I should do a quick disclaimer here. The definition of “writing fast” will differ depending on who you talk to. So let me offer you my definition of “writing fast” for the sake of this post.
To me, “writing fast” is when an author writes 1-2 books a month. Then they publish those books as quickly as they can. This is called “rapid release”.
I write in the romance genre, and I’ve seen plenty of authors using the rapid release system. They’ll have a new release coming out about twice a month. It seems to be that these are novellas or novelettes. (In romance, 50,000 words is a full-length novel, though I’ve seen some people argue that a full-length novel in romance can be 45,000 words long. Novellas usually hover around the 20,000-30,000 word range. Novelettes are usually around 15,000 words in length.)
The shorter the book, the easier it is to finish it more quickly. This is why so many romances are under the full-length novel word count. This is fine. I see nothing wrong with shorter stories. The horror genre is notorious for short stories, and as long as the author does a good job of telling a satisfying story, all is good. It’s possible to write good quality stories that aren’t full-length. In fact, I would rather read a shorter book that keeps me turning the page than read a longer story that doesn’t.
The other day an author was talking about her plan to do a rapid release schedule. She was planning on a book every other week. She was also planning on spin-off series that would also be quickly written and published. Then she stated out how she was going to promote these books, etc, etc. The further I read into her plan, the more my eyes glazed over. I couldn’t even give you the details of her plan because I couldn’t wrap my mind around all the work she’s going to do. I assume she has an assistant because if she doesn’t, she’s going to burn herself out.
Do I believe it’s possible to write and publish a book every other week? Sure. I’ve seen enough authors do it. If the book is short enough, it’s totally possible.
But the question that keeps going through my mind is this: “Is it WORTH it?”
If an author hits a hot genre, knows how to market effectively, can produce work fast, and knows how to line up all the plot points and character types that are popular within that genre, they can make good money. I’ve heard of too many authors who’ve made “a six-figure income” a year doing this to think otherwise. Obviously, the strategy works.
But again, “Is it WORTH it?”
The answer depends on the author’s goals. If you’re writing to make money, then yes, it is worth it. This is the way to win at making money as a writer.
But what if money isn’t the main motive for writing? What if your main motive is the story itself? What if writing is like taking an enjoyable vacation where you get to stop and check out the sights, sit and talk to good friends, and eat a new, delicious meal? Would you want to rush that experience? For me, every book is a vacation. I don’t feel like I’m truly alive until I’m in the story. That’s not to say I don’t get a lot of enjoyment in real life because I do. Just as there are things you enjoy doing when you’re at home, there are also a lot of fun times you have on vacation. The beauty of the story is that there are no limits. You can go anywhere in any time period with anyone you want. The stuff you can’t do in real life doesn’t apply to the world of fiction.
So while God has blessed me with a great husband, kids, and friends, He’s also blessed me with an imagination that takes me on some of the best vacations I’ve ever been on. Vacations don’t take away your enjoyment of being home; vacations add flavor to the wonderful life you already have. There’s nothing as thrilling as being in the process of writing a story when everything is brand new since the characters take me through the story. I never know exactly where I’ll end up, and that makes things so much fun. And best of all, when I reread the story, I get to relive the great memories.
To me, the downside of writing fast is that the vacation is rushed. There’s not enough time to savor the experience. The more fun I’m having, the more reluctant I am to leave, and this is why some books end up being longer than others. Some books are meant to be shorter, though. Not every vacation is meant to be a long one.
For example, Fairest of Them All was so much fun that I ended up going into a subplot. That book ended up being 86,000 words when all was said and done. It’s one of my favorites. On the other hand, I enjoyed writing Forever Yours (which is 47,000 words long) so much that I had to go back and reread Eye of the Beholder and To Have and To Hold again because I really enjoy seeing the Larson family from Dave and Mary’s point of view. The reason Forever Yours was shorter is probably because it’s Dave and Mary’s third book. Dave and Mary are my favorite Larson couple, and I do feel like the third book completes their story. If you add up all three books, the word count is about 200,000 words. (Eye of the Beholder was about 80,000 words, and To Have and To Hold was about 73,000 words.) So that tells you how much I’ve enjoyed spending time with Dave and Mary. That all said, Forever Yours is their last book. There’s nothing else I can do with them. But I do feel that Forever Yours finally completes their story. One reason I do so many Larson books in general is that they are my favorite family to write about. I enjoy going on vacation to visit them. It’s always nice to run into old friends while meeting new ones.
So anyway, I’ve decided I don’t want to write fast. The rapid release schedule isn’t for me. That means I can’t focus on the money part of writing. This is the shift I made when I decided (almost two years ago now) that I was going to start writing for passion. I’m a lot happier. I’m no longer burned out. I love the stories I’m writing much more. I think what I’m doing these days is some of my best work. Not everyone agrees, of course, but we all have our different tastes.
I’m just going to continue taking my time and enjoying each story as it comes. My primary goal as a writer is to have fun. I want to go on vacations that excite me. Sometimes I want to laugh. Sometimes I want to feel the suspense of wondering what will happen next. Sometimes I want to delve into the heart of difficult topic. But in every vacation, I want to fall in love, and I want the happy ending.
For those of you who continue to join me on my vacations, I thank you. If it weren’t for you guys giving me your support and encouragement along the way, I would have given up a long time ago. There were times I wanted to walk away from it all, but someone would send me a message and remind me of what’s truly important when it comes to writing. You guys are the best!
Don’t give up writing! You do a wonderful job and I thoroughly enjoy what you have written. I particularly like the Regency romances as they are a “vacation” for me to read them. Keep up the good work, and know that you have a large following of friends like me who admire you.
Thank you! I appreciate that more than I can adequately express. 😀
I sincerely doubt that writing fast can be any good… At least, not for me. I have to enjoy and savour every page that I write, all that breakneck racing would kill what little brain I have left!
Same here! The strategy might work short-term, but I can’t see it playing out in the long run. I think sooner or later the person either burns out or ends up writing mediocre stories. It’s much better to tell an excellent story at a slower pace. Someone on a forum once wrote, “If you live to be 100, what kind of books do you want to say you have written?” That really hit home how important it is to write stories that resonate deep within us.
No place for flippancy in writing…
That just makes my head spin, thinking of writing that fast. I did NanoWriMo two years in a row, and that pace about killed me. And that was just writing 50,000 words in 30 days. If I didn’t have a full time job, I could probably write a book a month, but I don’t think I would want to. I would feel like I was pushing myself, and that’s not fun. Most traditionally published authors release much slower, and their fans wait in anticipation of their next book. I’m not saying indies should release that slowly, but it proves you don’t HAVE to publish so often as long as you write a good book and get it marketed. The marketing part is hard no matter how many books you release!
Do you remember that period of time when I was speed writing 5,000 words a day in one book? I thought I was going to die by the time I finished that story, and to this day, that story is a blur in my mind. Even going back to reread it didn’t help me really “get into” the story. Writing a story at a pace that is natural to us as individual writers is way more satisfying. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to relax and enjoy the ride instead of rushing it.
I wouldn’t try to put out 50,000 words in a month if I had a full-time job. That’s putting too much stress on someone. I think they should lower the amount to 30,000, but I don’t think that would ever happen. I prefer their Camp NaNo. You can set your own goal. That makes things a lot more flexible and friendly to what’s happening in someone’s life.
The rapid release thing seems to be more successful for authors writing to trend. Those authors are trying to hit what’s hot at the exact moment. But even if they do manage to rapidly publish books, they still run into the problem of visibility. Marketing, as you’ve pointed out, is something all writers have to tackle, regardless of how fast they write. Just because you write it, it doesn’t mean people magically know it exists.
Even if I wanted to, I can’t do the rapid release system. I just don’t have the time for that (I’m surprised anyone does, to be honest).
My guess is there’s an assistant or ghostwriter to help if they’re doing this as a long-term strategy. I just don’t see how this is possible for the long run. The human brain is not a machine. It needs periods of rest.
I think that’s James Patterson’s strategy.
He does a good job of it, and what’s best is that those people helping him get the credit for their part of the work. I don’t know if those authors write books on their own, but if they do, the association they have with him should boost their own books as well. To me, his strategy is a win-win.
Too bad his Alex Cross books have kinda gone down in quality over the years. I don’t even read them anymore.
That’s a shame that the quality went down. I wonder if it was pressure to write certain books that did it. Sometimes I feel sorry for authors that feel like they’re stuck in a box and have to do what a publisher tell them to do. That would kill my joy for writing.
Yeah, that sounds trying. Or like the inspiration for a story.
LOL I love how your mind works. My thought went immediately to horror on how this whole thing could be used for a story. If only I had more time in the day. There are way more ideas than I’ll ever get around to writing.
Preaching to the choir on that one, sister.
A book every week? That would never work. Some of my WIPs are years in the making.