Do You Write Quickly Enough to Maintain a Career?


Writers obsess about many things--we're a neurotic bunch.  But one of the things we seem to get all twitchy about is daily word count.  Hang around on Twitter or hop around the blogs and you'll see people posting their numbers.  I am not immune.


As you can see in my sidebar, I signed up for the 1000 word a day challenge at the beginning of the year.  Tina's also running a 500/day challenge, and hers is interactive--she beats you with a flogger or sends swarms of angry bees after you if you don't meet your goal.  (But you'll have a novel done in six months. You can sign up here.)

As for my word count meter--some days I meet the goal, some days I surpass it, and other days I fall woefully short.  But should I beat myself up over it?

Well, yes and no.

Why, yes?

Because the more I hear successful published authors speak at conferences and in interviews, the more I learn how productive an author is expected to be once you're under contract.  I was listening to an interview with Lauren Dane the other day and she said she generally takes 4-6 weeks to write a full length novel (90-100k words).  Then she edits, sends to betas, and revises.  Total time from start to sending it in to her publisher--two months on average.

Wow, right?  I mean, that's impressive to me.  Now this doesn't mean she doesn't have to do more revisions and go through the editing process with the publisher, but still.  And this doesn't seem to be that odd.  Most of the authors I hear speak seem to have similar timelines.

They say that once you're under contract and have a multi-book deal, you have to learn to write to deadline, which means writing quickly.  Of course, I know we'd all love to have that problem.  But it is something to think about.  And you can't use the excuse of--oh, but writing is their full-time job, so they have all this time to write.  The truth is, it can take many successful books to generate enough income to drop your day job.  That means you may not have the luxury of full-time writing for a while even if you do get a deal on that first book.  So, learning how to write quickly is an important skill.

Why, no?

On the other hand, we are new writers trying to break in, so editing in two weeks is NOT a viable option for us.  Our stories have to be as perfect as possible before sending them out, so we need to take our time polishing.  It goes back to the adage--write fast, edit slow.

Also, I think we sometimes get so focused on the publishing aspect that we forget about the benefits of not having a deal yet.  We are not on a deadline, so we can go at the pace we want.  Also, we're not tied to contracts so we have the ability to jump around and test out different genres and styles with our writing.  So remember to enjoy those little things as you go through the process.

Now, since I answered the questions both ways, what am I personally trying to do in my own writing?  I'm trying to train myself to write more quickly (because I have an obnoxious internal editor that slows me down), and I'm also relishing the freedom of testing out different subgenres of romance.

So, what's your process?  How long does it take you to bang out a first draft?  How long to edit?  Do you genre jump?  Do you hold yourself accountable to a daily/weekly word count goal?

**Also, don't forget, we're still taking entries for the open spot in our crit group.  You can find out details here.**

**Today's Theme Song**
"This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" - Fall Out Boy
(player in sidebar, take a listen)