Speed-Writing: Not Just for NaNoWriMo Any More

Writing Novels That Sell with Adrienne deWolfe

Writers are such creative geniuses, that they often psych themselves out.  They procrastinate until they're freaked out and desperate to meet a deadline.  (At which point, they become neurotic, trapped in the throes of writer's block.)  

Fess up.  You KNOW you’re listening to your Inner Critic when . . .

1)  You’ve been writing two sentences for 30 minutes.

2)   You subscribe to the notion that email "counts" as writing.

3)  You suddenly get an overwhelming urge to vacuum the air ducts so you don’t have to face a blank computer screen.

4) You convince yourself that “The Shopping Channel” will boost your creativity.

5)  You think cheese puffs will increase your brain power.

(And the list goes on.)

One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from John Steinbeck, who said, “Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.  Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page each day.  It helps.  Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”

National Novel Writing Month

Since November is National Novel Writing Month, I have to wonder:  Did Steinbeck literally  mean write one page in 24 hours?  Because, WHEW!  Even for me, that would be slow.

Granted, I jumped on the speed-writing bandwagon at a late date.  I never used to be comfortable with speed-writing (often called “stream-of-consciousness writing”) because my inner critic is so loud. 

Years ago (before I ever heard the term, speed-writing,) I heard on a radio newscast that Colleen McCollough wrote her wildly popular novel, The Thorn Birds, in 48 hours. (And yes, that would be BEFORE the advent of personal computers.)  I honestly don’t know if that news report was true, but you can imagine my skepticism, since in my typewriter days, I’d be lucky if I churned out 3 “clean” manuscript pages in 3 hours.  

The rise of personal computers has made speed-writing possible for the average Joe.  The surging popularity of eReaders has made self-publishing profitable.  As a result, Indie Authors are writing shorter and faster.  

Now you would expect a shorter ebook to carry a smaller price tag than a paperback that is at least 2 times as long, right?

Sure.  That's why so many fiction ebooks sport cover prices ranging from $.00 to $4.99.  

I had to chuckle when I overheard a paperback Romance author sneer at a particular Erotica author (who, by the way, earns $100K per month for her ebook sales and just landed a 7-figure book contract from a New York publisher).  The paperback writer said,“Yes, but that Erotica author can write one book every four weeks because she is only writing 36-page books.”

(You know what I say to that?  “Whoop!  Time to get rich writing 36-page books!”)

Seriously, though, writers are their own worst enemies.  Writing a 100,000-word manuscript doesn’t have to take nine months of your life.  (Ladies, does that time frame sound familiar?) Yes, I'm one of those nine-month writers.  I’ll never forget the day I was autographing novels at the Texas Book Festival, where a Textbook Writer praised me for “churning out” commercial fiction “so fast.”

“It took me nine years to write my published novel,” she informed me.

(Understandably, that woman doesn’t make her living as a novelist.)

My friend, Lizzy Ford, writes one 200 to 250 page YA fantasy every six weeks.  In fact, she’s been cranking out wildly popular YA Fantasies like clockwork for at least a year.  Lizzy is proof-positive that writing 50,000 words every month can be done well enough to live on the income from self-published ebooks.

Now, thanks to National Novel Writing Month (affectionately referred to as NaNoWriMo), I have met dozens of writers who are speed-writing.  These writers can make the legitimate claim that they have written a 50,000 word manuscript from start to finish during the four weeks of  November.

Are these books ready on Dec. 1st to submit to a book editor?

In my case, no.  Even with the encouragement of NaNoWriMo, I’m pretty sure I shall never sit down at a keyboard and pound out a perfect composition in 30 days.

But learning how to “speed write” during NaNoWriMo definitely boosted my confidence in my ability to meet deadlines!   It also improved my daily word count. 

My greatest feat to date in speed-writing went something like this:

I sat down.  

I agonized for what seemed like eternity, writing schlock. 

I looked at the clock.  Fifteen minutes had crawled by.

I tried again.

The doors of the Universe burst open.  

I got hungry.

I looked at the clock again:  12 hours had blazed by. 

On that particular day, I wrote 40 pages.  For me, that’s huge.

So how’s your word count progressing this week? 

Give in to your speed-writing Muse!  And don’t forget to drop by the official website for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to record your daily tally and join the festivities!