How Fast Do You Have To Write to Build a Successful Career?

So I've talked before about how I'm a perfectionist. I always have been. I'm the girl who got a grade on my final trigonometry test that would bring down my final average to a B+ instead of an A  and went to my teacher to go problem by problem until we found a place where he took off too many points for a simple mistake. I got my A, kept my perfect 4.0. Yes, I'm that annoying girl.

So when it comes to my writing, this perfection monkey sits solidly on my back squawking and whining as I try to draft my book. It's frustrating and it slows me down. On average it takes me about 6-7 months to write and revise a 90k-100k book. Six months of that is drafting. Six months of drafting.

In previous decades in publishing, expecting an author to write one book a year was pretty standard. And for the most part, it still is if you're writing literary fiction or if you're an already established author. But if you're a new author, the situation is different, especially with the advent of ebooks and self-publishing. Readers are expecting your next work pretty quickly. You don't want them to forget about you (or if you're writing a series, your characters.) You need to stay top of mind.

And if you want to make money, you'll hear it over and over again--backlist is king. To earn a sustainable living as a writer, you need backlist. One book (unless you're part of the Oprah book club or Stephanie Meyer) is not going to set you up for life. One book isn't going to allow you to quit your day job. You want readers to pick up one of your books, love it, and then have a whole slew of other books by you that they can click the "buy" button on.

But the caveat of write, write, write, get a backlist out there is that you also have to make sure you maintain the quality of your work. One horrible book can send your readers running for the hill and for all the other reading choices they have bombarding them from everywhere.

And I know it can be done--writing fast and producing quality books. Maya Banks stated in her Dear Author interview that she writes 8-10 books a year. (!!!) Some of those are novellas but still, my jaw dropped onto my space bar. She also says she usually is done and sends it to her editor when she finishes the first draft.

And I can tell you, I read Maya. Her books are fabulous. She's one of my favorite romance authors. She's also hit the New York Times list and this year, had a book nominated for a RITA (the Oscars of romance writing). So clearly her quality is not suffering. And last year, she said that she made 600k for income. And this year, she's on track to hit 900k. Yes, people, she gave out her numbers. And if you don't read erotic romance, this is not an author many of you have probably even heard of. There is clearly money to be made if you put out quality work in good volume.

Now, I know I will never be able to pen 8-10 books a year. I have a three year old and a husband who would like to see me sometimes. And I'm a new author, so all this getting my name out there and social networking stuff is a time eater. But I KNOW I have got to be able to write more than 1-2 books a year.

So I am going to challenge myself with these next books to write faster and edit less. Here are some of the things I am going to be putting on post-it notes to remind myself courtesy of author Candace Havens, who gives Fast Draft workshops on her online forum.

1. It is okay to write a sh*tty first draft.

I like revising. Why am I so dead set on getting it perfect the first time?

2. I will write a basic synopsis before I start writing.

I'm a pantser so the story will change and I will not outline every point, but to have a general overview will help me. (Plus, I'm going to have to do this if I want to sell on proposal.)

3. I will know the basics about my book before starting--mainly the Goal, Motivation, and Conflict of my main characters.

4. I will not get hung up for five minutes trying to find the perfect word. I'll change it when I revise.

5. I will refuse to believe in writer's block and will keep writing even if I feel like I'm not sure where I'm going.

And though this doesn't have to do with writing faster, I will also learn to write shorter stuff in addition to my full-length novels. I think the successful author of the future is going to know how to write in varying lengths and is going to utilize multiple avenues to get their work out there (traditional publishers, e-pubs, self-publishing, etc.)

So what kind of writer are you? Are you a fast drafter or a slow and steady one like me? How many books do you think you could legitimately write in a year? What do you think the future of publishing is going to look like?

UPDATE: I did a follow up post in response to the discussion in the comments - The Beauty of Books: Why the Literary vs. Genre Debate Isn't Necessary