How Fast Do You Write: Part Deux

Last week, I was talking to a friend of mine about writing and output. Lately, I’ve been most comfortable with 500 words a sitting. I also have recently described myself as “hypergraphic.” Compared to Nora Roberts, I’m a slacker. And if I did this full-time for a living (Go here and make that happen for me.), I’d probably get 2000 words a day out easily, assuming I’m into the story I’m writing.

My friend asked “Why do science fiction writers seem to crank out so much faster?”

I thought about that. If you count blogging, John Scalzi is a pretty fast writer. However, I suspect Scalzi approaches blogging the same way I do: It’s like a newspaper column. It requires different parts of the brain than writing fiction.Not all writers see it that way.

Then again, keeping with Scalzi as an example, he once wrote a full-length fanfic novel (and got the author’s estate to sign off on it, to boot!), just wrote Lock In, an Andromeda Strain-style novel with a killer novella to introduce it (Unlocked. Go buy it. NOW!!!!) Other SF writers tend to crank out novels at a dizzying rate, then add novellas, short stories, and, if you’re Chuck Wendig, writing books and video games to the mix.

Right now, my writing output is up because I took the summer off from school. If I had stayed at Medishack, it’d be even higher. I had my favorite park to go to. There is no park handy at BigTinyTechCorp (No, I’m not giving you my company’s name. I learned that at BigHugeCo.) However, I can’t write constantly. I have to work. School is coming. And there are day job-type skills I want add to or sharpen. So Wendig-like production is out.

But it does seem that science fiction writers do have a higher output than most other types of writers. (I think romance writers share this trait, but for different reasons.) SF, fantasy, and horror usually involves making up not just the characters and events but entire worlds from scratch. Usually, that requires a mindset prone to constantly thinking about the imagined universe. Where does this happen? When does this happen? And often, your characters are not human, so there are all these biological and psychological things you have to make up. And it has to have rules. And language. And…

So your brain is already in writing mode when you’re concocting the story.

Is it a good thing? It can be. In the age of independent authors, it’s good to have a lot of material available. However, it can also backfire. Many SF writers are not stylists. We can’t all be William Gibson, who can get very poetic with his prose. And writing fast does not necessarily mean you should publish everything you write. Many indie authors (and quite a few traditional ones) find this out the hard way.

Does it matter?

It only matters if you put out a good story.