a poorly-raised pit bull because concentration is a rarity for me. But what if you’re not Stephen King? What if you’re not Scalzi or Spillane or, what the hell, even me (though I hope you’re more successful if you do write like me)?
Wendig says you can’t finish a novel if you don’t write. And if you do 350 words a day, that’s a novel in 9 months. George Pelecanos says if you write a page a day, you’ll have 365 pages in a year. That’s longer than most manuscripts.
You don’t have to do NaNoWriMo to write a novel. You don’t even have to try and get 1000 words out. Novels are about persistence, not production quotas. When your books start making money, then you’ll notice that it’s easier to block out time. Because, hey, those 50 books downloaded on Kindle will pay for groceries more than that unfinished manuscript that’s been sitting in a file cabinet for years.
*Oh, come on. Sheldon Cooper used the word. Deal with it.
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One thought on “How Fast Do You Write?

  1. For first drafts, I write at least one single-spaced page every workday, and two each on Saturday and Sunday. I can go over, but I can’t come up short. However long it takes. I’ll even make a note to say, for example, I have to get to Page 47, Line 16 before I cans top.

    Works well for me.

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