It Is Possible To Write Fast And Have Quality Content

I just saw a blog post from someone who was basically saying that writers should not produce more than 2-3 books a year.  (I assume this person meant 50K words or more per book.)   I’ve heard this argument a dozen times over the years, and each time, it boils down to the same thing, “You can’t produce quality content if you write fast.”

dog-reading-books
ID 57738106 © Okssi68 | Dreamstime.com

That picture was just too cute to pass up. 🙂

Today, I’m going to argue this thinking with a couple of points.

1. Quality is in the eye of the beholder.

What you might consider bad, another person will say is good.  Just a casual look through reviews on any book (especially one that has been a good seller) will prove this to be true.  Go on and take a look at books that are selling very well right now.  You will see a wide range of reviews.  Some people will say, “Best book ever!” and others will say, “Who wrote this piece of crap?” They might not say that in those exact words, but that’s basically what the reviewers are saying.  Which of the reviewers are right?  I’ll tell you who is right.  Both of them.  And you want to know why?  Because reading is in the eye of the beholder.  There is no one book that everyone on this planet will love.  And some of the books have been written and published fast.

2. Since we are all different, we can’t be all pegged into the same hole.

Who is it for anyone to decide how much a writer can or cannot write?  Maybe for some writers, it is impossible to write and publish more than 2-3 books a year.  If it is, they shouldn’t do it.  But why would you turn around and assume that every other writer can’t do it?   Not everyone writes the same way you do.  I can sit down and start writing by the seat of my pants.  Other writers need an outline, and some of those outlines are more detailed than others.  Some writers speak their book into the computer.  Some like to type them out.  Some even handwrite them first and type them in later.  Some writers have word count goals.  Some like to write a scene at a time.  Some sit down and write the entire book in one week.  (I know and have heard of writers who actually write an entire book in one week, and they have done very well.  I can’t do it, but some have proven it can be done.  It would be unfair for me to tell those writers they shouldn’t write a book that fast just because I can’t do it.)

Some writers have day jobs.  Some write for a living.  Some have children at home.  Some don’t.  Some take care of parents.  Some don’t.  How much time is available in our day does play a part in how often we can write, and this will factor into how quickly we can write and publish a book.  Also, the creative process works differently for everyone.  Some people have ideas that come quickly to them.  Some need time to mull over ideas before the story is ready.  Some people write even when they don’t feel like it (which is what I do).  Some write only when they feel like it, which is the case for a couple of writers I know.

Not everyone will have the same editing/polishing process, either.  Maybe your editor doesn’t work as fast as another writer’s editor.  Maybe your beta readers take longer to read the book than another writer’s beta readers do.   Not all editors and beta readers are created equal, and this will play a big part in how tight the timeframe is from the moment a writer sends the story out to the team to when it’s ready for publication.

3. If you want to pay your bills or earn a living, you need to keep up the production.

I wish I could say it isn’t so, but it is.  More books equal an increased chance of making more money.  You need to consistently have something coming out if you want to maintain your audience’s interest in your books.  We live in a world of instant gratification, and people don’t like to wait long for the next book to come out.  The more books you have, the better your odds are of earning money.  (I’m not going to say it will guarantee you’ll make money.  It just means your odds of it will increase.)

4. The more you write, the better you get at it.

I didn’t start out writing as many books as I do now.  I got faster over time, and the reason I got faster is because the more you write and study up on the storytelling process, the better you get at it.  You also figure out how to organize your time better, and you have figured out who makes a good editor for you.  (Not all editors are a good fit for all writers.)  You figure out your target audience.  You know why they read your books, and you start fine-tuning your stories to meet their expectations.  You also get a good grasp story structure.  You don’t necessarily write to a formula, but at the gut level, you know how storytelling works.

You also notice red flags that pop up while writing the first draft A LOT sooner than you used to.  For example, you might notice your creativity seems to be slowing down.  When you sit to write, it’s getting harder and harder to come up with the words.  Usually, this is a signal that you’re taking the story in a direction it wasn’t intended to go.  If you persist in writing, you’ll probably end up having to do rewrites later on.  My advice: take a day or two away from the story.  You can work on something else, go for a walk, or watch a movie.  Relax your mind.  Then come back to it and see if you’ve figured out what the problem is.  The answer often comes to me when I’m not sitting at the computer.  Another red flag: you feel unusually tired when you try to write.  This often means you need a break and will burn out if you don’t take it.  (Though if you have been away from the story for a while, it just means you need to get your brain back into gear.) Now, if you’ve been writing regularly and feel this tired sensation, take a day or two off to get back your energy.

Those two red flags I mentioned above are the two biggest things I’ve noticed that will slow me way down in my publishing schedule if I don’t deal with them right away.  You might notice your own major red flags that pop up from time to time.

Here are some tips on how to increase productivity.

I’ve been writing and self-publishing since 2002, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I started writing more than 2-3 books in a year.  From there, I’ve been writing and publishing more and more books each year.  I honestly believe the more you do this, the faster you get because you become better at the overall process of producing a book.  These days I average 8-10 books a year.  (About 8 will be 50-60K words, and usually the others are shorter.)

1. Get the cover done before you write the book or while you’re writing the book.

2. Get the description done while writing the book and tweak on it as necessary.

3. Make notes for scenes before you sit down to write them.  I don’t plot a book in the traditional sense, but I do think of what I want to happen in the next scene.  I’ll mark down a few brief notes to remind myself of what I want to write in the next day or two.  (For example, “heroine finds wrong paintings in the den and freaks out”.)  Some of my best ideas come early in the morning while I’m in bed, so I have a notebook I keep next to me.  If you want to just think it in your head or want to write details, that’s fine.  Whatever works best for you is what you should do.

4. If you can manage it, work on more than one book at a time.  I know this doesn’t work for everyone, so do it only if you can balance the workload.  I write three books at a time.  (I’m trying to boost my way up to four, but I can’t seem to do it if I’m also in edits.)  If I get stuck in one book, I have another one I can work on.  Also, while my editing team is working on one book, I’m working on the others.

5. Notify your editing team you’ll have the book ready for them in advance so they can clear the schedule for you.  If you reserve your slot early enough, you shouldn’t have trouble getting your team to read your book when it’s ready.  I give my editing team a month to work on my book, but they usually get it back to me in three weeks or less.   Also, treat them well.  Pay your editors a good wage.  Offer beta readers a signed copy of the paperback or gift them the ebook when it’s out.  Give them something for their time.

6. If you do pre-orders, this can really help you tighten up your publishing schedule since it forces you to have everything done ahead of time.  If you take time to organize your schedule, it does help you become more efficient.  How many words/scenes/chapters do you need to write a week in order to finish the first draft by a certain date?  How long will it take for you to do the initial edits before you send it out?  How long will you give everyone in your editing team to work on the book?  How long will you work on it when you get it back?  What is your projected release date?  (Hint: estimate out at least 2 more months than you think you’ll need.  Real life and writer’s block do pop up.)  The nice thing about doing a pre-order is that on the day of the book’s release, all you need to do is announce it to your email list, in your newsletter, on your blog, and/or on your website.  (And you can have those all done in advance if you want.

18 Comments

  1. First of all, the idea that writing fast sacrifices quality is rubbish. And I say that because you write fast, and your books are good. Not everyone can produce quality when writing fast, but that doesn’t mean no one can. I get so tired of people spouting off all this stuff as if it were true just because they say it’s true. All the points you made in this post are good ones. All writers are different, and you can’t lump all of them together and say the same things are true about all of them.

    I’m still trying to figure out how to work on more than one book at a time, though. One day I will master that!

    1. Thank you. 🙂

      Your situation is different from mine. You have a full-time job, do an awesome job of editing, have a husband who’s had more than his fair share of being in the hospital, and you’re active in the church. I don’t know how you could do more than one at a time. Your schedule is way more restrictive than mine is. Which brings me to another thing that gets on my nerves when I hear it: some writers say you must write every single day. I don’t believe that is feasible for every writer, but they say it as if you’re being lazy when you don’t do it.

  2. lccooper says:

    Thank you for the reality check, Ruth. I subscribe to many of the concepts in your post. As a test, I succeeded (only once) in cranking out a 50,000+ novel[s draft manuscript (“Christmess”) in 2 weeks. This was fun, and showed it was possible, but wow did I sacrifice two weeks of life with my family and friends.

    After a two year hiatus, my goal is to publish 2-3 novels a year. I think this is a realistic goal when factoring in everything else going on with hubby & ankle biters in tow.

    Thank you so much for opening up and presenting very pragmatic recommendations based upon your own experiences.

    1. I wrote 6,000 in one day one time and thought my head was going to explode. 🙂 I don’t know how you did that novel in two weeks, but I can imagine how much work and effort it took to do it. When you have a husband and kids, it definitely makes it harder to write as much as you’d like. I do think it’s good to make time for family and friends. I hear at the end of one’s life, people think of that instead of all the time they spent working. (While writing is fun, I do consider it to be work.) One of my biggest challenges early on was figuring out the proper balance between writing, my family, and my friends. I did notice that when the kids got to be in school, it was much easier to make time for writing. (I don’t have a day job, so it’s also easier for me to write more books in a year.)

  3. Great tips and info Ruth, interesting points you make. Many thanks!

  4. storywrtr says:

    So much to love about this post… in my opinion, writing fast means the story is really speaking to you. Writing slower means more research and/or moments where you are stuck. I agree that reading is in the eye of the beholder, therefore not a true judge of what’s good or not. Just like I judge books by their covers… it happens.

    Loved your post! Couldn’t agree more!

    1. I agree with you. When I’m writing fast, the story is coming together nicely. I wish all stories were like that, but there are those that require more time because of the situations you mentioned.

      I think it’s natural to judge a book by the cover and content. I think readers should feel safe expressing their views. Life would be boring if everything was the same, and I’m glad we have a wide variety of books to choose from. One of the best things that have come out of the indie publishing revolution is the variety of books offered to readers that hadn’t been there before. 🙂

  5. I try to publish something at least once a year. I don’t always succeed, but at least I’m working on it.

    1. You have a busy schedule, and that makes it harder to get around to it. Plus, your books can be pretty long, and those take a lot more time to edit and get ready for publication. That’s why I don’t like it when people assume every writer can put in 5,000 words a day or that every writer only does a certain length for books. So much of it varies.

      1. Yeah, even with Dragon, the average I get in is maybe 800-1000 words. Maybe if I had unlimited time, I could get a novel done in 50-100 days, but I’m not so lucky, unfortunately.

        1. That makes sense. I have found that by the time I’m done editing what Dragon thinks I said (which is sometimes hilarious) that I end up with around 1000 words I can use. My benefit is that I have the luxury of writing during the day when other people are working. That makes a big difference.

          1. Lucky! Give me some of that fortune! I want to write during the day! The other day I had the day off and wrote nearly 1200 words! Imagine what I could do if I did that every day of the work week?

  6. Renee says:

    I’m the same. I need to be working on more than one project at a time. I tried focusing on one at a time last year and it actually slowed my production and made it harder for me to write. This year I’m back to working on 3 projects at any given time. I don’t just write novels though. Shorter fiction seems to be getting more popular again, so I’m working on a serial, short stories and a novel all at once. I’m trying to publish a short story a month this year to see how that goes for those of my readers who prefer shorter fiction. Then my serial is released in short episodes (about the size of a short story) and at the end of the year, I bundle them all for those who prefer the longer books. Ends up being about the length of a novel, which works out well.

    I’m really hoping to do about 3 full length novels, 2 novellas, 10 short stories and my serial each year, but it’s something I need to work towards. I know authors who publish a full length novel every two months or so, and they’re really good books, so I definitely know it’s possible.

    Thanks for the great article! It’s something that needs to be discussed, especially for the newer writers who are being told they can’t write a good book that fast. It’s ridiculous. They might not be able to do it right away, as you said, but it can be done with time and practice.

    Take care!

    1. I’m glad to hear from another author who thrives off of writing multiple stories at once! Like you, I find it a lot easier. I think all lengths are great because you can hit different types of audiences. I would love to do a couple of novellas to vary things up. I’m hoping I can do that with one book I’m currently working on. Shorter works is definitely a skill, but they are a great way of having something new and fresh out there in a shorter amount of time. As a reader, I prefer shorter works because I don’t get a chance to sit down and read for pleasure often. The longer the book, the more time it takes for me to finish it.

  7. Ron Fritsch says:

    I fully agree. Only foolish writers presume to tell other writers how fast or how much they should write. I’m one of those writers who take as much time as we please to complete our latest project. When it’s done and ready to be sent out into the world, we somehow know. I greatly admire writers who go for speed and production, but I’ll never be one of them.

    1. I think writing styles are as varied as people’s personalities. I don’t like it when people try to pigeon hole writers into a certain the box. The box might work for them, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Can you imagine a school counselor telling a group of seniors in high school that they should all do the exact same job or get the exact same degree if they go on to college? Or a restaurant only serving one meal because that is what everyone should have? To me, that is what I feel like people do when they tell writers that if they need to do things the way they do them.

      I have three good writer friends who publish about one book a year, and they are very comfortable with that. It would be ridiculous for me to tell them that they need to publish six or more books a year. As long as the story makes the author and their readers happy, who cares how fast it took to get it into the world?

      1. Ron Fritsch says:

        Once again, I couldn’t agree more.

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