2/25/09

Writing Fast


It amazes me how fast some writers can produce. On her blog the other day Margaret Moore USA Today best selling author of historical romance, compared her first draft daily page count to a runner's sprint. She complained that she had slowed to a jog and had only written 65 pages that week-- compared to 85 the previous week and 105 the first week. And she says, if she can write another 65 to 75 pages, it may well take her to the end of her first draft.

I think that's fantastic. I suppose that's not unreasonable, but I wish I could write that many pages in a week! I know there are writers out there who do that and more. But I'm not one of them, at least most of the time. Granted, there have been occasions when I got in the zone and rolled with it, ticking out page after page of stellar words so fast it made my head swim. I’ve even finished more than 300 pages in less than a month. But not usually. If I get 4 or 5 pages done on the days I can write, I'm doing good. And of course, first drafts are just that. The real writing begins in edits and revisions -- lots of them, as Margaret is quick to point out as well.

The way I tend to write may be why my page count is what it is. I usually do edits and revisions as I go. If I'm writing a novel/novella, I will edit chapter by chapter; I edit short fiction at the end of the day, or first thing before my next writing session.

For the most part, I think many of us traipse along getting it done as fast as we can, revisions and all, but not so fast your mind can hardly keep up. Am I right? So here's my question -- How fast do you write? And how prolific are you? Meaning have you ever finished a manuscript so quickly and well written that it needed little or no revisions?

And to keep us all on our toes, here's what Margaret Moore had to say after reading this post and the comments:

Oh, baby, you better believe I rewrite! And revise. And cut. And move scenes. And rewrite some more. I do *at least* three complete drafts of a book and usually five. That's from page 1 to the last page, with many, many more revisions of individual scenes along the way. I can spend hours on three pages. And I've often done over thirty drafts of the first scene of Chapter One. So when I've written x number of first draft pages, that in no way compares to x number of finished, ready-to-submit pages...
(continued in comments)

Thanks Margaret!

Kaye

12 comments:

Suzanne said...

Once I get started I can write pretty quickly. But it takes an age for me to get started so, sadly, my output is dire.

Margare Moore is my new heroine.

Shelley Munro said...

I write 2000 words most days, sometimes a bit more, but I don't like to push too much harder. I burn out if I do. This is a steady pace for me and I write quite a few books each year.

I plot as I go, and sometimes this slows me down. I have more than one book on the go at once, so if I get stuck, I move on to another book and percolate my plot for the first one.

Margaret Moore sure does write a lot in a week. I'm impressed. She doesn't say how clean the first draft is though. If the first draft needs a lot of work then it's not as fast as it sounds. Just sayin'.

April Vine said...

Before being published I could manufacture close to 5000 words a day. Since being published I’d be happy with 300. The difference and I agree with Shelley completely, those 5000 words amounted to thoughts I could put down in 300 words. I do love the revision process, but I’m definitely cutting it in half if I write quality (okay, that’s debatable) first time round, giving me time to perfect on greatness when I do revise (okay, that’s definite wishful thinking!!!)

Linda Banche said...

Productivity was one of the things I always wondered about. If Margaret Moore can write 65 pages a week, good for her. But no matter how good a writer she is--and I've read her books, and she's good--I'm sure she has to rewrite.

NaNoWriMo may have a point. The secret of writing may be to spill it all out, then rewrite. I took the RWA course "Show and Tell" from Shannon Donnelly, whose work I love, and she says most of writing is rewriting. You get it all out as fast as you can, and the act of creation is messy. After that you rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.

She has a point. Right now I'm rewriting what I call my magnum opus, the first book I wrote. I think the story is good, but the original writing was pretty bad. But outside of fixing the POV, and rewording all those sentences that begin with "This is and Those are", seeing the story in its entirety is useful. I won't waste time rewriting something I'm going to throw out. And I can see changes I have to make that I couldn't see when I first wrote it.

I hope as I get better, I'll rewrite less. Nowadays, I use correct POV most of the time and I never write sentences that begin "This is". Practice makes perfect, they say. Let's hope so.

Kaye Manro said...

I like all the answers here. It's interesting to note how different we all are in our production.

I know you, Shelley—you are so experienced and produce many books. I'm grateful that you lend your ideas to these posts.

And Suzanne, I've been there as well.

April, 300 words is still a fine number.

As for Linda, you are absolutely right. Writing is really rewriting. At least it is for me too. It does seem to be true that the more we write the better and faster we get at it because we've learned about POV, helping verbs, etc. and may not have to fix as much of our work.

And Margaret says she still has to do revisions and rewrites too.

Such good answers from everyone so far. Thanks.

Margaret Moore said...

Oh, baby, you better believe I rewrite! And revise. And cut. And move scenes. And rewrite some more. I do *at least* three complete drafts of a book and usually five. That's from page 1 to the last page, with many, many more revisions of individual scenes along the way. I can spend hours on three pages. And I've often done over thirty drafts of the first scene of Chapter One. So when I've written x number of first draft pages, that in no way compares to x number of finished, ready-to-submit pages.

So what's with the sprint? Basically, it's an experiment. I may discover when I'm done that the first draft is such a mess, I shouldn't write this way. OTOH, it's been fun and interesting to just keep looking ahead and not back-tracking. I tried it first with a short story and enjoyed it, so I wanted to see what would happen if I did it with a whole book. The jury will be out until I've finished, printed and read the first draft. And even if that seems successful, I'll still have plenty of work to do before it's ready to submit.

So it's not like I'm saying fast is good or the way to go. I've been in this business long enough to know everybody has to find their own style of working. I'm just trying to determine if I can/should/it's actually more efficient if I write the first draft without revising as I go and leave the revising for the later drafts.

Geez, you might think I'd have a handle on this writing business by now, eh? :-)

Kaye Manro said...

Thanks for stopping by to add your ideas here, Margaret. I know writing actually begins with revisions and rewriting. I'm glad you made that clear! You have given us some good advice to take to heart. It's nice to hear that from a seasoned and multi-published author.

Obe said...

Hey kay...

just dropping by looks great thanks for the comment on my post but the site wouldn't even let me post a reply to you. And if I click on I agree my site may have adult content, I can't even view it. I think I'm done with blogger.

Christina Phillips said...

This is so interesting. I used to write a lot faster than I do now, and although I aim for 10 pages a day just lately I'm lucky if I hit five.

Candy Havens does a Fast Draft on line workshop, and the idea is to just write as fast as you can without editing or analysing and basically seeing what your imagination comes up with!

Catherine Bybee said...

I write quickly as well... but the rewrite is where the magic happens. If the story flows I don't stop it. I call it my discovery draft. I'm discovering my characters, plot, flow...voice. Then go over it again to fine tune.

Great post, Kaye.

Debs said...

I can write between 1,000 and 5,000 words on a good day, but then I always redraft (countless times) and so those words end up being changed, and changed again.

Helen Hardt said...

I used to write 20 pages a day -- seriously! But being a novice, I'd end up cutting half and rewriting the rest, LOL. Now I write much cleaner the first time. Yesterday I did sixteen pages, but that's a lot. Normally I'll 5-10 in a day, and mind you, I don't write every day. Though I should, I definitely should ;).

Helen