I never thought I’d have to. Dean Wesley Smith covered this beautifully a long time ago, but every time I turn around, there it is again.
If you create something quickly, it must be crap.
We just love the image of an artist pining over a single work for decades. We’re still mystified that Harper Lee never wrote another book (that we know of). Creative people who are prolific, on the other hand, have tons of derogatory terms slung at them.
They “churn” the work out. (Not unless they work for a dairy.)
Or they “crank” it.
They “slap” something down on paper.
This myth becomes hugely powerful in the aftermath of National Novel Writing Month. During NaNoWriMo people all over the world are encouraged to write 50,000 words in thirty days.
In case you didn’t already know this, I will tell you a secret.
50,000 words in thirty days is not that fast.
I’m not saying it’s not a great accomplishment! It is. But let’s do some writerly math.
50,000 in thirty days = approximately 1,667 words a day. For convenience’s sake, let’s round that up to 2,000 words per day.
I don’t know about you, but I typically write 2,000 words in 90 minutes. On a really good day, I can do it in 60. On a horrible day, it might take me three hours.
Let’s assume other people might take even more time. Okay, four hours a day. That’s a bit more than 90 minutes, but is it doable, especially for full-time writers? Sure.
If you write 2,000 words every day for a year, you’ll have 730,000. As most novels written for adults are around the 90,000-word mark, that’s eight novels a year.
So why aren’t most traditionally published authors “churning” out eight books a year?
Here’s the other big secret–they probably are.
Publishers have to deal with lots of considerations when they release a book. They don’t want to release something when it will be in competition with the house’s similar titles; they don’t want one of their authors to “over-saturate” the market, etc.
If you self-publish, you can release a novel whenever you want, which has resulted in some pretty incredible back lists of over thirty titles or more from a single author. Some self-published authors I know aim to release six or more books per year. Some release nine or twelve.
But unfortunately, there’s that nasty myth that writing fast = writing crap, and I believe that myth has hurt the self-published.
You may have noticed Stephen King is writing a lot more these days. Instead of waiting an entire year for a new King release, we’re now able to read three or more. But I’m willing to bet that he’s not writing more–his publisher is releasing more. I’m also willing to bet King has a still-unpublished back list that would blow our minds.
(Even King has said that he writes slower these days. So the increase in King books has nothing to do with his productivity.)
If the average writer can produce eight books a year by writing just 2,000 words per day, imagine what King, as an expert writer, can do.
And just in case you’re one of those people who turn their nose up at him (and to them I say, he makes it look easy by being really, really good at it), National Book Award-winner Jacqueline Woodson wrote one of her books in two weeks.
And it needed almost no changes.
Think of the assembly-line worker for a minute. When he first starts at the factory, his fingers are slow and clumsy. He makes mistakes. But in time, he gets better. Faster. By the time he’s worked at that factory for ten years, his hands are a blur.
The more you do something, the better you become. (Usually.) Your mind and body become trained to do that task, and are able to complete it in a shorter amount of time.
This is why I cringe when I hear all the rhetoric about churning and slapping and cranking at this time of year.
Sure, some NaNoWriMo books are crap. But that has more to do with the writer and their level of craft, experience, and skill than it has to do with time frame.
Writing fast ≠ writing crap.